Monday, May 14, 2007

Full Circle

When I first met Paul, 26 years ago, we played a bit on the Haw River. In those days you could easily rent a white water kayak from an outfitter in Durham. There were even semi-regular rolling sessions at Clearwater Lake in the summer which I went to a few times.

Then we got married, had some kids, bought some windsurfers, mountain bikes, then sea kayaks... About 8 years ago I signed up for a 4 day white water camp at NOC, but again life got in the way and I never really followed through. Flat water paddling at the local lake was much easier to fit in.

But as I worked on my paddling and started to really develop rough water and ocean skills, I'd noticed that the very best sea kayakers came from a strong white water background, including Derek Hutchinson, Nigel Dennis, Nigel Foster, and our own Lamar Hudgens out at Barrier Island Kayaks. These paddlers have skills I rarely see in most sea kayakers.

Much of my sea kayaking interests are now focused on kayaking expedition trips, and long distance paddling races like the Missouri River 340 in July, and my annual WaterTribe Challenges. Wanting to work on advanced skills, and trying different challenges, I decided to dust off my old Dagger Crossfire, and I sign up for a Carolina Canoe Club clinic up in Nantahala. This club is large and very active, and always seems to have weekend trips and opportunities for all levels, and including surfing trips at the beach. Perfect!

Of course I also figured this wouldn't be too hard. Heck I've been sea kayaking for over 12 years, lots of ocean paddling and surfing, and a certified BCU 4* paddler. I'm even mentioned in one of the feature articles in this month's Sea Kayaker Magazine. Ha! Boy was this a humbling experience.

I have an awful lot to learn. I was a beginner again. My paddling experience and combat roll got me into an advanced novice class, which turned out to be almost over my head. More, and recent river experience, would certainly have had me a lot more comfortable and prepared for the class. The skill set in WW is similar yet broader then in sea kayaking, applied a bit differently, much more aggressively, and where mistakes are not as easy to cover up or recover from. No low brace or high brace recoveries here. Everything is a lot faster. Skills I definitely envied and want to get more proficient with.

Matt Moore was my instructor, his wife Linda was the safety boater, both seem to just dance on the water in their kayaks. It was worth the weekend just watching them paddle. A perfect class with only 4 students, Marie, Jeff, Alex (all with more river experience than I) and myself. No whiners or complainers, all willing to try new moves, and offer encouragement (to me) when needed.

My combat roll was a good thing, though my roll needs a little modification for the river. In fact we all had good combat rolls, and there was no swimming either day (except for that last bit at the falls). I have to admit I wasn't expecting much more beyond paddling down the river. Instead we ferried and ferried, caught eddies I didn't even know where eddies, and we surfed, and went backwards, and experimented with the water moving the boat this way and that, and always trying to do it with "style points".

The slide show below are photo's I took the 2nd day of our clinic. All taken while sitting in the safety of an eddy, or roadside at the falls.

Click on the photos for a full screen slide show.

1 comment:

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 said...

Hey Dawn... Nice stretch of river you have there! Thanks for sharing!!