You’re making too many eddies

You’re making too many eddies


When I get in my car and hit the motorway. I don’t decide to pull over at every single service station to check to see if the motorway is clear to the next one. It would take me ages. I like to crack on with it! Eddies are the same. They are a feature of the river just like stoppers, waves and boils. We don’t have to use every single one.


Eddies are safe (To a point)

Hitting eddies are safe you can’t argue with that. It gives you time to look around that bend. Chat to your chummies and mull it over. It creates time for us to process the next move.

However if you ask a beginner whitewater paddler the last 5 swims they took. I bet 3 of them will be on an eddyline. Eddies complicate things. Can the group fit in the eddy ? Did they understand the communication needed to which eddy? What happens if they miss it? All of this can cause a bit of a stress. Which is less fun.


Eddy to eddy is it safer?

Moving eddy to eddy certainly breaks up the journey on the river. So much so that it can slow the group dynamics right down causing the group to make painful progress down the river. Hitting eddies also require a certain amount of skill. The more advanced water, the less (perfect) uniform eddies you will find.

Are you reading eddy to eddy? 

Another consideration to make is how it effects the rest of the groups mood. A common example. Is  with the group in one eddy. Whilst the ‘leader’ is in an eddy further downstream peering around the next bend. As this takes some time whilst the leader is looking and making his/her decision for the group. The members in the group naturally paint a picture of fear or anxiety. With questions in our head such as “ Why’s he/she taking so long?” or “ Maybe he doesn’t think I can run it.” Generally if we don’t have an image in front of us. We paint a picture much worse in our heads.



Hitting Eddies is exhausting 

Eddies require a lot of physical work. Getting in them, out again. Keeping an eye on your buddies. Checking is it big enough? Or those annoying times where you drift out the back because it’s a bit of squeeze. Even worse is when you hit that rock and bump out!  You spend more time stressing about the eddy that actually the use of the eddy loses it’s value.

As you creak your neck, glance at your group give the thumbs up or whichever hand gesture best describes the next line. Why not do all that in the flow? And keep it moving.


It’s boring 

Hands up if you’ve been sat in a eddy in mid January in the cold waiting for a thumbs up from your leader who is sat in an eddy ahead? I think we’ve all been there. Keep the flow, alternate roles and keep the fun in the descent of the river! Hey if you like it you can smash another lap!


Eddies are like any other feature just like everything else we discover on the river. We can use them but not every single one.

Tune in for Part 2 – ‘How To use Less eddies’ Out next Wednesday!

I know, I know. You get it it Ross isn’t so keen on eddies. But how about telling us how to use less?


4 thoughts on “You’re making too many eddies

  1. I came late to paddling but I don’t think I have ever been pushed to make too many eddies. In the beginning they were places to collect the group together and to get a bit of a rest. Yes we did sit in them while a leader would scope out the next feature but if it was ‘complicated’ we would get out and have a look (which at times often made us more worried than just running it !).
    So making eddies was (and is) an intrinsic part of river safety.
    Then I got to think of eddies as another river challenge (fun). Trying to make the more complicated ones (Ski Slope) and not just go for the more predictable ones. And learning to nudge a swimmers boat into one.
    I believe making eddies is an important step in kayaking improvement (and yes I tripped up on many eddy lines when I started) and I have never seen them as a chore.
    Perhaps people have a different experience than me, but for me I enjoy eddy making. I also like a blast down a river.
    I don’t believe eddies are like any other features on a river. They provide a real safety feature for river running. Yes you do not have to make every one (unless you want, or need to) but you should learn how to make every one.

  2. Hi David

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying your paddling.

    As you mentioned making eddies certainly is a lot of fun. It is a great way of spicing up a perhaps familiar piece of whitewater. Or a rapid that you find easy. Your example of the ski slope is a great one.

    Having coached many, many paddlers. And assessed at high leaderships levels. I have seen paddlers over use eddies. Paddling eddy to eddy creating a stop-start nature of river running. I feel that they are over used. The reason they are over used is because looking at a rapid from an eddy sat still. Is easier than reading on the move.

    Hence why paddlers become a bit stuck on fast Alpine, Himalayan whitewater.

    Next Wednesday some tips will be provided on reading on the move which will hopefully give paddlers some tools to read and run. When they wish.

    Have a good weekend


  3. Hi Ross
    Thanks, that’s an excellent article, I liked it and also David’s reply as both got me thinking. Like David I came late to white water paddling and I’m still quite inexperienced but I’ve already formed some fairly strong opinions on eddies, how they’re presented to those being coached and their effect on paddling. I’m kinda with you on the over-emphasis on getting into eddies & just sitting there. Boring. But, as David said, it’s a safety thing and I can admit the usefulness of it when talking a group down a stretch of new water (to them) , particularly where walking the route is difficult, time-consuming or even more dangerous than running the river.
    However, I love running rivers, my club mates have already nicknamed me cannonball, so getting into eddies for the sake of it ticks me off, spoils my day.
    David made a very valid point about being taught how to use eddies well though, getting a swimmer’s boat into one for instance – very useful indeed.
    That got me thinking, instead of merely getting into an eddy while still in the kayak why aren’t coaches so keen on teaching swimmers how to get into one? That’s just as (more?) important than getting into an eddy in your kayak, maybe a life-saver.
    Anyway and anyhow, that’s a few thoughts from a learner.

  4. Thanks for reading Trevor.

    It’s great to read about paddlers own experiences on the water. As either a leader or part of a lead group.
    And as David pointed out, the use of eddies do a number of things.
    – Slow the river down
    – Create more time for both leader and group
    – Give paddlers a breather
    – Or challenge a paddler or paddlers when the river is perhaps a bit tame. ” Hit as many eddies as you can.’ Sort of thing

    You mentioned teaching paddlers to shunt boats into eddies etc A super useful skill providing the paddler has the suitable design making skills. The amount of times I’ve had two swimmers due to paddlers trying to help out. But I think these skills can be drip fed in. Very much like swimming in whitewater. A good swimmer in whitewater can really minimise the snowball effect of a simple swim.

    And perhaps we need to help support our club coaches to feel confident with teaching swimming in whitewater. As opposed to just sending paddlers on a White Water Safety and Rescue course very few years. Certainly food for thought.

    Thanks for the input Trevor.

    Next Wednesday we’ll have a look at how to minimise the use of eddies. To allow more

    Have a good weekend and see you on the water
    New Wave Kayaking

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