You’re making too many eddies – Part 2
How to minimise the amount of eddies.
In our last blog we looked at how we perhaps use too many eddies. How they break up the flow on the water. And that they really slow down the pace on the river. This article we’re going to have a look at some tools to apply that hopefully will give you the chance to ease up on the eddy usage.
Eddies are there as a back up?
Before we get started. To clear up we are not saying to never hit eddies. We don’t expect you to hop on the river and paddle non-stop from top to bottom. However we want to ease up the amount of eddies we’re using. Our ethos in paddling shouldn’t be aimed at just looking for every eddy on the river. They should be there as a back up . They are there if you need them, an escape route if you like.
We should avoid boating eddy to eddy. In the search that it gives us more thinking time. To look and communicate. Why don’t we just do that as we go? And if we’re not sure nip into an eddy as a back up option?
You don’t need to be a leader
So whether I am paddling with my buddies, soloing or coaching. I have the same couple of questions I ask myself. I don’t need to be the leader for this to work. I could be the most, or least experienced paddler on the water. It works on grade 2 or grade 5.
What’s the line?
Now I may not be able to see the complete picture. I may not see the bottom of the rapid. I may only be able to see 5 meters in front of me. But it may be enough. I don’t always need to come to a complete stop. The further I look and the earlier. The more time I have to process whether I continue on. Or need to look for alternative options.
I can float down the middle, surf a little wave create a downriver S behind a slack piece of water or eddy. I can move wide round a bend to see, or keep it tight. The more I move around the river the more I can see. This gives me the info to either act upon or dismiss. Sure I clock the eddies but I don’t really want to use them. They are like the emergency exits. As long as I have somewhere to go to to get away from it all. It may be an eddy or perhaps it’s a rock I can perch on. Or a gravel bed I can beach my boat on to slow me down. Don’t be afraid to have some dirty tactics at hand. As you paddle more advanced whitewater the dirtier the tactics for egress will become.
Looking ahead early is essential, some rivers you will be able to read 100 meters ahead and see it’s clear. Others it maybe down to a few meters. If it’s clear paddle until it isnt’. And as we paddle keep looking for the next bit.
What information does our group need?
When I have decided if it’s clear or not. I have to then decide how I package my new found information up and sell it to my boating chummies. It doesn’t matter whether it’s me and my best boating mate. Or a canoe club. I then have to decide how to tell them whether it’s good or it isn’t. And if they require anymore information. Of course I have to decide this quickly and this is the actual skill. If we are in an eddy we have all the time in the World. However mid flow and floating towards the rapid. You have to get a shifty on otherwise you form a bit of a traffic jam as your friends back paddle frantically.
So you can imagine it is so tempting to just bring everyone into an eddy and have a chat. One of the things I see so much of when running and coaching leadership courses is giving far to much information. As a guideline if you can’t package up your information into 3 key points. You have given them far too much information. As no body can remember more than 3 things when they are busy paddling.
If you can’t give them the required information in less than three key points. Either you need to re-think an alternative line where it is easier to sell to the group. You need to condense your information into 3 important key points better. Or they need to have a bit of a visual.
‘Left of the tree that looks like David Bowie.’ Or perhaps a quick hop out if you really must.
So can you give 3 bits of information mid-flow when you’re reading and running. Well sure you can. If we keep communication clear, it could be a thumbs up. Or perhaps ‘ Down the middle, left of big rock, right hand boof’ That maybe the only verbal dialogue they need.
Does our groups ability meet the river?
We assume with paddlers that the better they are the less info they need. As they can read the river well. And this is certainly true, but it doesn’t mean that our beginners need loads of info. As what they don’t know can’t hurt them. So keeping it concise and to the point is essential. It also keeps them focused if a bit nervous.
Paddlers genuinely form into 3 categories of paddling on river. Some days we fancy really pushing ourselves and others we want a stress free paddle down our local run. Ideally we should range our paddling moving between each of the 3 zones.
-Out of their depth
-Challenging but satisfying
-Totally on it I could paddle this all day
If we pick the wrong river with the wrong group. And try and read and run and minimise eddies you could cause a roller coaster eyes on stalks experience for your paddlers. However if you choose the right environment that matches the group you can paddle like this all day long. It may vary from the ‘challenging but satisfying’ mode to the ‘ Whoo Slightly out of depth.’ But this will give them such a more skill full view of whitewater paddling. Especially if you let them get out in front and take a back seat. It can be a bit scary, very much like watching if your child or niece is let off the reigns for the first time when crossing the street or other pinnacle moments. Don’t be afraid to let your students if they are students make bad choices. As long as you are there to nip in and grab the stirring wheel.
Bringing it back into Context
So just to big picture this for a paragraph or so. If you look at the leap from say. The legacy course to the olympic course at the Lee Valley Whitewater Course. The gap for performance is rather great. If you speak to any paddler I bet you who will talk about the difference between the two. They will mention, ‘ It’s fast’ ‘ It’s steep and powerful’ I bet you. The reason so many paddlers struggle with that jump has a lot to do with they way they paddle or attack it as a problem. They paddle it looking for the escape route ( eddies) as opposed to paddling it as a continual rapid. The try and paddle the olympic course like the legacy. Eddy to eddy where as actually you want to paddle fast, agile and with pace. You apply that to this scenario. The steepness helps you carry speed. The power drives you through the stoppers. And the fast jets give the thrill of your life. If I drive on the motorway I don’t want to drive at 30mph I want to get up the gears and hit 70mph.
Another example; the first day of your Alps trip, this is exactly the same. ‘It’s fast’ ‘ Steep’
‘no eddies’ perhaps. Until you ease up and literally go with the flow. Allowing you to read and run you clock of miles of river really quickly.
My top tips for Read and Run
The Gopro method
I use this one a lot when teaching any kind of river running skills. Imagine you have a go pro and you have two modes. You can either take one photo or you can take one every 0.5 seconds. Meaning you have lots of photos to look at. When I am river running I want to be on the 0.5 second mode. I want lots of photos in my bank so I can pick the best handful to look at the river. I now have loads of views of the rapid or bend. As opposed to one.
So in real terms what I mean by this is. As opposed to sit in an eddy and look from one spot. I want to be looking as long as I can from as many angles as I can. This allows me to see different lines, and different information. As we know when we get to grade 3 and beyond there are multiple lines down a rapid. Meaning there are lots of answers, when you get sharp. You can send one paddler one way and another a different way. You can and should have one paddler nailing a super clean boof while the other catches a wave on the fly! So multiple views, multiple lines multiple paddlers…sexy!
Traffic Light System
This is pretty simple. And can be applied to any group you are with. When I am heading down a river. I am green it’s good having fun the group is good everyone is having a good time. Then I see a bend can’t see if it’s clear. I move to amber perhaps I tell the group to slow down. Or even better I speed up. Whilst moving around. If it’s clear I relay the message back to the gang and we go back to green. If not and there’s a massive tree across the river we head to red. Nip into an eddy, portage and crack on.
It works in terms of safety everything is good one of us take a roll so my traffic lights go to amber. He rolls back up and gives a thumbs up with a smile. And we’re back to green. Or he swims and we’re near the red zone.
Support not Safety
This links in with the traffic light system. We all take a tumble from time to time. We all cock it up a bit. I think we all seem to take out turn. A shaky roll, or a brief yet hilarious fumble with a branch. If we all take responsibility for each other. As opposed to the leader is in charge. We have more hands on deck to support each other. The amount of times someone has rolled next to me and struggled and give them a quick nudge or offer the nose of my boat. Then we crack on!
Even if a paddler doesn’t feel good enough to help, he or she can be active in keeping them safe. Thinking ‘ Oh ok Steve is a bit stuck I best slow down a little.’ Little and often communication keeps everything flowing and everyone engaged on keeping each other safe.
Slow down don’t stop
Stopping is last on my agenda. Again just like driving a car, it really bums me out when I am on cruise control and I have to break. On the river no different and I really want to avoid getting out of my boat if I can. But it is there as an option. So when I chat to my group at the start I perhaps brief them with a slow down signal. Especially if I am on Alpine or Himalayan whitewater. This let’s the group understand that they don’t need to panic and make a beeline for the bank or eddy. However just slowing the pace to allow a bit more time from the front guy/lady to make a call on the line or move.
This keeps the pace in the river. As hitting eddies really slows the pace down massively. You get into the eddy come to a stop and then have to get all your speed up to get out. This becomes more escalated as you paddle more advanced whitewater. And if we are coaches or leaders then we want to be coaching our paddlers to one day paddle advanced whitewater. If they choose that. So many paddlers become stuck because of their fundamental strategies don’t work on anything past grade 3. Pass on the skills early on and it’s a doddle!
So there you have it, some of it you may have heard before. Some of it you may disagree with. And some of it well you may not be too sure. But feel free to drop me a line or check out message us on our Facebook page