There are two things I love about paddleboarding–one, getting on the river for my own pleasure and practice. The second joy is getting other people out on the frisky ripples for the first time. I had that opportunity last week on the best section I know for beginners–Warm Springs to Trout Creek on the lower Deschutes. Everyone had a blast, and seemed to “drink the kool-aid” of whitewater SUP.
It was the perfect day and we had a solid crew of 7 students plus Tim, a safety kayaker (and carrier of lunches). The crew at TCKC had helped me prep for this clinic and we got an early start, however there’s a lot to consider when paddling whitewater–any water really, but if you want to do it safely (and you should), the gear is different. Therefore we spent a considerable amount of time discussing “best practices”. This topic is fairly controversial right now, perhaps because two disciplines, with two “cultures” are clashing. One is the river culture. People who know and understand the dynamics of river–and river safety. River surfing is awesome and has gained a lot of popularity in the Pacific Northwest. However, it brings many people to the water who have their origins and experience with ocean surfing, which is different. The ocean bares it’s own power and risks to be respected…but again, different. As someone who loves both kinds of paddling and has sustained injuries on both, I prescribe to complete adherence to safety gear. On whitewater…even class I’s…I always wear a helmet, PFD, booties and…this is controversial too…a quick release (waist) leash.
Once we’d discussed gear, communication, best practices around/on the water, we warmed up for the run, first paddling upstream to get used to the feel of current with ripples. We also talked about low & high bracing plus, knee dropping and draw strokes. Finally, we turned our boards downstream. Yay!! We’re officially on our way. The next couple hours went pretty much as expected. Everyone fell (often), laughed a bunch, had a great time and enjoyed the cool water since it was damn hot out there. I saw an improvement even in the couple hours, as people got comfortable and gained confidence.
After we took off the water, everyone pitched in to load gear and drive the 75 minutes back to Bend. Energy was lower (everyone pooped out!) but content. I was full of calm and happiness for having completed the day–a success! I would love to invite you on the next Intro to Whitewater SUP clinic in August, but it’s sold out. WHAT?! That’s exciting. It’s been a substantial effort trying to make this program succeed, but with time and exposure it’s finally gaining momentum. We’ll be sure to have more next season. In the meantime, feel free to hit me up. I’ll be out there.