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Cheoah Beat Down

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Featured, Our Videos, Trip Report | 0 comments

It took a crazy beat down for me to understand something about whitewater kayaking: you’re always learning.

Over the past two years I’ve grown from an awful, just awful paddler to a confident Class III boater who can handle Class IV rapids in small doses. Dan and Rob say I paddle smooth, like the guys in the videos. I don’t believe that really, but it’s nice to hear that I don’t look like an idiot. I used to be afraid of the Ocoee and the Comp Channel at the USNWC. Now, those are the places I love to practice and show off my skills. So, after several ‘comfortable’ runs on the Ocoee, a great run on the Lower G during GauleyFest, a dry beard run on the Tellico, and six months without a real swim, I thought I was ready to step it up to Class IV. I had a very solid guide, a great security sweep boater and a release on the schedule – Cheoah.

I’ve run Class IV rapids – the El, Grumpys, Pure Screaming Hell, Jarrod’s Knee, and others – without too much trouble. I can boof, side surf and ferry like a champ. My strength is my roll and my ‘no swim’ mentality. I’ve taken some beatings in shallow rapids, held on when others would have bailed and rolled it up. I’m not the smoothest paddler but I have total boat control on the Ocoee. That’s what makes my hour on the Cheoah so strange – it was like I’d never paddled a whitewater boat ever. I was all over the place, couldn’t keep a line and spun in circles all over the place like a beginner on an eddy line. I had my moments of glory – nailed a boof on God’s Damn. But it was mostly me sucking ass like a noob all the way down to my eventual beat down. I’m used to catching eddys high up, I teach beginners how to do it. That day I couldn’t snap into a Cheoah eddy if my life depended on it. It was like I didn’t know how.

When I thought about running the Cheoah, I asked myself ‘am I ready?’ And when I answered ‘yes’ it was always thinking about my best day. On my best day paddling, I tear up every Class III river or creek I’m on. On my best day, I use my paddle very sparingly on the Ocoee, usually floating, edging my way down, holding my line like a champ. There was nothing I encountered on the Cheoah as technical as Jarrod’s Knee, or as intimidating as the Upper and Lower Mashes. I’d seen this all before. There was never a featured I’d never seen, hadn’t conquered nor a move I’ve never made. Granted, I didn’t make it to Bear Creek Falls. I know there’s shit there I’m not yet prepared for. But like I said, the BS features that gave me trouble on the Cheoah were features I’d crushed 100 times before – on my good days.

The problem was this: I didn’t have a good day on the Cheoah. The water was squirrely, pushy and tight. I wasn’t prepared to be on a Class IV river and have a bad day. Like missing a boof stroke. It happened. I missed it. Right there on Craik’s Ledge. The only  thing that saved me from swimming was my side surf and my roll. That hole held me for a minute but I fought and I eventually got spit out.  So, when I was thinking about ‘am I ready for the Cheoah’ I wasn’t taking into account the unknown (which is now known) – how would I do on a Class IV run? Can I survive a bad day? I almost didn’t.

When I first got on the Ocoee, we broke it down into pieces. I did the Ocoee Lite, walked Tablesaw, skirted Hells Hole. Why didn’t I do that on the Cheoah? Break it down, rapid by rapid? Run one rapid well, take out. Think about it, maybe run it again. Build up to it. Just like I did when I went from Class II to Class III whitewater. I tried to eat the whole Cheoah pizza in one bite. Not smart. I nearly paid the price and my boat got beat all to hell.

So my advice to anyone considering ‘stepping it up’ is to start over – assume you know nothing. Don’t be an arrogant ass like I was and look at my skill set through rose-colored glasses. On my best day, yeah, I think I could have made it to Bear Creek Falls. Could I have made it further? I don’t know. But on my worst day I didn’t make it past ‘Takeout Rapid.’ Aptly named.

Is Rolling With Hand Paddles Easy?

Posted by on Mar 24, 2014 in Instructional, Our Videos | 0 comments

My how far we’ve come! Just last June I was struggling to roll just in flat water with the help of an instructor. This week I showed the guys how I learned to roll a creek boat with hand paddles (see video below). The key, well, there is no key. It’s a hell of a lot easier to roll with hand paddles than a paddle with a shaft. You get so much more resistance that it’s like catching water with a shovel. I guess the key is ‘not to slice’ and make sure, before you start your roll, that your hand paddles are facing the river bed, that way you get maximum ‘purchase.’ If you lean back on your back deck during your hip snap you may roll right back up and over the other side – you get THAT much power with these hand paddles.

The set up position is a bit different than with a paddle. I start (upside down, underwater, of course) with my hands by my knees, left ear tucked to the side of the boat.

To explain the hand positioning, do this: let your hands hang at your side, palms facing out. Your left hand is good to go. Take your right hand, palm facing out, and move it to your left knee (your hands are now on your left knee, palms facing out). Now rotate your right hand counter-clockwise so your palm is facing your knee. Now keep rolling it in that same direction so your palm is facing outward again. Yes, this is awkward and your arm will feel like it’s being corkscrewed. But this how you get maximum purchase with the blade. Be sure to keep your elbow of your right arm slightly bent or you’ll strain your shoulder.

Now, sweep out in a big arc over your head, away from the boat and down, and hip snap. Pull your head up last, as usual, and you’ll pop right up.

Next step, get the balls to run a river just with hand paddles . . .


Lord of the Fork

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Featured, Our Videos | 0 comments

John’s footage from Lord of the Fork Race on Russell Fork, gorge section. He and Dan and another paddler hiked 45 minutes down to El Horrendo, an impressive series of drops with under cut rocks on both sides after the drops. It’s a long walk along active train tracks. At one point they had to run up a hill to avoid an on-coming locomotive. Dan and John ran the Upper the morning of the race and they took out right before the gorge. This take out also happens to be where the Lord of the Fork racers put in. And guess who was in the parking lot? World-class kayaker Dane Jackson – second guy from left next to WaveSport van at video intro – and the whole crew! See world-class kayaker Clay Wright run El Horrendo at 3:20 mark.


Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Featured, Our Videos | 0 comments

Demonstrating the T Rescue

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Featured, Our Videos | 0 comments

This is a good example of KRR demonstrating the T-Rescue as taught by Kevin from Ace Kayaking School. See Dan fail in his roll attempt and how 2 paddlers come to the rescue. A great tip for all paddlers to practice.

East Race Videos – July 2013 Trip

Posted by on Jul 16, 2013 in Our Videos | 0 comments

Filmed by John on East Race Waterway during his two-day trip to South Bend on July 13 and 14, 2013.

7.4.13 – Dan trying to roll

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Our Videos, Video | 0 comments

Dan is determined that he will successfully roll his Dagger Blackwater recreation kayak. Watch as he gives it a try!

7.4.13 – John roll!

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Our Videos, Video | 0 comments

Watch John show us how its really done! He can roll his boat very well and is working hard on combat rolls. Watch and learn!



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