Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day at Sturgeon Falls.

We had this trip planned for a year since the last time we were there. I believe it's going to be an annual pilgrimage. It's worth the drive. This year the level was 67,000cfs. Very interesting as the features changed constantly from foam to green. Bigmouth was very aggressive, breaking constantly...beautiful to watch! It was a toss up for me this year as to go or not due to my tailbone problem but I made the trip. We had a crew of great people out there! I picked up the Duo from Midwest and brought it up for us to try. We can say it's not much of a playboat but it does have a lot of speed for running rivers. It was fun to watch Craig and Steve try to catch some surf with it. I just got a few photos out there. Bryan Z has a bunch and some video also. Check his blog out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Canoe U...The First Weekend

Wow! It's never done that before! Sunshine and warm on the first weekend of Canoe U?? The weather was spectacular for taking our group of newbies out. This is my first year as an instructor and I was happy to be paired up with Mike Manger. Mike's wife Melissa and Bryan and Sara Koop were our safety boaters. Our group dynamics was great! We started out on the lower Kettle working the basics and eddys in a wind that bordered on straight line winds at times. Our students worked hard and at the end of the day it was very apparent that they had made great strides. Mike and I decided to take them on the upper Kettle the next day as it was at 400cfs...bunny level but a jump up from the lower Kettle. When we arrived there the next morning we found that the river had doubled in size over night. Ah well, Mike and I picked our rapids portaging Blueberry, Teachers and Pet, Mother's Delight, and Dragon's Tooth but using them as visuals to explain rapids. We put in by throwing them off the Launch Rock...they loved it...and then eddy hopped and ran Little Banning with great success and lots of fun. Then the flat water and the approach to "Hell's Gate". We pulled out and scouted giving them the option of running this substantial rapid or not. Whoo Hoo! Everyone was in! Ducks in a row I led off. Students alternated with instructors and safety boaters we ran it down. Every one of the students styling the river and making the eddy at the bottom. Yeah, this is what it's all about...the smiles and excitement after a successful run of a rapid. We paddled to the take out and bade our good byes...until the second weekend. A few of us headed to the Gaslight for Bloody Marys and pizza. Ok that was the best Bloody Mary I've had! You even get four large shrimp! Pizza was good also. Great ending to a great weekend. Personally I'm excited to see what the second weekend will bring for our fledgling kayakers!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

N.O.C. Whitewater Instructors Course.

Bryan Z and I headed to Bryson NC last week. Both of us hoping to receive our level IV cert. We met up in Waukesha and headed south. We arrived half an hour before our first class started. The instructors were Rob Barham and Jason McClure. We were soon to find out that they were the most qualified kayak instructors we had yet to meet. Where to start? The instruction was top notch. I'll list off qualities these two men possess that make them the rockstar teachers that they are. Positive. patient, precise, intuitive, ever watchful, analytical, enthusiastic, unlimited energy, respectful, and both just damn nice guys and fun! Wow! That's alot of praise! I bet you're wondering why I said all that. Lets break it down.
Positive...There was never a negative moment with these two during the whole week. With it raining cats and dogs most of the time they kept the atmosphere upbeat.
Patient... Having taught and helped teach several people I can say this is extremely important when learning a skill like kayaking. They took their time with everything and made sure we all had it before moving on.
Precise... Every move they made was textbook correct and smooth as silk. The skills they taught us were broken down into exact basic moves that were easy to understand and incorporate into our paddling style.
Intuitive... This is experience and being able to predict an outcome before it happens..."swim". Their teaching style circumvents many possible swims by first teaching the students how to help them in a flip situation and then by placing themselves in the optimal position to intervene.
Ever watchful...Yeah, they knew what was going on every moment out there. Bryan wondered if Rob had eyes in the back of his head.
Analytical... When something didn't work they were able to explain why it didn't in an easy going way.
Enthusiastic... Always! Learning was super fun this week! I absorbed a mountain of information this week and I'm sure Bryan did too.
Unlimited energy... Where did they get it?
Respectful... Absolutely!
When you combine this with the teaching style they presented it was a dynamic combination. They taught us ways to control the fear levels of our students. How to smoothly layer lessons to build skills into complex skills. Killer games to play on and off water with our students. Bottom line is their style makes learning easy and fun for the students and easier for the instructors. I came away with great tools for teaching and am excited to try them out for CanoeU this coming weekend.
The week spent at NOC with Bryan was great! I'm glad he talked me into going down there for my cert. We had two other women in our group who were great paddlers and are going to make impressive teachers. The young men we paddled with in our group were golden! Great guys and awsome paddlers. After nine hours of instruction each day we retired each night for dinner and a beer and talked. Bryan and I stayed at the Smokey Mountain Meadows Campground. The owner is an absolute sweetheart and the place itself was clean and very well kept, tucked in a beautiful valley. With the torrential rains all week she let us move our tents under the pavilion which made for a very pleasant week. Funniest joke of the week. "What do you call a raft guide without a girlfriend?" "Homeless" Sorry to my raft guide friends but I laughed. The funniest moment was during the swiftwater rescue afternoon. I fed a couple of ducks from my lunch. After lunch we had rope throwing...the ducks followed us and were hanging out next to us. Then we moved up river to do flips and swims and the ducks followed us up river and hung out with us on the rocks. Then came swimming the river. Three swims where we ended up above Big Wessor...we were all laughing in the eddy when I saw the ducks had swam down with us and were still hanging out with us. Funny! Bryan and I both passed our level IV whitewater instructor certifications. We took the scenic route home passed the Occoe and Telico rivers but the timing was wrong for paddling. The Telico is one river I really have to get back and beautiful!