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PostPosted: October 13th, 2007, 5:40 pm 
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Joined: October 27th, 2006, 5:51 am
Posts: 2904
Location: Montreal
Quite some time ago my best friend, my girlfriend and I decided we were going on a 17 day canoe trip on the Megiscane River system, north of Montreal.

There was to be plenty of white water along the route and none of us flat water canoeists had ever done such a thing. Not a problem, the local library had some books on white water canoing. So, there we were in our Plateau Mont Royal 1980 slum kitchen with the book in hand pretending we were in a canoe, imagining rushing water while we maneuvered our pretend paddles in the pretend rapids. Our efforts at that time were fortified with exotic substances.

Eventually, 4 of us and 2 canoes jumped off a train between La Tuque and Senterre and with our lessons firmly suspended in our brains proceeded to paddle.

On day 2 we hit our first rapids. We wisely carried our stuff to the other end and I'll never forget back paddling slowly towards the white stuff.

It turned out we had learned our lessons well for class 1&2 rapids.

Then, one day we were confronted with the real thing. 3 foot standing waves. We portaged our gear and giddily back-paddled our way into the jaws of no return. All went well so we carried the canoes back upstream to the top of the rapids and tried paddling full speed ahead into the big waves.

We capsized and the canoe disappeared completely beneath the flow. We couldn't see it but we could hear it scraping and crunching its way along the river bottom. When it surfaced we noticed a 3 foot long crack that ran abeam and shipped water. We had a repair kit so that was not a problem but a couple of days later on the same trip we tried to run a mile long stretch of class 3 rapids.

What a joke that turned out to be. We were totally bewildered as we and our canoes got the living shit kicked out us. Finally, we headed for shore and with our tails between our legs portaged our craft and our gear downstream to slack water.

Moral of the story? Book learning is only helpful for class 1 and 2 rapids.

PostPosted: October 13th, 2007, 6:36 pm 

Joined: June 13th, 2007, 1:31 pm
Posts: 1102
hikerneil wrote:
Moral of the story? Book learning is only helpful for class 1 and 2 rapids.

And, Hikerneil, is there any Wisdom as Wise as the Wisdom of Experience?

We've ALL been there... Kryzyzstof will surely agree... every situation is a
new situation... Every River a New River... it may be Our First Run, but that
River has been running Long and Hard a Millenia... and, perhaps, waiting...
for an exuberant soul to take it lightly...

"Experience is Nothing but an Accumulation of that Which We Learned
Through the Sum Total of All Those Mistakes We Made"... and managed
to survive.

When we Pay Attention to our Errors, Analyze them, Examine and Learn from
them, rather than merely Celebrate what Was, in Reality, only our Good Fortune...then, and only then, is true Wisdom and skill Born?

Thanks Hikerneil for, perhaps, the Wisest Advice I've yet seen to the New Canoeist... and, all the rest of us who challenge overconfidently...
on occasion.


Last edited by Sundown on October 13th, 2007, 7:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: October 13th, 2007, 6:42 pm 
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Joined: March 11th, 2006, 2:04 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Thanks for sharing your experience; that is exactly what I am trying to avoid.


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PostPosted: October 19th, 2007, 8:12 am 
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Joined: October 16th, 2004, 11:11 am
Posts: 692
Location: Wakefield, Quebec
I've been thinking about this alot lately . . .
(since our foray into the outback this past summer)

It's kind of a 'Gretzky-thing'
It's about being in all that action and still being able to think
Gretzky with his Hockey Stick
You with your paddle (or me, or Captain )
You can't ever reeelaaax and just cruise through it
everything is thought out-
from the scouting along the shore to the the constant analysis of stuff
15 feet ahead of you, 10 feet ahead of you, 5 feet ahead of you.
Constant evaluation.
At a certain point- one just gets
L a z y
even give up and crash into something
Lazy because the mind is not in concert with the body.

Running White Water for me has always been like the start of a 100 meters.
The nerve wracking pounding heart while I crouched in the blocks-
waiting to reach the . . . roar
those first heaving steps
and then the work.
You do reach an equilibrium, when your heart is not pounding in your ears
anymore because everything is in sync, including your partner
but not everyday.

It's a Gretzky thing.


We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

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PostPosted: October 19th, 2007, 1:51 pm 
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Joined: July 9th, 2003, 11:48 am
Posts: 1545
Location: Back to Winnipeg

If 99 were to paddle a 16' canoe down a class III rapid, he'd be looking ahead like this, calmly, but with quick eyes:

15', 30', 50', next bend. Looking way ahead. He'd probably even imagine what's around the next bend.

Not counting down: 15', 10', 5', kablamo! :doh:

If something at 5' away gets you, it's because you weren't aware of it 95' ago. Looking 15' ahead is how you can put yourself in a bad place. Stickhandle all you want and get out of it, and you usually can, but still in a bad place.

Riding a bike or skiing you look farther ahead than one bike-length ahead. Same on the river.

Gretz, Captain that he is, would look way downstream, know all the options at 15' and at 50' and beyond, and have back-up plans for his back-up plans.

Lean downstream - Look downstream.


Learning to paddle is like learning a language:
It's easy to learn the basics, but will you be understood in a strong wind?

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PostPosted: October 19th, 2007, 5:39 pm 
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Joined: November 7th, 2003, 5:57 pm
Posts: 930
Location: Cambridge Ontario
siren1 wrote:
At a certain point- one just gets
L a z y
even give up and crash into something
Lazy because the mind is not in concert with the body

I get the Gretz thing ... now.

I got the Lazy thing too late 'cause the scenery got in the way and it was the last day. We call it our "Spanish" lesson. :wink:

My yellow raincoat was left hiding on the bottom apparently flashing the following canoeists.

"Nature used to surround us, now we surround nature and the change hasn't necessarily been for the better."
Margaret Atwood

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