Friday, June 19, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 5

The last day where we see how we've progressed and what level we are now qualified to teach at.

More Teaching
We were again given out topics to teach today. Many of us received two topics to work on and most of them were group teaching topics. While everything we have learned is possible to teach alone, it is also possible that most classes will have more then one instructor so team teaching is valuable to learn as well. Most people didn't initially fair well with the team teaching but we are all improving. Most team talking is occurring before the "lesson" and everyone seems to be getting smoother in their teaching style. Most of us are still a little rough around the edges.

Getting to the Gorge
As our final test (which I thought was going to be written, hah), we did a gorge run. We started at Angler's Inn and paddled up along the canal to Sandy Beach, our put in. Most of the flat water aspects of the teaching took place along the canal. We then stopped to jump off canal falls, a small spill over along the canal leading to an eight foot drop. I wasn't too sure about going over but figured why not. I watched a few times then I took the plunge, literally. I never had my stomach greet my tonsils before now. Hope they enjoyed the party. It really was fun to do though. The long schlep to get to the put in wasn't fun. We walked about a quarter mile with the boats over the C&O towpath. My boat kept getting heavier. Plus I was really hungry.

Back Channel

I think I have seen the back channel that high before, but I had never kayaked it before. In fact, I don't think I have solo kayaked the Potomac this high up before when the water was over 5.5 feet. We had two of the students acting as instructors for this portion of the river run. They did a great job. We all paired off and worked together as some people were not quite as sure of the level of current then others. I was nervous but did well. We did get out and scout the last larger rapid. Not everyone wanted to get out but I think it was a good drill and we learned from it. The instructor show a picture of us before we ran it, we have the happy faces and scared faces photo. What a group.

I have been to rocky before when the water was higher then this but I was in a tandem kayak. This was definitely bigger in a solo boat. I didn't have to ferry across but the instructor set us a drill and I wanted to see if I could do it, so I ferried across. Then I had to ferry back. I was able to stay upright but I wasn't that comfortable in the boat. I think this was technically only class II current as well, maybe a II+. I need to get more comfortable in bigger water.

Center Chutes
We continued down past Wet Bottom and through the gorge. I rolled just to say I did and could. We goofed off a little as it was moving but flat. Center chutes afforded some surfing opportunities for us. The instructor had someone try to give a surfing talk but he wasn't sure about the concept himself. We did get to go out and play. There were two waves, and they were long enough that someone more experienced could get out into the center of the wave and the lesser experienced people could surf the side of the wave and still get back out to the safety of the eddy.

The talk
After scarfing a quick lunch I wasn't sure what to expect next. We were back at the camp and the instructor was talking to all of us one on one. I figured this was the test part. I was still waiting for some really big paper based test, but to no avail. This was just a talk after everything was over telling us how we did and what level we achieved. I found out that I was almost an L4. Had I been more comfortable on the gorge run in the big water, and if I had tightened up my strokes I would have been up there. As it was, I have a few bad habits. But having the sea kayaking experience really helped me to hammer down some of the strokes and concepts as I had previously learned them in sea kayaking. This means if I certify for sea kayaking in the fall I should do quite well. In the end I got an L3.

Let the teaching begin
Before I went in to talk to the instructor, I was talking to the guy who got me into the class, looks like I will be teaching two classes this weekend, which is great. I will be able to but my newly developed skills to work. I do know that the place I am teaching through teaches a little differently from the ACA style. I will have to go and watch the Jackson DVD that explains the other teaching style to more conform with the teaching style of the kayak school.

After 5 days of non-stop classroom and on-water instruction, I haven't had enough water as I then went out afterwards to join in with the social paddle. And start teaching what I have just learned how to teach.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 4

I can't believe how exhausted and tired I am. I didn't think yesterday was that difficult of a day but I am sore all across my shoulders and my arms are tired too. I really think I need to invest in a lighter paddle.

Students as Teachers
Day four of the certification training and the learning of strokes has stopped from the instructor, but now we are the teachers. We have to show and teach the various strokes and concepts we have learned to demonstrate we can teach. Today we all received a stroke or concept to talk about and we had to work on "teaching" the whole class that. The instructor mostly sat off to the side and acted as a student. We did this yesterday as well during the creek run. Today we are on the Potomac and the skills are larger. We have to be careful what we say as the instructor has been taking us at our word. One guy said lets all try it, and he took off and tried then purposefully capsized. The next person up was more careful to say lest try one at a time.

Learning to save people
Since this is our first time out in the bigger current, we are working on where to position ourselves such that we can get to an overturned boat in the fastest time possible. We were working in an area that normally has a small current, but due to all the water we have been receiving, the current is actually somewhat sizable. We are working on ferrying, and peeling as well as rescues. I didn't get to my overturned boat fast enough so the buy decided to just swim. I was there but the current just swept us away from each other before he could get a good grip of my boat or me of his.

We finally had a chance to watch the videos today. It was rather late in the day after our river work, and after we tried to dry out the damp camera. Someone else had brought in a spare camera and battery in case and we ended up having to use that. It is strange to watch yourself on TV. I could only tell when I was making a huge mistake though. He kept pointing out that people didn't have their hands in the right position and I hardly ever picked up on that. Something I will definitely have to keep an eye out for in future. My on side roll had a bit of head lifting and my wrist wasn't finishing correctly but my off side roll was near perfect, oddly enough. Guess that what happens when I don't use it.

I can't believe how much I look forward to going to bed each night now. I don't seem to be getting any more sleep but I am pretty tired at the end of the day. Each day has been feeling like two days. We go river stuff in the morning followed by classroom stuff in the afternoon. Long days packed into 8 hours.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 3

Day three of the course and I am exhausted. I still have two more days and they are only going to get harder after this. Today we did a small little river run. This was barely class I current but the ferry across and back was long. The ferry back was actually very wide and rocky making it a bit more technical.

Pool Rolling
We started off with the pool today as the building where we had been doing the classroom stuff was being used for other purposes. We have been fighting the weather most of the week now with thunderstorms rolling through the area. We were supposed to watch videos this morning but because of the threat of bad weather we moved the water stuff to the morning. We did rolling drills and learned how to teach rolling in the pool.

We were filmed doing all the rolls we knew how to do. I really only know how to do one roll, a sweep roll. I did my sweep then he asked if I had an off side sweep. I decided to give it a try and was really surprised when I popped right back up. I tried to do a c-to-c roll to no avail, I hadn't learned it so could only guess. I did have a hand roll at one point but I hadn't done one in so long that I was really rusty and didn't come back up. I think my head let me down. Most of the kids had at least two rolls both on and off side while some also had a back deck roll as well. Looks cool but I don't know how to do one or when it would be used.

Hanging Draws
We eventually made our way down to the little pond to learn hanging draws and a few other strokes to round out the set. Learning to roll is difficult. Learning to teach rolling was interesting but seemed to be just as difficult.

GW Loop
I had heard of the GW loop but had never had a chance to take a trip there. Today this was the little river run that we did. It was a good beginner level run and was mostly for run and river reading. There were some downed trees and lots of rocks to avoid. As we were just following a small creek down stream we mostly just had to avoid obstacles. We ran it mostly eddy to eddy which was fun. There was one place with a wave barely big enough to surf. I tried to get in but I just couldn't get up high enough to slide into the right position.

This was actually a really fun run and I hope I can go again with a group of people. I saw a heron posed and waiting as we were paddling back. With the silence of kayaks, I was able to get close enough for some good pictures without disturbing it, I actually managed to back off. Someone from the group behind me scared it off. I want to run it on the meetup but I'd like to go once more so I know the place better before bringing people who don't know the area.

More Classroom
After all the river running, we were back and bounced around as the rain had everything wet and most of the places under cover were being used by the camp staff as they were learning about the camp and how to deal with the kids that were arriving next week. We managed to find a place with pads to sit and lay on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 2

The instruction continues today not only with us learning how to do the strokes properly ourselves, but also with learning how to teach the strokes and what we need to point out to students in order for them to do all this properly the first time.

Bracing, Sculling, Dufeks and C-Strokes, Oh May!
Bracing has never really been my strong point and while I think I can teach it, I find I still really don't use it nearly enough to stay upright. The class learned how to do both low braces and high braces as well as low brace sculling and high brace sculling. I already knew how to do high brace sculling, apparently incorrectly but I never even thought there was such a thing as low brace sculling. It is basically the same as a low brace only with a sculling movement. The dufek and c-stroke are dynamic strokes and used while on the move. The dufek uses an open faced bow draw and some momentum is lost. The c-stroke uses a closed faced bow draw and it is possible to actually gain momentum using the c-stroke. I had learned the c-stroke before but had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I tended to keep turning in the wrong direction. I think this time I have the stroke down.

One of the learning tools that the instructor uses is to video us doing the strokes we had just learned so we could evaluate ourselves later and see how we look. Today video was shot of all the strokes from yesterday and today. The plan is to watch them tomorrow morning before we head out onto the water again.

Long Days
So far after only two days of instruction, I feel like I have been through a four day class. This is a very intense teaching style and while it may see like there is time to goof off on the water, there really isn't much time to relax. While we are waiting for our turn in front of the camera, we are practicing the strokes we were just taught. Once everyone has been filmed we move onto learning more strokes and concepts. I can keep up and do this but it is very exhausting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

White Water Certification Training, day 1

I decided I wanted to help teach kayaking as it goes with what I am doing with my meetup group plus it is fun to help get people interested and excited about kayaking. Although I am likely a better sea kayaker at the moment, I have been doing so much white water kayaking that I thought I would start with white water and look into whether I can transition into sea kayaking by the end of summer. I was accepted into the training class even though space was a bit tight. This required about a week off of work. This particular class was for ACA certification for levels 1 through 4.

The training begins
I wasn't really sure what to expect with the class. When the instructor trainer asked what I hoped to get out of the class, my response was to better my skills and learn how best to teach them. The class was mostly classroom lecture the first day with a little on the water work later in the afternoon. Since the training was taking place at a summer day camp, we had access to pools, and the 'lake'. Turned out the lake was a glorified pond with a tiny feeder stream, but it was water. The girls pool had just been filled and they were still repairing the boy's pool. I did have some trouble finding my way around as I wasn't familiar with the camp even though I have been to the boat shop before.

The students
I didn't realize I was going to be the only student in the class over the age of 25. In fact all the other students were working as counselors at the summer camp and were between 15 and 18 with one being 24. They were fun to hang out with and had been paddling for years. Some of them were really good with tricks but had a little trouble with some of the more basic strokes. I barely have one year of white water kayaking and while my strokes are mostly dead on from sea kayaking, I had a few things to learn on the first day. More it was about how to teach the strokes rather then me learning the strokes first.

Forward, sweep, and correction strokes
We all learned how to do a proper forward stroke with good torso rotation, vertical paddle shaft and extension to the front of the kayak. The forward and reverse sweeps as well as combination sweeps were next. This one requires a more horizontal paddle shaft with good extension forward and out. The combination sweeps are a forward combined with a reverse to really spin the kayak around. Correction strokes are simply the last quarter of a sweep. Also known as a stern pry and stern draw.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kayak Gear Reviews

I have been wondering for quite some time where one goes to find good impartial reviews on kayaking equipment. Maybe I am spoiled by what is offered for backpacking reviews ( but I really wanted to find a site that offered the same types of reports with good quality writing. I wasn't able to find something that met my standards and as such felt the best way to go was to build my own site to generate that which I was looking for. As I am currently involved in the backpacking site I figured this would be fairly easy. I actually did get permission before going ahead with the site which I feel was a good thing to do even if I was worried I might get shot down.
As such KGR was born and after much work and planning went live on June 1st. The site had been available for a bit before that but the backend was in a lot of flux as I was installing and removing programs to get what I wanted. I feel that I am very close to the final product that I want and am lacking on a few things. The smallest of those things is a mailing list for future use. I foresee a use and I think now is the time to get a mailing list installed and working rather then trying to work out bugs later. The next thing is actually a small piece of programming in order to get the files to sort correctly. I am sure it is a small matter to fix but right now I can't really wrap my head around what needs to be done so I am sitting on it. The biggest thing that is missing other then people and visitors are reviews. The site desperately needs more reviews of gear in order to become the resource I want it to be. I really can only write so many reviews before I run out of equipment to write about. I have roped only one person in so far and hope to rope in more people. I think once I get more people going on this endeavor it will grow without too much help from me.

Summer OR Show
With the birth of this new site comes the need to get not only people on board but if it is possible to get manufacturers interested in the site, then maybe it might be possible to get manufacturers interested in possibly giving gear to the site to have reviews written about the gear. I hope to establish good quality reviews that are impartial and useful. Since I will be going to the Summer Outdoor Retail Show in July, this is a great time to approach manufacturers about the site and get the name out there. Then hopefully get a few manufacturers interested in what we could possibly offer.

KGR isn't just about the reviews either. I really wanted to have a way for people to show off a little and discuss what is going on in the paddling community. As such I set up the site to have a forums and social pages for people to use to form an online paddling community. I am not sure if this will work, but I feel that if manufacturers start giving the site gear, then maybe people will be interested in working on the site and will form groups and interact with each other.