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Sideswiping Boulders Techniques
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Author:  Boneli [ April 22nd, 2009, 2:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

I was out on the river last weekend with someone who has way more experience then me in WW and was hoping to learn a few things. The river was boney but it was great fun. We would discuss the line to follow on an upcoming rappid and then pick our way through but we sideswiped a lot of rocks from the back then I cared for. I was in the bow and the guy in the stern was caalling out strokes for me which at times he could not see in front of me. I was able to get the bow pointing in the chute but our approach did not offer much swing around of the ass.

Just a question on a situation:
What is the stroke technique once you end up on the edge of a rock? What should the Bowsman and Sternsman being doing. Keep in mind the initial bump has you leaning on the rightside, rock on left etc.


Author:  kingfisher [ April 22nd, 2009, 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

How not to end up sideways on a rock.
My bow paddler charts our course through the boulders. And I seldom second guess her judgement.
She has to get her bow in the right spot with enough time for me to get the back of the boat around with a draw or a pry stroke. Once you get the stern moving in the right direction the current is your best friend.
If this doesn't happen it's usually my fault.
If you do end up on the upstream side of a rock, you don't want to be there. DO NOT LEAN UP STREAM! Depending on the pivot point, both paddlers should be stroking forward to get the bow around or backward to get the stern around. You can usually do a stern first eddy turn below the rock and get the bow pointed downstream again. Sometimes if the footing is okay either of you has to step out on the rock and with a little push get the heavy end in the current moving around the obstacle, then get back into the boat.
This works in Class 2 water.

Author:  jedi jeffi [ April 22nd, 2009, 6:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

How boney was it???
I have used that trick in boulder gardens (plastic is great!)
where there is not enough or very little space to set up to go through the next set of boulders, very technicial rapids where being pinned wasn't much of a problem, if at all.
Saves a lot of energy of trying to grunt a boat around a lot of tight turns.
In a really fast boulder river where pinning could happen fast, I think I would avoid use this trick though.
But it is aways good to have a few technique tricks up your sleeve incase something weird happens. That way you know in your mind what is going to happen.

Author:  Boneli [ April 22nd, 2009, 11:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques


Thanks for your input. My thoughts are the same. We just signed on our 4th paddler (my partner for the Seal River) and we did a test run last weekend and to say the least, I think he did not know what was going on. The stern end of the canoe is really gouged and reflect the opposite of what you and others have said. This guy called me tonight to remove himself from our group since he did not feel confident as a strong paddler for our trip. It was quite the ride and no one got hurt. The Seal Rive will be a faster flowing river and I will need someone who knows what their doing!

I have been struggeling over this since our weekends paddle. One thing I did not mentioned is that we did tip in the icy cold waters and said rock throw us to the side and rolled. I was okay with it but the continual rock bashing in the back and the lack of communication between us, it's just as well we move on to find another confident paddler for our trip.



We did tip

Author:  yarnellboat [ April 23rd, 2009, 1:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Hi Barry (and Craig!),

Edit: Ha, ha, I wrote the below description assuming that you were in the stern Barry! Anyway, hopefully it helps regardless of where you were sitting - of course it doesn't really matter who sits where if both people do the right things!

To wag a canoe around rocks, both paddlers need to do correction strokes for both ends of the boat. Often quickly.

Once the bow is where you want it, the bow paddler will may need to then do the opposite stroke, to help bring the stern around. For example, if the bow was doing some draws to get clear of something, as soon as they're clear they need to start working the pries to help rotate the boat quickly, so that the stern aslo gets clear.

Think of it on with 2 people in a canoe sitting on flatwater - the canoe will rotate a lot quicker if both paddlers do complementary strokes - in fact, it'll just sit and spin - than if the stern tries to make it spin while the bow paddler does a little bit of whatever.

It's a good sign when you stop thinking of bow and stern as "your end" and "my end" - after all, you're in the same boat!

Craig, sounds like you and Rits have been practicing! Awesome. Good advice on leaning onto the rocks, and also a good point that it's not uncommon to have a bow paddler that can pick the way through rocks.

Anyway, hopefully these words like "rotate" and "wag" help give an idea, rock gardens are more about timing, quickness and cooperation, adn you can't manage each end separately - both paddlers need to be aware of both ends.

Not that you need an expert up front, but you'll need to remind them to switch strokes in a timely fashion to help get the back end around.

Good luck Barry! Pat.

Author:  Mattt [ April 23rd, 2009, 7:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Well, I wasn’t there, but from what you have written, it sounds to me like the stern paddler is just not executing the draws and sweeps he should be making effectively.
All the dings in the stern end of the boat kind of testify to that, though I am just guessing and could be wrong. Was he using draws and sweeps, or just a J or rudder ? Or maybe its just a communication problem ?
Its also possible that the boat was just too long to make the complicated sharp turns, no matter if an Olympic’s quality padder was sitting in back.

You definitely need to work on the “teamwork” – in a tandem in white water; my opinion is that the bow paddler should be calling the course (even after scouting, you may see something that was missed from the bank)- if bow is on the right, and he calls a hard right, then the draw stroke should be automatic, no need to call that, and the sweep should be automatic if he calls for a hard left - the stern paddler just can’t see well enough. The stern has to have faith in the bowman’s decision, and go along with the call – I have seen boats pinned because the stern paddler choose to override the bow’s call.
You need to be loud, clear, and decisive, and it really helps to start your turns early – its deceptive how fast you are approaching the rocks . If that isn’t working, maybe you should switch seats. It also might help to eddy behind some boulders mid course, if you can, to chop up the rapid into smaller, more manageable bites, and to give you time to reassess your course and catch your breath.

As someone else mentioned, you need to both be executing steering strokes at the same time – you have to pivot the boat fast, to accomplish the change in direction, and then paddle forward to move in that direction, and then pivot again as needed – just moving the bow over isn’t very effective, as you have found out.

I suggest that you run the same stretch again, with you in the stern, and see if it makes a difference. Or just find some nice modest set of rapids and spend a day just playing there, executing eddy turns, and slaloming through the boulders – maybe even some flat water drills to see how fast you can spin your boat 360 deg, and then quickly reverse that spin for another 360 – that right there will tell you if your stern paddler is really executing his strokes – if you aren’t spinning but are making a big carving turn, then something is wrong there.

edit: not sure if I was clear there - what I was trying to say is that a team need to practice teamwork - even two good paddlers are going to have trouble if they aren't communicating effectively and efforlessly - that takes time in the boat, but "working" on that, on flat water or easy rapids, is the best way to become a team, not just two paddlers int he same boat.

Author:  Battenkiller [ April 23rd, 2009, 8:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

jedi jeffi wrote:
How boney was it???
I have used that trick in boulder gardens (plastic is great!)
where there is not enough or very little space to set up to go through the next set of boulders, very technicial rapids where being pinned wasn't much of a problem, if at all.

This is a very good point IMO. Very low water levels create a geometry problem that isn't present at normal levels. At higher levels, there is usually enough time to get a good line around the obvious obstacles, but at low levels, every rock in the stream seems to get in the way. Sharper angles are needed and it becomes increasingly necessary to get the canoe's pivot point at least to the point of the obstacle before the bow initiates the recovery. If done too soon, the stern has to swing way too far to avoid the obstacle.

To make matter worse, in very boney waters, there may not be enough room in front of the canoe to get halfway past the obstacle. Rocks that would normally have enough water to float the bow are now exposed and going any further will result in striking them. It is natural for the bow to try to correct to avoid the rock dead ahead, but that doesn't eliminate the problem of geometry aft of the bow.

Think about the problem off the water, like tandem carrying on a winding path. If the person carrying the bow gets past a tree and starts to turn in the opposite direction too soon, the stern has to scramble like mad to get over without hitting the tree. What works best is for the bow to keep going straight until the stern can see he can clear the tree and then signal to the bow that he is clear.

Same on the water. I think it works out best if the bow picks the path, but the stern, who can actually still see the obstacle, calls the strokes after the bow has passed.

I think that if you decide to run very boney water, it is inevitable to sideswipe a few rocks. Most of the time, the flow is very slow in a rock garden because the low flow has caused its emergence. There is, however, some Class II rated water that I know of that is very technical because of the rock placement. Inexperience paddlers, reading of this rating in a field guide, can be lured into running this "beginners" water, with a potentially dangerous pin a distinct possibility.

Author:  pknoerr [ April 23rd, 2009, 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

I tried to respond to this thread last night, but the message never posted. What do you mean by side-swiping. Is the boat facing downstream and you brush the side of the boat along the side of the rock enough to hang up leaving the boat against the rock with the water flowling alongside, or is this as others have replied the classic broach where the canoe is hung up above the rock with the current holding the boat in place.

As others have mentioned, it's counter-intuitive but remember that in a classic broach to hug the rock, or rocks are your friend to avoid flipping upstream and wrapping the canoe. In the situation where the side of the boat is stuck along the side of the rock with the current sliding along the opposite side of the canoe and possibly trying to push you against the side of the rock, you might have to lean away from the rock to essentially float that side of the canoe, and then use draws to pull yourself off back into the current. This can really be a chore in some current. As BK mentioned, there is obviously an issue with geometry. That's what can make boulder gardens in low water very technical, especially in a tandem, and even more so in a loaded tandem. Agressive draws and pries perpindicular to your keel are often the only way to get through tight passages. I remember a very shallow water trip on the Peshtigo that involved incredibly tight passages one year, and all those same rocks created surfable waves the next year with alot more water in them.

As to the finding a paddler that works with you. That's really tough. It really helps that you speak the same language. Two technical people who can agree on terminology work well, and two people who are more intuitive and can work together, but it's often tough to get the technical paddler and the intuitive paddler to work together. Practice helps, and years of experience helps as well. What doesn't work is when the less experienced paddler wants to be in charge.


Author:  Guest [ April 23rd, 2009, 10:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Are you talking about a situation like this?


where in tandem canoe A only the stern paddler is trying to steer around the obstacles
(with the obvious results...)
and in tandem canoe B both paddlers work together making sideslips or backferries.

Dirk Barends

Author:  Gail R [ April 23rd, 2009, 2:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Hiya Barry,

It's valid technique but don't so it if you're spacially and velocity challlenged. It is a little more agressive and requires in sync partners.
It takes two good paddlers with a loaded boat. The bow as soon as his ass is clear the rock starts drawing into the rock to help swing the stern around on the pivot. Lean into the rock and pull hard. the second scheme (green in dirks) is more of a classic approach...slow using backferry and decend.

Problem with classic is there isn't always a clear line channel.

Communication in your case would begin before paddlers even get on the water with you. What is there phylosophy in regards to navigating rapids.
In rock gardens though it is usually the bow who calls the shots

Paring up like minded padders is important for continuity and getting the most out of your experience

Author:  Guest [ April 24th, 2009, 2:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Gail R wrote:
[...] the second scheme (green in dirks) is more of a classic approach...slow using backferry and decend.

Problem with classic is there isn't always a clear line channel. [...]

Yes, in reality this approach is not as easy as it may seem from the drawing,
also because (ideally) the stern paddler in canoe B needs to anticipate what the bow is doing...
(and of course the trim needs to be right: neutral or bow heavy.)

If canoe A is very maneuverable, you may get around the first obstacle all-right with some speed,
but then the second obstacle will be unavoidable.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if obstacles in real rapids would be as simply to manipulate as in my drawings :-)
as my paddling friends always tease me with that :-?

Dirk Barends

Author:  erich [ April 26th, 2009, 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

As others have alluded to, the trick to maneuvering in tight rocky rapids with a long tandem, is a coordinated team that can, if necessary, pivot the boat around the rock. I call it "threading the needle". It calls for both paddlers working in unison to keep the boat off obstacles. Inexperienced tandem teams are often seen with the bow paddler putting the bow where he thinks it should be, without thinking about where the other 14 feet or so of boat are going to end up. As well, inexperienced stern paddlers will often expect the bow paddler to put the boat where it needs to be, and not helping at the stern to bring that end around.

A few rules are hugging the rock if you hit one broad side, and it is often easier to take the stern down first to grab the eddy below if you've gotten hung up. With the latter, you can often feel which way the boat wants to go.

Sounds to me as well, as if there were some issues regarding reading a route. While higher water will often mean fewer rocks, it means things happen much more quickly and decisively. If its very boney, I often use the pillows of water that can form on the sides of a rock to float my boat past.

Author:  SteveBoal [ April 27th, 2009, 7:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sideswiping Boulders Techniques

Go solo.

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