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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 10:05 am 
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I just wanted to see if I could get some perspective on canoeing whitewater, and the different opinions on forward momentum vs. back paddling and I guess defensive paddling? Also in tandem paddling I have always been instructed most of the steering is done in the stern and assisted by the bow but recently paddled with a friend that insisted the bow made the steering moves and the stern followed his direction, It seemed to be alright once I gave up on thinking about the next move and just feeling his directional pulls...

Old school vs. New school...


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 10:57 am 
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What your friend means is that the bow paddler sees obstacles better in whitewater, and may initiate a move with a draw, sweep, or whatever, that starts the boat in the proper direction. Then the stern paddler, either seeing what is needed or in an act of faith, maneuvers the back end of the canoe in a way that achieves the overall result.

What your friend does NOT mean (unless s/he is an idiot) is that a tandem can be steered from the bow with the stern paddler just paddling without steering.

On defensive paddling and maneuvering in whitewater, it helps to have paddled solo, whether you're in the bow or the stern of a tandem. There is no perfect system for tandem ww control, but back in the 70s we were taught to keep the canoe roughly at current speed and to use draw or pry strokes to move the whole boat sideways to line up for chutes or around obstacles. Backpaddling was an important skill, and for loaded, non-whitewater tandem canoes, it still is important.

But anything from Prospectors to all out tandems like the Caption can be driven, at times, a bit ahead of current speed, and steered like a snake through obstacles. A boat like a Caption does not backpaddle "straight" easily, but it spins fast, so sometimes one spins the boat and ferries along or scouts from an eddy for a safe course, and then the boat exits the eddy to spin and point downstream. WW canoes are much better at utilizing eddies. Traditional canoes may have to be sidled into eddies using draws and pries, because they don't carve and spin as well.

I encourage your interest in tandem WW, because good WW tandem paddlers are getting to be quite uncommon.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 11:08 am 
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You need a speed differential in whitewater to maintain control.

Sometimes its better to run hard forward to punch through a hole that is inevitable and otherwise its better to back up. Backferrying is a very useful tool to change the route you will take. It buys you more time to think and can prevent you from hitting something.

I teach that the bowperson is not an ornament. The bow ideally should lead. They can see what is going to happen sooner. If the bow paddler does something like back up cross draw or draw..there is a reason. Save the conversation about why for later. The sterns person should just follow suit to keep the boat going straight.

What happens if the stern person acts alone is that the stern swings but the boat does not turn..it simply floats downstream more sideways.

In whitewater you both are not moving the boat in an arc. You are moving it laterally. Both paddlers are equally important.

Caution and backpaddling can be a good thing..Especially in wavetrains backpaddling gives me very good control. It also buys time trying to figure out what channel has water and what has a bad outcome.

Tandem flatwater is another story. Current does not factor in. The stern is easier to start skidding and turning than the bow. Skill has little to do with it. Its just physics.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 11:43 am 
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Very interesting! I get what you are saying and it makes sense... But if you are hopping from eddy to eddy is not better to set your angle and power forward? ( although I totally get the lateral movements to avoid obstacles and the control) but can you laterally move into an eddy or back paddle into one if you decide that's the safest place to be at the time?


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 12:28 pm 
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NewSolo wrote:
Very interesting! I get what you are saying and it makes sense... But if you are hopping from eddy to eddy is not better to set your angle and power forward? ( although I totally get the lateral movements to avoid obstacles and the control) but can you laterally move into an eddy or back paddle into one if you decide that's the safest place to be at the time?



I think you are looking at ONE rule to follow in whitewater and you are not going to find it. There are many techniques and all have their place.

Precise paddling is called for on entrance to eddies. Sometimes powerful and sometimes not and the bow paddler has lots to do with hitting the eddy correctly.

When I get to eddy hopping on a wilderness trip for safety solo, it's time for me to portage.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 12:39 pm 
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My 2cents from spending a lot of time solo canoeing and swimming in WW. I'm still in the middle of a good learning curve.
I don't let the current take me downriver as I have almost no control except laterally with side strokes. Letting my canoe hit a wave train without serious forward speed, let's me keep my WW swimming skills up-to-date. To me back paddling is an alignment move like prying and skulling. My mantra of Power, Angle, Tilt is the only way I can get in and out of an eddy. The only times I've tried to get into an eddy side-ways, I only bounced off the eddy line and back into the current.

I've been stuck a few times in a tandem (which I don't like) and discovered that the bow sees better and starts rock avoidance moves, while the stern makes the line and overall running corrections. Pre-start line discussions between bow and stern are a must.

FWIW, Ted

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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 12:54 pm 
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So it's a combination of both and using what is necessary for the situation and I agree with the scout and discuss the movement before commencing! I just thought I would bring this up as I have met people that say one way or the other and believe there is only one way, I know myself I am quite open to doing what ever it takes to make it a successful and safe run but I was/am curious to what other people think outside my paddling group and maybe see if I could spark a debate!!! I guess as well it has a lot to do with being in tune with your partner as well and sharing the same skills and style of paddling...


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 1:57 pm 
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I remember reading a piece by Bill Mason about the time he tried powering through the rapid. If I recall correctly he regretted losing the boat as it could have still had some useful life in it but at least he had chosen an older one for the experiment. Now to clarify a bit, the moral of his story was that he found it much better to work through the rapid in a controlled manner including eddy hopping and using back ferries.

As for moving in and out of eddies, I'll agree with Ted that you aren't going to do that moving laterally - if by laterally you mean the canoe is moving sideways. Sure you will be moving laterally between the river banks, but the canoe will be moving forward in order to cross the eddy lines.

As for steering - on any moving water whether a meandering creek or whitewater then the bow paddler has just as much responsibility as the stern paddler does for steering. Yes part of that is just being able to see and react sooner. However, I think the more important point is that the bow paddler will often be paddling in water that is moving a different direction and speed than the stern paddler. For example, coming out of an eddy, the bow paddler will be out in the fast current heading downstream while the stern paddler is still lollygagging in the slow moving eddy heading upstream. While the stern paddler will have set the angle of the boat to come out of the eddy and the bow paddler would have provided power to get across the eddy line, once the bow is out of the eddy it is now up to the bow paddler to plant that draw or cross bow draw to get the boat turned downstream while the stern paddler finaly puts some muscle into it and powers that lazy stern out of the eddy to get caught up.

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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 2:40 pm 
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Maybe I should clarify my approach to rapids.
I pick my way down rapids. That means a lot of alignment strokes but always with momentum either forward or back. I can't control my canoe properly when only being pushed along by the current like a log. For me, speeding down a rapid is a recipe for disaster. The few times that I've tried, I've either butt-headed a rock, ricocheted off a rock or ended up completely missing my line and ending up somewhere bad.

I've seen way too many canoeists trying to backpaddle or enter a wave train at current speed only to get part way up the first or second wave, stall, slide back, go sideways and dump.

I love stopping or camping near popular rapids. Watching others with their successes and mistakes has been a good learning experience for me as well as them.

Almost forgot - I've never headed into a rapid without considering the consequences of a dump.

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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 3:01 pm 
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Littleredcanoe said
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I think you are looking at ONE rule to follow in whitewater and you are not going to find it. There are many techniques and all have their place.



Well said and so true.
In WW where one wants to be an where one actulally is.... :wink:
especially if you are leaning... :doh:
So it is well worth it to learn a whole bag of paddling tricks and techniques.
Sooner or later you will need them.

ezwater said
Quote:
I encourage your interest in tandem WW, because good WW tandem paddlers are getting to be quite uncommon.

Well said and also sadly true.
Timing, communication you just don't see a whole lot.
Even the ability to have the bow "steer" if the boat is positioned in a rapid a certain way like accidentally running a rapid backwards is a great skill.
If you want to see how important timing is do some sweep strokes to make the boat spin in a circle first not together and at different strengths and then in unison.
And in ww who has the mechanicial advantage and at what times using currents
to perform the move desired.
When teaching I always suggested that at a practice rapid or session they imagine various obstacles manouvers and try different ways to get the job done.
It is all about quality practice.
Jeff

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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 3:20 pm 
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Quote:
I've seen way too many canoeists trying to backpaddle or enter a wave train at current speed only to get part way up the first or second wave, stall, slide back, go sideways and dump.


Their backpaddling is not effective then. By definition backpaddling should have a speed differential from the current. Its not that the technique does work, it is that the wet paddlers don't know how to do it properly.

In May we run a bunch of Pennsylvania rivers near Pittsburgh and backpaddling has been an effective way to negotiate wave trains that aim directly at sweepers at the runout.. You just have to get out of the way and going forward fast usually results in a nasty scare. Same for Ozark streams.

Most people do not know how to backpaddle with control and efficiency and don't have a boat trimmed for backpaddling (it has to be neutral..not stern heavy)

Laurie Gullion in Canoeing: A Woman's Guide to Canoeing p 116 says the same thing..but more eloquently as she is a writer.

If you find yourself surfing the wave of course its prudent to power forward before you slew sideways and broach.


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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 3:48 pm 
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Both.

Back paddle to setup the move then forward power to execute it.

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PostPosted: December 2nd, 2011, 5:36 pm 
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As Kim already mentioned... you maintain control in white water by moving at a speed that's different than the speed of the current, that way you can use the canoe to steer. There will be times when it's best to power ahead, but it's kinda like shooting ducks, you have to lead your target as the current will sweep you away from where you want to go. The main difference between slower than current and faster than current (forward vs back ferry) control is that going forward you add the speed of the current to your own speed to gain control while in back ferries you subtract it. If you make a mistake in forward moves, you've got a lot of inertia in the boat, back ferries are more forgiving when done properly.

Here's my policy on canoe control... If I get a partner who doesn't know much, or I don't trust... they sit in the bow and I take the stern because I can recover just about any mistake a bow paddler makes from the stern if needed. If I'm with a descent partner who trusts me I prefer to take the bow. If you're using back strokes, the bow relatively speaking becomes the stern and you can exert more control from the front of the canoe, plus you can see more of what's going on.

One thing I didn't see mentioned in this thread was boat trim. If you plan to use back strokes to gain control, the bow of the canoe has to be deeper in the water than the stern. I've seen a lot of paddlers get into trouble in a current because the stern swings around when they try to back paddle. If the stern is lighter, when you stop or ease up on the paddling the canoe will self correct. If the stern is heavy, as soon as you put the canoe at an angle to current it'll want to swing around 180 degrees.

Keep in mind that doing white water paddling is a bit like sailing. In a sail boat, you can go upwind by using the angle of the sails and the hull of the craft. What I notice that gives ummm "novice" paddlers the most trouble is insufficient lean on the canoe. If you tilt the canoe, you can "carve" the current and use it much like a sailboat uses the wind. Makes life so much easier.

hope that helps.

oops... i hit send then noticed Kim had mentioned boat trim. She said "neutral" and that's safe if you're switching between back and front stokes, but bow heavy is safest if you will be doing mainly back paddling.


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PostPosted: December 3rd, 2011, 8:26 am 
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What a pile of great info! I am glad to see all these answers...as I am the student here I will reiterate the fact that this year has been a great paddling year for me but I found myself with a several different dance partners with mostly no experience (well less than I) and I did everything from the stern and felt comfortable doing it; then when faced with a more experienced partner that had a different approach I became quickly confused and let's say the first paddle was difficult because I was trying to do things my way and he was doing it his way! all and all we talked about it and I then said I would try his approach and like I said it worked and was fun but was more or less wondering if it was right... But in my learning stages this has become another lesson of where you need to use multiple techniques to accomplish a mission...


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PostPosted: December 3rd, 2011, 1:38 pm 
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I've been reviewing carefully in my mind what I actually do when just cruising down class 2+ whitewater, rather than sprinting into and out of eddies. A problem with decades of experience is that I can lose consciousness of some of the things I am doing, so that if instructing others, I may leave out important details.

One excellent river for practicing control on long wave trains is the Schroon on the south side of the Adirondacks. The wave trains can be literally half a mile to a mile long, the waves are big enough to slowly fill your boat, and opportunites to land and bail are rather wide-spaced. When I ran those rapids, I could not power forward or I took water. And I could not backpaddle constantly because it was getting me sloshed from behind.

It seemed like I was just running through the waves with the current. But the truth was that the boat tended to accelerate just a bit faster than the current because of the gradient. And I wasn't riding passively. I was reaching over wave crests, not pulling the paddle through, just adding a sort of forward high brace. That brace could be quickly turned into a pull, a sweep, or an angled draw if I felt the boat turn under me. In a tandem boat, the bow paddler has the job of doing those light braces over wave crests, while the stern paddler has to use prys, draws, forward, or backward strokes to keep that end of the boat under control.

What I am suggesting is that to maintain control, one usually need not paddle forward or back to a marked degree. The difference between boat speed and current speed should not be great, or it may limit your options when conditions change, such as coming on a pourover rock or a big hole you didn't expect.

Another thing about wave trains and backpaddling. It is harder to backpaddle or paddle forward when you are going right down the center of a wave train than it is if you choose a course a little to one side or the other. It won't look as great for the cameras, but you'll have less chance of rolling or swamping.


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