View topic - Fear and Loathing on the Madawaska

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PostPosted: May 26th, 2016, 3:31 pm 
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Joined: June 5th, 2003, 2:50 pm
Posts: 758
Location: Halfmoon Bay BC
I spent 20 years paddling fearing any WW. 2 things changed all that .
I took the MKC course with my wife which really offers personalized training, we did the week-end course but I would recommend the week long course . With 150 people in the water I cant see how you could really get the attention and knowledge.

The other thing I did was carefully watch Bill Masons, Path of the Paddle movie which you can watch for free on the NFB app located on most Smart TV's. The first half is basic strokes in flatwater but the second half is all white water. It will train you to "read' WW, and after that lesson I would always study rivers and realized quickly that its easy to figure out what a haystack is or how a wave reacts to a slightly submerged rock. You also get to make eddys your best friend.

Also heed the suggestion of switching up who sits in the bow. The bow paddler is the more important paddler in WW and are far more responsible for "steering" than the guy in the stern who really isnt seeing 100% of the river infront.

Yes at some point you will still swamp, but like learning how to ride a bike when you fall you just get back on. Failing is the only way to learn.

PostPosted: May 26th, 2016, 4:11 pm 
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Joined: October 23rd, 2015, 11:52 am
Posts: 80
Location: Muskoka
tearknee wrote:
However, as we approached the current from the eddy, my nerves started to get the best of me. I kept telling Andrew that no, I wasn't ready, let's back up and set up again, let's wait it out and watch a bit more, hang back, not yet, etc etc. After about half an hour of doing that I worked up the courage to enter the current again, and we completed a few successful ferries and S-turns in and out of the current.

Tearknee, that sounds so familiar! I was doing the same thing the other weekend when my husband and I did the ORCKA Moving Water Level 1 course. When I woke up Sunday morning for day 2, I had a huge knot in my stomach and second guessed my ability to complete the course. My husband talked some good sense into me but I had to explain to him that he needs to take it slow with me and be patient.

I am overcoming anxiety issues when it comes to paddling. My friend and I hit a strainer (hope you learned about that on the weekend) in Arkansas on a fun day of paddling and we were caught up. After learning about the dangers of strainers now, I'm shaking my head and the nonchalant employee of the outfitter who dropped us off and drew the water course in the sand and let us go. I couldn't paddle any further once we got ourselves off and away from the strainer, and we had to ask 2 strange dudes on the side of the river to take us down.

After that, I got seasick for the first time ever on my mom & dad's boat. I made the mistake of going into the cabin when we were driving through 3-4 high rollers on Lake Huron. That experience caused me to have major anxiety on a catamaran in Mexico. I was so seasick and terrified that I had an panic attack. Hyperventilating, arms seized up and I couldn't move them. It was AWFUL. I couldn't get off the boat for hours because people paid money for this boat ride. Rock bottom.

I was terrified on my first canoe trip in Algonquin Park. Hated being in the canoe.

I've been out many times now on canoe trips and am now comfortable on flat water and I LOVE canoe tripping but it took time!

I know you had mentioned before through comments we shared that something happened on the Sturgeon River. It was too much, you weren't experienced, etc. An experience like that can affect you and that is what is happening with the whole moving water thing.

At Palmer Rapids, how many people were in your course? Was the instructor able to do a lot of one on one or coaching with you? Did they recognize that the moving water course was perhaps a Level 2?

My advice to you (because I'm going through the same thing) is to just keep trying. Practice your S turns and ferrying, etc., at the base of a small rapid (otterslide or C1) anywhere along your canoe trips this year. Eventually you will build your confidence and when you're ready maybe you can move on to larger courses of whitewater. You need the tools in the toolbox before you can start building, right?

The reason why I took the course is because I don't want any boundaries when it comes to exploring. If I'm looking on the map and I see a swift or rapid, I get scared and plan a different route. I don't want to keep doing this.

My course through PaddleFoot was awesome, and I can't say enough about our instructor Mark Orzel. He was amazing! We did the course at the base of the Gull River at the Minden Wild Water Preserve. If you want to practice (and have a whitewater canoe), I would suggest starting there. You put-in at the bottom of the rapids and can paddle downstream until you're ready to start practicing your moving water skills, and eventually move closer and closer to the rapids. That is where we started learning ORCKA Moving Water Level 1. It was all strokes and maneuvers. At the end of the course, you could run the Class 1-2.

If you ever want to do some practicing, let me know. We'd be up for meeting there.

And, I think you read my blog on our whitewater course, but here's the link for anyone else.


Photographer | Blogger | Outdoors Woman | Canoeing | Camping | Hiking | Connecting with Nature | Landscape, Nature, and Wildlife Photography

PostPosted: May 26th, 2016, 5:47 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
Posts: 3099
Location: Milton
Just so you know flows and rapids can vary greatly.
It is a Trent feeder system and if it is dry they will push a lot of water down the system and the bottom can become very big and strong.
There is also the "5 o'clock" wave at the bottom.
This happens in the evening when the dam downstream is producing hydro and they are running both turbines.
Other times it can be washed out when they are not generating.
If you go to the MInden Whitewater paddlers Facebook page you can get updates in the levels.
Throwing a monkey wrench into the normal summer flows is they will be rebuilding the dam at the top of the rapids. That is scheduled for August to Feb.
Usually the drier the summer, the better the water levels. (meaning higher and pushier)
Pic of me in my solo Yellowstone at the bottom of the Otter slide @ summer levels


The good thing about the Gull is if you can paddle there comfortably other rivers will be easy.
But there are some other more beginner paddler friendly rapids in the area depending on the flows.
I can let you know were they are.
If not stay tuned for summer floods on the Credit and 16 mile creek.
Would be happy to take you and your partner down.

Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho

PostPosted: May 26th, 2016, 6:25 pm 
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Joined: September 13th, 2014, 11:52 am
Posts: 386
Location: Toronto
Cobi (Waboose Adventures), you have no idea how relieved I am to hear you were spooked too. I read about your first canoeing experience and then after I read your WW course post I figured you quickly moved past any trepidations. I'm obviously not pleased you struggled, but it is a relief to know you felt the same way as I did. Swimming from the canoe was a new experience for me. I did not enjoy it, especially in my leaky drysuit. Good for you for keeping the open side up and working past your fears! There were four other canoes in our group plus the instructor. So when we had more space things went smoothly, but once the other kayakers and solo canoeists were playing around in the same rapid things got a bit too hectic for me. I do have attention deficit disorder (as an adult, I know) and all of the colours and people really messed with my zen.

gunnelbob: Again, so relieved I'm not the only one who gets spooked by WW. I've been watching Path of the Paddle on repeat since we got home on Monday. I really like the "technical" way of running rapids.. I don't like the whole bash-down-in-a-plastic-boat-and-hope-to-stay-upright style. There's a reason we canoe and not raft, right?!

Jedi jeffi: I've been to the Gull to watch Andrew in a kayak, but I've never been in the river myself. The otterslide looked a bit insane to me. I'd be willing to try again though.. I do like the area and the camping there is nice. We will probably try to get out to the credit again a few times if it rains a bunch.

Paddle Power: AMAAAZING thank you! Exactly what I need.



Friends of Temagami:

PostPosted: May 28th, 2016, 10:18 am 
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Joined: August 11th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 5869
Location: Sunny Wasaga Beach
I have done a little ww, so I'm not expert by any stretch. My suggestion is to practice on fairly easy local rivers when you have the chance. Elora Gorge is usually good since the GRCA is obliged to provide a certain min flow. The Grand from Hwy 109 down to near Belwood has lots of nice round boulders to avoid at higher flows. Usually good in spring but if we get a heavy rain it should be good for a few days.

If have my own river classification system: (1) Serious injury or death (2) embarrassment and property damage. The 2 I mentioned above are in the second category. :D


Old canoeists never die---they just smell that way.

PostPosted: July 1st, 2016, 1:47 pm 

Joined: April 28th, 2008, 4:32 pm
Posts: 126
Location: Edmonton
I am an old guy who has learned most of my paddling skills by mistake. This is not a recommended procedure now with all the instruction available. There were few teachers of whitewater skills when I was beginning. Early on I discovered Bill Mason's videos which I understand are now available on the National Film Board website. For many years I set up a movie night for my paddling group before the season and we watched the 4 video set before setting out on the river. We always started on the St. Mary river in southern Alberta. This little river has all the characteristics of the larger or steeper rivers in a more manageable size. From there we graduated to the Castle and to the upper Oldman river, often in flood, and never had a serious incident.
I am by nature a bow paddler because I like to be the first one there. It was my job to see the rocks and to point out the preferred line. This is referred to as "Reading the river" I like to have my upper body outside of the gunnel and I like to lean both body and canoe. The tumblehome is for turning! If you try to turn the canoe flat, it is much harder to accomplish than it is with the canoe leaned over into the tumble. This is HARD to learn if your stern paddler is not with you in the amount the canoe is leaned over. Go to the National Film Board website, download both the Tandem Basic and the Tandem Whitewater Bill Mason videos. Watch and learn. One final note, the stronger paddler in terms of skill level should be in the bow. He can often kneel behind the seat rather than in front to get the canoe to an even keel. The bow strokes that are critical are : high and low brace, cross bow draw, pry and draw. The J stroke is not important from the bow as all you are needing is to move the bow to get the boat into the proper line or to avoid immediate danger such as rocks, or holes or to eddy in or out. The draw stroke is often used to eddy in and out and is often more like a high brace or a paddle plant where you lean out, plant the paddle in the upstream current and hold on while the downstream current turns the boat around so you are facing upstream. Good upper body strength and a strong back is necessary for a good bow paddler.
Once you are working in concert with your partner verbal communication should not be necessary as you will feel what your partner is doing and supply the proper response automatically. This is something learned over time on smaller rivers and works whether the first move is initiated from the bow or from the stern.
When this dance finally comes together, tandem paddling in whitewater becomes magical. Verbal communication is often panicked and rather useless when it is. Far better to learn to feel the moves from your partner and to feed into what is required without a word spoken.


It isn't considered windy here until there are whitecaps on the toilets.

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