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2015 Zero to Hero Program - with Jolene - Intro to River Kayaking

Words by:  Jolene & Simon

Gday Everyone

Just wanted to check in with blog post number two from our intrepid Zero to Hero program participant Jolene.  She will be keeping us all in the loop with the program as it plays out throughout the season.  This post if from her first Whitewater course of the season the Intro to River Kayaking.  ENJOY!

Jolene'sWords

My kayaking plan this summer is to go from Zero to Hero, a program designed by Aquabatics. Getting super eager to get on the water; I decided to join the first round of Introduction to River Kayaking (May 8-10) figuring there would be no better way to spend an early spring weekend in Alberta than on the water. Friday night was spent in the pool with two qualified instructors; Jiri and Simon. The night involved learning some fundamental skills (i.e. wet exit, T-rescue, paddling a straight line, sweep stroke and power strokes).

With the Friday night pool session under my belt, I woke up Saturday morning beaming with excitement for the day’s events. The morning air was quite chilly; knowing the water would be much colder, it made me second guess my decision to join the first session in May….What was I thinking!!!! When I arrived at the shop, my fellow ducklings were outfitted with a helmet, wet suit, a splash top, a PFD, a kayak skirt, a paddle, booties and a kayak; my partner-in-crime for the weekend was a small Pyranha Burn kayak.  I found the Burn handled well and was relatively stable for a beginner. Being of short statue (5’1”); I did not find it bad to carry, but found the seat uncomfortable and my back not supported during my time in the boat on Saturday.

To ensure a better river run on Sunday, Simon set the kayak up for me before heading to the Ghost Dam. His alterations to the thigh braces allowed me to have a more comfortable day. Simon instructed the group the entire weekend assisted by Jiri (Saturday at Bowness Eddies), Alison and Sammy (Sunday at Ghost Dam).

My favourite part of the course was the Seal launch at Ghost Dam!!! It looks scary but you won’t regret it! I signed up for this course to push my limits, the launch looked huge when looking down the bank; but it helped that I didn't have to launch myself (thanks Jiri!).

All the skills covered are valuable, but the most valuable learning points I took from the weekend were eddy turns which involve knowing your speed, angle and tilt. These three aspects help to build many other useable skills through this program. Other skills taught during the course included how to read the river by identifying features and hazards, hand signals to use while on the water, the sweep stroke, the power stroke, how to paddle straight, eddy turns (eddy-in, eddy-out), s-turns, cross-current flows, ferrying, edging, tuck and seal launch, the low brace and the high brace, tips regarding shuttling, where to store keys, key safety tips and paddling resources.

Photo:  The optional seal launch on day 2 

Photo:  Getting ready for a throwbag session on day 2 

The introduction to river kayaking program is a great start to learn proper techniques for basic skills, vital safety skills and observations, and to learn about the various paddling resources available. The pool session to Bowness Eddies to Ghost Dam progression over the weekend introduce safety skills and basic techniques during the pool session, gaining comfort on slow water current at the Bowness Eddies than the Ghost Dam increased to a quicker water current; but still within a comfort zone for a beginner and allowed for work on skills and techniques learnt over the weekend. With the transition from slower current to a quicker current, it became apparent that power, tilt and angle are important in kayaking.  Instructors were attentive to each individual and gave tips for improving techniques. Simon’s hand signals were essential especially in quicker water as it was often difficult to hear and Alison’s ‘blue steel’ technique allowed for some fun, yet focus on body posture and looking where you are going. Thanks to all the instructors who took out the crew of ducklings and rescued the flipped ducklings (me…twice!).

I’m very excited for my next splash in the water…Introduction to Rolling.