Congratulations Graduates from the 2016 Beginner Whitewater Course!
Most of the students, instructors, & helpers
What a fantastic group of enthusiastic beginner whitewater students we had this year. We had a class of 17 students ranging in age from 16 to ? (a wide variety of ages none-the-less) which always makes the course fun, especially when we're trying to explain "High-five" paddling while referencing the movie "Borat" and his unforgettable sayings "Very nice", "High-five" ..ha!
The course started off on Saturday, March 5th, at the Tukwila Community Center, where we met all the students in person, sorted out gear they planned on using for the course, including learning how to get dressed.. "Where the heck does this thing attached to the top of my sprayskirt go? Over or under this other loose piece of material on my Drysuit?" From there, we headed up the hill to the Tukwila Pool, where we introduced them to their boats in a warm friendly environment. We taught them about getting in/out of their boats, hip snaps/head dinks, how to swim in rapids (downriver position), bow rescues, etc.
On Sunday we headed to the raging Sammamish River, all kidding aside, this little flat water gem is the perfect place to learn basic paddle strokes with only a few distractions, which included ducks, bridge abutments, motor boats, and the occasional flip
The following weekend was roll day - whoop whoop! The roll video we provided beforehand combined with the expert demo session, we had many students very close to rolling by the end of the evening. The next day was their first "real" river, meaning we had current from more than the passing ducks! With good water conditions, not too much nor too little, we were able to tackle a portion of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River, Club Stretch Section at 1520 CFS (cubic feet per second) on the gauge. The students, were such troopers, as we were welcomed by some crazy gusts of winds coming off the Cascades. Try learning to paddle on current for your first time when the wind gusts and destroys your boat angle, while learning to ferry or peel-out! WOW, it was challenging for the instructors as well, but by 1pm the wind died down, the sun came out and we enjoyed lunch on shore with our new boating buddies! Since it was their first introduction to current, we only did the last half of the stretch, two groups started at the red bridge (the normal lunch spot) and the other two groups took advantage of the new Tanner Landing Park. From the new park, we walked three minutes upriver to a great eddy to practice in, before heading downstream. All four groups ended at the Blue Hole, so much fun bouncing down that rapid for your first time and ending in a big swirly fun eddy. Great place to swim for your first swim too! We celebrated at the Little Si Restaurant over burgers & beers!
Our last pool day had most of the students rolling by the end. We also challenged them to some underwater games to get them comfortable being under water. How long can you hold your breath and then roll up? Flip over and doggie paddle with your hands to the side of the pool. Off-side rolling. Back-deck rolling. Of course we had to use the diving board and the slide as well. You name it, we did it! The next day we headed out to the Green River, Headworks section at 650 CFS on the gauge. We once again split the river up and had the students walk the weir and take-out before the last two boulder gardens. We didn't want to expose them to more than they were ready for. With the Green running lower than normal, it was a great level to dial in eddy turns, ferries, s-turns, swimming, and a couple of combat rolls! Woo Hoo! We scouted the weir (class III rapid) while teaching about shore vs boat scouting, and practiced portaging and team work.
Their Graduation Paddle was on the Headworks as well, the flow doubled to 1200 CFS and we got a chance to take them down the weir and through the last two boulder gardens. They tried their paddles/boats at surfing, challenge moves, rolling in current, swimming, etc. We had 15 students paddle that day, and we didn't have even 1 swimmer at the weir…. WooHoo! The boulder gardens were a different story, but that's what kayaking is all about - having fun and the occasional swim!
We ended the day at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park with a warm fire, BBQ, beer and new paddling friends! Oh what a fun month! Here's to lots of club trips on the calendar and lots of new boaters amongst us. Welcome class of 2016, you've graduated! Thank you for making the course so much fun, you guys were a hoot and fun to watch progress through the month! SYOTR (see you on the river)!
We couldn't do this class without the tireless effort of all the volunteers who helped this year!
Josh Wiseman, Noah Compton, Vern Brown, Science Kilner, Irene Nash, Zak Wahl, Susan Batchelor, Diana Johnson
Nicole LeBlanc, Matt LeBlanc, Chad Coker, Rick Schoen, John Kelly, Anne Brindle, Jon Almquist, Dave Bowman, Clea Hixon, Seth Fitzsimmons, Kevin Hoffman, Aamie Benson, Shanna Gachen