Lessons learned

I learned...

Sunday June 1, 5:10pm

So we're headed back to Ottawa via Renfrew to drop stuff off at the shed and search for car keys.

At Paul Gallagher's suggestion we spent today at a set of rapids about 10k from Palmers, also on the Madawaska, along a place called Homestead Road. No, I couldn't find it on a map for you. In addition to being more or less vacant, the water was a lot more manageable, with distinct features like eddies and other stuff to practice on. It made a world of difference. Oh - and it was sunny. That helped too.

We learned back paddling, back ferries and "attainments" (aka: going up stream). Okay - we tried a couple of back ferries - and weaved in and out of eddies for a good couple of hours. And I think now I know what a proper eddy turn is supposed to look like. You come bombing in at a million miles an hour and then the reverse current takes your boat like a massive catcher's mitt. The deceleration is quite wild. And you're probably not aiming high enough and you need to take one more stroke.

We played "round the rock" where we actually ferried upstream and above an obstacle (this part of the river actually had some), brought the boat about and swung in behind it. This was probably the most challenging maneuver we did because it involved making a couple of turns in a hurry and a mistake would have brought real consequences (although it would have taken a special talent to make those consequences into serious ones).

We ran the whole set a few times before and after lunch and then packed up and headed home.

We stopped at Quadeville for a snack and to do a wrap up on the weekend. I think we were all pretty thrilled about how it went. As Phil said "yesterday was just a bunch of people with sticks in the water." Today we all came together, as paddlers and as a group.

The instructors gave us all a talking to. I mean they told us how we did (I passed) and gave us some suggestions about improvement and what not.

I should point out what a phenomenon the club's beginner whitewater training program is. The whole set costs you likely less than $250 (depending on which training and qualifying trips you take), gives you about 50 hours of instruction, including classroom and pool sessions, and gets you to the state where you're fit to paddle at least basic whitewater. Compare that with about $800 for a commercial outfit like the Madawaska Kanu Centre.

I should also point out that while the club's training programs - like everything - are run by volunteers, they're as far from amateur as you can get. This session, like all the others, was well organized, and taught by people who are both passionate about the sport and extremely capable instructors and paddlers.