Hilde Schweitzer 18/11/2018 | Posted in Internationalisation, United States, Whitewater
I used to be a hole snob. I would spend endless hours in lines waiting for my perfect ride so I know a lot about hole line etiquette. Don’t push your way to the front, don’t constantly bump into the boat in front of you, don’t hog the hole even if you are capable of spending minutes on your ride, don’t go to the other side because the line is shorter and you get more rides (and yes, everyone knows you are getting more rides), front surfing for endless minutes unless you are a beginner is frowned upon, etc.
Lately, due to rehabbing body parts, a summer filled with ear infections, the operation and time off from surgery, and yes, age, I have spent a good deal of time in the eddy hanging out with the eddy people observing the hole line and enjoying the social aspect of being an observer .
You can learn a lot about paddling and life in general in the eddy. Not being comfortable at first just hanging out, initially I would stare intently at the people getting rides, trying to figure out if there was anything they were doing that might help me when I was able to get back in the hole lineup. Most of the time I would ignore my fellow eddy paddlers.
The first thing that stood out was that people without “perfect roll form” were getting up, not just a few lucky ones, but pretty much every time they went over. I started analyzing what it took to get up from all of the weird positions that they were rolling up from. The people with paddles on the downstream side were the lucky ones—they had the water pressure helping them roll and came up almost 100% with some pretty questionable form. A kind of lightbulb moment for me was that instead of thinking that each time I rolled over the odds were always the same, if my paddle was on the downstream side I figured I had at least a 50% chance of rolling up even if I didn’t use picture perfect form. That coupled with the idea that my odds of tipping over either way should be 50-50, the odds of rolling up wherever you flipped took on a new meaning.
Directionality was also a biggie. Doing a barrel roll in one fluid motion was an almost guarantee to get up quickly. If your paddle was on the downstream side, all the better for an instant roll. There were people with heads all over the place—down, back, up, yet somehow they made it up.
So that got me thinking whether the focus on the roll as the usual prerequisite for river running is over-rated when we teach. Some of the newer methods of teaching kayaking involve a lot of experiential type learning which allows the student to learn by positive reinforcement via trial and error. There is an emphasis placed on enjoying the river experience first with no pressure to learn a relatively difficult and advanced skill first. The idea is to experience having fun on the river before you experience frustration. It think this is a healthy approach to learning.
Eventually I got bored watching the rides and started really interacting with the people around me. Some grouped up in twos or threes. Some sat on the shore, some were friendly, some scared, some bored, but all looked like they really wanted to be a part of the hole lineup. My conversations started centering around how to help them want to get into the hole lineup and encouraging them to give it a go. The smiles whether they succeeded or failed in the hole were priceless.
My take-away from all of this is that kayaking is a very social sport. We all need our support group, be it a single individual or large group, to make our day better. With a little encouragement some of my eddy friends started exploring the hole and discovered a new way to play on the river and that made my day on the river all the more special.
To all you hole centric people; spend some time mingling with the eddy people. It will give you a new perspective and remind you that we are all in this wonderful sport together.