Intro to Whitewater – Coaching Session

10/04/2017 0 By Keith Turner

Coach – Keith.  Paddlers – Laura & Richard.

With the warmer weather and a rare free Sunday I posted up for an ‘Intro to Whitewater’ session, there was some initial interest but on the day only Laura and Richard were available, so of we went to Symonds Yat – as you all know a very suitable and friendly introductory river…..

….apparently – Today looked somewhat different, the rock groynes were mostly exposed (just the lower couple covered) but the water was surprisingly pushy and fast flowing if not really ‘BIG’.

We started with a run straight through then working on ferry glides and S-turns from the bottom couple of eddies with a view to working further up.  Both were doing well so we moved up an eddy where the water got a little faster, Laura had a bit of a moment and a little wobble, maybe pushed a bit too far, too soon (mental note made for my coaching methods…)  We dropped back down and worked on breaking in/out of the lower 2 eddies and got back in our comfort zone to pick up some confidence.  This worked a treat and after a while we were ready to move back up again, this time it was rich’s turn….. a wobble, a brace, then over…. oh well it was a nice day for a swim!  Boat and paddler re-united we had to ferry right across to the get-out and hike back to the top of the rapids whilst Laura sat in an Eddy making friends with the other paddlers on the river.

Another run through and re-joined with Laura who then said she would like to try the next eddy up again, we did and aced it… so went again and managed to ferry above the groyne, so we moved further up and S-Turned back in to the opposite eddy – all with control and style, a big improvement in confidence and control from the start of the day – time to call success and head back up river for Beer and Crisps at the Saracens Head in the sunshine – but not before we finished off with a couple of seal launches – perfectly executed they were too.  Rich then decided to try a roll before we got off and absolutely nailed it, nothing I could say to improve on it – spot on Rich.  Laura also decided to give it a whirl and in what was quite possibly the slowest capsize I have ever witnessed, she managed to have both her head and shoulders in the water whilst still having the boat upright and balanced!!!! A good effort saw her very nearly get up, but a little input was required to get her right way up again, realising how cold the water actually was she decided that was enough for one day.  So off we headed to the afore-mentioned watering facility for a very pleasant and sunny recap of the day.

All agreed that it was a very good day to be on the river and plenty had been learned through the session and confidence had certainly improved.  And that was the end of the day…… honestly.

OK….. I may have neglected to mention my own little, erm? incident…..yes, at Symonds Yat! 
I went off for a little play further up the rapids and spotted a likely looking surf wave, it just required a quick ferry without getting too far down into the next eddy…. paddling like mad saw me drifting away from the eddy I wanted and a last ditched attempt just saw me get in……nearly – I washed up against the rock groyne, on the wrong edge and slowly overturned….. sitting there upside down, pinned to the rocks and unable to move my paddle the realisation sank in, this was it, there was nothing I could do, I had to accept my fate and so, with the last remnants of my dignity fading away into the murky depths, I pulled my deck…. and swam at Symonds Yat…!!!!

2 lessons for me today – 1. Don’t get too complacent, it’s easy top get the simple things wrong and end up in a sticky situation… and 2. It’s hard to remember what it was like learning and how long it took to get confident, stop, slow down and allow learners to set their own pace.


It really was a good day though despite the mishap – Happy Paddling – Looking forward to another great year with Wyre Forest Canoe Club!

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