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2012 Creeking Clinic

Saturday May 5, 2012
Kayak: Alex, Wade, Bill, John, Paul, Ryan, Justin, AJ
C1: Alden, Tony, Sam, Josh
Organizer: AJ Seibel, Ryan McCall, Alden Bird
Difficulty: advanced WW
Level: medium
Gauge (cfs): 245
Author: AJ Seibel

This marked the first time the VPC has hosted a clinic specializing in creek boating. The clinic turned out to be a great success, minus one cracked boat. Students learned the basics of steep creeking, advanced stroke concepts, and capped the day with a special treat, courtesy of the O-Face hole!

Rain brought the river up to a fluid 240 or so CFS for the clinic, and Mother Nature graced us with sunshine that got better and better as the day went on. The class began with stroke technique for draw strokes and a few slalom-inspired draw stroke drills courtesy of Alden Bird. Students then ran the first drop, Brett's Mom, with no paddle stroke to get a feel for entry speed and angle on a drop and how to interact with the various currents. Then, we all hiked back up to try it again! The second attempt taught the basics of the "Boof" stroke, and completing the drop with a strong forward stroke at the bottom. Then, we ran it again!! The 3rd time down the drop worked across the current, and had students catching the RL eddy as though it was a "last chance" eddy on a tight creek. Everyone handled these three exercises very well!

Next up was our first run of "The Sweetness". This drop introduced hydraulics, cross currents, and boof ledges. A few folks didn't navigate the cross current very well, and John decided that the drop was so easy to run forwards that he did a rock spin and attempted a back boof. A snappy roll finished off his freestyle approach to class IV!

One of the main topics for the day was about slowing down the river, catching eddies, and having strong entrances to the drops. In "Labyrinth", the class practiced eddy catches and navigated the exit slide to thread between a couple of sticky holes. Shortly after this drop comes "Elevator Shaft" and all students got to practice their boof technique again on a clean 3' drop towards river left. Another run of the same rapid bounced students down a fun slide on RR.

Then came the fun... El Salto Falls. This is a chunky 12' cascade on river right, and we had all students approach it as a slide. Entry angle, loose hips and a neutral body position were emphasized. A few folks were spun sideways while dropping down the cascade, but all rolled up at the bottom. Most folks had better lines than expected, and it was the biggest drop to date for many of the participants. Alden showed us how awesome the river left line can be. Twice.

With everyone upright and smiling, we headed downstream through the boogie and eddied out at the top of "Tantra", the final rapid in this beautiful stretch of river. Tantra has two lines, one RR and one RL. The RR is more straightforward, simply requiring a point and shoot (and some balance) to get down the two-pitched slot. The RL line is more involved, requiring a boof over a seam, and a hard charge to river center or a big hit in the O-Face hole at the bottom. The RR line was, once again, not sporting enough for John and he decided to do yet another rock spin and run that drop backwards as well! Paul blurted some profanities while pitoning on the RR line, and folks who chose to run the RL line did so very smoothly, or with some fun-for-spectators carnage.

This concluded the morning session, and we all headed back to the put-in for a quick lunch.

After lunch we got back on the river to continue exercising the participant's newfound skills - changing the lines on the first drop, and working on turning boofs in the second drop. A fun little boof was introduced in labyrinth, with a RR exit over the "race line" to avoid the hole at the bottom. Everyone styled El Salto again - some ironing out the kinks from their morning attempts of the run. Downstream we went through the boogie towards Tantra, and then the fun began!

For the last run of tantra for the day, everyone chose to run the more difficult RL line. The seam/hole at the top served up a nice helping of roll practice, and the hole at the bottom (the O-Face hole) provided multiple (close to 70% of the class!!) swiftwater rescue training moments. The hole (and eddy that so kindly feeds you back into the hole) can be very sticky - at any level. It was a fine finish to an otherwise perfect day - reminding everyone that creeks can be intense, and the river is not always on your side.

With gear recovered and smiles still on everyone's faces, we concluded the day with a BBQ and some fine Vermont ales.

Personally, I can't wait to be part of the next creeking clinic. Its awesome seeing class III/IV boaters step it up and learning how to work with the river to make class IV fun and manageable. Thanks to all of the participants and instructors, and to all of the photo/video hounds that documented our every move!

Until next time... boof!

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