For starters, thanks for the kind words to our first installment. From the responses it looks like a lot of paddlers are planning on taking their boards to the river this season. I liked that our first article about proper gear created a lot of chatter about leashes, coiled or straight? Its what this growing segment of stand up paddling needs. Opinions and discussions that allow us to share information and become better, safer and more educated river runners.
We always knew it would gain popularity so hearing about up your upcoming trips or recent river experiences gets me all fired up! And you too.. But before you are hammering lines on the Zambezi with Corran Addison or routing the Arkansas with Mike T., lets slow it down some Turbo.
Find the Right River Level to Sup
You have the right gear so now we need to find the right stretch of river for you. Lets include all levels of rivermen and women. From those that are brand new to not only river running but SUP in general, and others that are river lifers. All of you. Class V kayakers, big water raft masters, neverevers, tubers, creekers and even fisherman.
There is so much to discuss but lets get this rolling with a really important item. Know whats ahead of you. Whats downstream? Make sure there is no low head dam, fallen tree, massive hole or undercut rock. Does it go into a canyon with no escape or does it float thru a field where I can hop off any time? Ask yourself “If I fall in on this stretch, can I swim it?” Be honest with yourself. Keep the weather in mind. Is it cold and rainy or warm and sunny? How far from help are we? Always remember its ok to get off the river and walk around parts that are over your head. Its called portaging and there is no shame to it. That rapid will be there the next time and you will have another crack at it down the road.
We begin with the folks that just walked in to a paddle board shop. Picked up the latest Stand Up Journal and a whole brand new set up. From board to paddle, helmet, shoes and PFD they are all new and ready to slay whitewater because it looks awesome in the magazine. Here is a word I have difficulty with sometimes, “patience“.
Class I to Class None is where you start
Tastes like vinegar coming out of my mouth but its true. Take it easy. While anyone can just hop on about any section of river, you really want to begin on flat water. Class I to Class None is where you start. A lake, pond or even a pool. Remember, you just got this new board and you want to feel what its like before you get into moving water. Understand how your gear works, get familiar with your PFD and make sure your helmet fits properly. Fall in a few times, try to get back to your feet as quick as possible. You fall down A LOT running rivers so a few remounts in the flats is nothing compared to what’s in store. Get low, crank turns, brace, fall off, get back on, navigate obstacles and wear yourself out. Plus you will look hilarious to anyone watching from shore that does not know know what you are preparing for.
Sup Yogis and Shredders Class II is for You
Up next are the ocean/lake/bay/channel, sup yogis and shredders. Those that have standin’ experience. You are well balanced, can catch waves and are a strong bracer that can swim. For you my friend we will spice it up a bit. To Class II. Sorry, there’s that damn vinegar taste again. Please, its your first go at it and I can’t be there with a throw bag to pull you in when you SWIM. Because your going to swim. Promise.
Even the best ocean paddlers get into these funky cross current holes and waves with eddy lines that just straight dump you in the river. It doesn’t have to be scary to be fun. And find something deeeeeep. Deeper the better. I would rather take someone down a deep but high CFS (cubic feet per second) river than a super tight and shallow part. Its nicer to fall down in deep wave trains without much fear of hitting anything. You should also go with someone with experience. They can point out obstacles, potential hazards, the easiest lines and small pointers that make big differences. Also, don’t just go with a friend. The only thing worse than going by yourself is going with someone worse than yourself. I just made that up but its true. Pick partners wisely.
Experienced River Lovers This is for You
And now for my brethren. Fellow river lovers that appreciated that last part of the paragraph above. You have stopped making fun of us and have decided that river moped is too tempting and you have to ride it. Ha, told you so! There are a lot of others in our circle doing it. Noticed your F.B threads lately? Even your least suspecting relative has been spotted on one of these things on their trip to Florida, or New Hampshire.
Just let it go. “Hi, Im Rush Sturges. Professinal kayaker, GoPro athlete, filmmaker, adventurer, human highlight machine and I…I SUP!” Awwww, come here man. Lets hug it out. Its OK. You can still kayak. Hear that part? I love it when folks ask “you still kayak?” Never stopped. Just found another option for the class I-IV goods that have become boring in a boat. Stand up paddling will help your other forms of river running too. Unlike rafting and kayaking, standing on a board works everything.
And you all (ya’ll) have swam whitewater, slipped on rocks, run rapids and drank bootie beers. For you, use your best judgment. You already know the dangers of strainers, undercuts, keeper holes and entrapments and how to recognize them. I always recommend deep rivers regardless of experience. And those friends of yours that kayak 366 days a year and to whom you swore you would never try stand up paddling to…they make awesome safety kayakers so you can fire up bigger stuff. Nothing beats a legit class V kayaker sitting in an eddy, ready to pull your ass to shore when that “hey man, watch this” moment goes south. But also, don’t rely on them. Running that rapid was your decision. Deal with it.
Sup Fishing a Combination of Two Addictions
Now Fisherman. And women. The level of fish slaying capabilities has never been higher. Hike an inflatable up a riverside trail, inflate it and float back through spots fish have been hiding in unbothered for years. Keep your fully rigged up SUPerFishal in the back of your truck and drop it quickly into the water when you get off work for that Upper Truckee float over massive trout.
River fisherman have had only a few options until now. (A) Buy a raft or dory, trailer, insurance and take friends along to help row it. (B) Be that friend in Plan A. Other options are float tubes, hip waders, docks or shoreline. The SUP is the most ideal method. Easy to get to the river, easy to get out and load. By yourself even. For your section of river you don’t need any rapids really. And since you are picking the easiest part of that river where its flat but moving its ok to go shallower.
But don’t wear the hip waders though. Take them with you if you feel there is a spot along the way to stop and hit, but never wear them while on your board. You fall in, they fill up, you drown or at least feel like you will. And although you will begin on the easiest water to fish don’t be surprised when you find yourself paddling class III with a cooler strapped to your deck and a fishing pole in your mouth as you brace your way to a super sick fishing hole you have always wanted to get at. SUP and fishing are both exciting and addictive. Put them together and you may have to go to some type of rehab.
River selection is important. Knowing your own abilities is too. Im telling you, vinegar tastes like crap consumed from anything. Use good judgment and pay attention. Paddlers are now making large rapids seem like small potatoes. But they aren’t. Even the smallest hole, rapid, rock or drop can knock the tar out of you. Doesn’t take much. But they can also be so rewarding. Standing at the bottom of a rapid you just stomped for the first time is pretty euphoric. Just remember the rapid doesn’t have to be a class V beast. Because I often find my favorite ones are class I & II and I hooked a good size rainbow trout in the middle of it, right behind that rock where I knew he has been sitting.
Have fun, start slow, paddle hard and take pictures. I want to see them. Stand where YOU can. And please come back for the next installment here at Stand Up Journal and the SUP Radio Show as we sit a spell, have a beer and talk tips. Im even going to hit up some of the pros and see what kind of advice they have on issues from paddle strokes to SUP stances. See what they have to share and shine lights on.
Thanks for the time. Keep getting after it, -Ken
Written by Ken Hoeve