Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Come Explore The Dominican Republic This Winter

Daylight savings time is over and the drought continues in the Southeast. These two things along with the rough and tumble economy could bring one down, but don't give up too quickly we have the perfect cure. You need to take a paddling trip, and it just so happens we have the perfect place, the Dominican Republic.

We are looking forward to our second season in the Dominican Republic after two Pilot trips last year. We ran our first ever commercial trip in January 2008, followed up by an advanced Teen group in June. In September we returned once more to teach a swift water rescue, and first-aid course to our Dominican counterpart Rancho Baiguate. Needless to say we spent quite a bit of time there this past year and are looking forward to our 2009 season with some new runs to add to our itinerary.

So why should you come to the Dominican Republic with us this winter? Because you can't afford not to that's why. Plane tickets to the DR are under five hundred dollars from the southeastern US and depending on how far south you are they could be really cheap. The Ranch where we stay is only 45 minutes from the Santiago International Airport (STI) and is on the banks of the Jimenoa river. Just think you can leave home in the morning take a short flight, go paddling in the Dominican Republic and take out at the door of your room all in one day.

Not only are we offering kayaking trips but we can accommodate non paddling friends and family as well, with a rafting or multi-sport adventure. Rancho Baiguate offers everything from horseback riding to multi-day trekking trips and of course the best rafting trips in the Caribbean.

We are the only outfitter running trips in the DR. Our partner Rancho Baiguate has been rafting in the DR for over ten years. We are still discovering new runs all the time. Paddling is still very new in the DR so there are many logistical challenges; that's where we come in, all you have to do is buy your ticket pack some clothes and let us take care of the rest.

The trip dates and full pricing details are on the NOC website just click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why we love the southeast

The southeast is great. We have bologna biscuits. We have coca-cola. We have lots of creeks. Here's some photos of what the instructors have been up to the past two weeks.

This is the Chattooga at .4 feet.
Surprisingly, everything is still runnable. To the left, Herm finds low-water Seven Foot to be more like Six Foot. To the right, Israel shimmies under the log at center crack. It's definitely a skinny man's move.There's nothing better than paddling the lake out in the dark with friends.

Here's a little creek that flows into Jocasse. Heck of a paddle in. Heck of a hike up. But the slides are heck of a lot of fun - especially this one. Thank you Wayne Gentry.

And then it rained -some sort of hurricane or something. Some of us headed over to Joyce Kilmer to stare at the really big trees. We did some kayaking too. There was a big slide. We like big slides. Below, Sean Corbett refuses to stop for red lights in the Hallway.
Speaking of big slides....we found some more on the East Fork of the Tuck the next day.
On the left, Michael Curtis disengages the flux capacitor as he reaches 88 miles per hour. To the right, Jason Aytes stares into the mouth of the beast, while Rob Barham gets creative with a tight line. Below, Joe Ravenna punishes a rapid into submission. Later,
the creek punished the boaters into submission as they portaged around a wood-choked monster sieve. (Top picture) Thanks for checking in. See ya where the water is.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Big Jump

Part of the fun of kayaking is the challenge. Nothing feels better than running a hard rapid successfully. It doesn't really matter if "hard" is class three or class five for you - the joy (and relief) of styling a hard rapid is universally shared by all boaters.
It is our contention that on the five scale rapid rating system, the jump between class 2 and 3 is the largest. Class one and two rapids are very similar and often difficult to differentiate. Think about paddling the Nantahala - most of the time you're not thinking about whether that rapid you paddled was class 1 or class 2 - they're pretty similar. When you get to class 3 Nantahala Falls though it's pretty easy to tell that the rapid is much bigger/harder than everything else you've paddled. For beginners, the jump from class 1/2 to class 3 is often a very big one. This is primarily because they're now facing a larger rapid with more serious consequences. Not to say that there aren't consequences to messing up a class 1/2 rapid, but the consequences are much greater to messing up a class 3 rapid. Deciding to run a class three rapid for the beginner therefore is often a difficult decision because they must factor the consequences into their decision making process- something they haven't really had to do on class 1/2.

Once a boater gains experience though factoring the consequences aspect into the decision-making process it becomes easier to make future decisions, for instance stepping up from class 3 to class 4 rapids. We have plenty of boaters in our beginning clinics agonize over the decision to run or walk Nantahala Falls. We then see those same boaters in our intermediate clinics spend only a fraction of the time agonizing over the decision to run a class 4 rapid. The same boater that spent 20 minutes deciding to run their first class 3 rapid now often spends less than five deciding to run their first class 3+/4.

This is not to say that the decision to step up from class 3 to 4 should be a cursory one. We are merely saying that it's often easier for paddlers to decide to run their first class 4 rapid than it is to run their first class 3 rapid. This can be attributed primarily to the fact that a boater has very little experience when he/she makes a decision to run that first class 3 rapid, and much more experience when they decide to run their first class 4 rapid.

The same applies to the jump between class 4 and class 5.0. Class 5 is certainly harder than class four and entails greater consequences, but the jump comparatively isn't as great as the leap from class 2 to class 3. There's a much bigger gap between running Surfer's and Nantahala Falls than there is between running Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein. (The jump between class 4 and 5.2, well, that might be another story.)

The long and short of it is, if you're a beginner, it's ok to take your time deciding to run a class three rapid - it is indeed a big step up. For the advanced boater paddling with beginners, be aware of this. Don't downplay a class 3 rapid because it's "only class three". For the beginner, deciding to run a class three rapid is a big step because for the first time they're factoring in consequences to making a mistake. They should be given all the time they need to make this decision.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No Water, Low Water, Big Water

The adventure started at the Nanthala Cascades. After a big rain we figured they'd be running. Of course they weren't, which didn't stop us from banging our way down them anyways. We did a few laps and bruised and battered we made our way back to NOC around nine o'clock. One of the instructors suggested we drive to West Virginia. Being that we all had two days off it sounded like a great idea. We met at Arby's at 11 pm, loaded the boats, and started the trip north.

We drove through the night and made it to the West Virginia Visitor's Center around 5am the next morning. We slept in the parking lot for two hours until the rangers showed up and started leaf-blowing right by our heads. Barely awake we pressed on to the put-in for Mann's Creek. It was on the low side of doable, but still very fun.

With bruised tail-bones we then headed over to the Gauley put-in for the 26 mile marathon over-nighter. We put-on at three and by four we were standing at Iron Ring. It felt strange paddling a river with water in it but we adjusted nicely. The Meadow was pumping in a significant amount of water and we estimated the flow between 6 and 7 thousand cfs. It took us an hour to get to that rapid, but we then spent an hour working up the courage to run it.It went pretty well, considering we were paddling boats loaded down with camping equipment and hotdogs. Lost Paddle was also exciting, but not as exiting as Sweet's Falls which had a hole as big as train in it. We snuck that one. We continued to paddle down through the Middle Gauley and a few miles into the Lower. We spent a lot of time surfing holes. Sometimes the holes spent a lot of time surfing us. After a tasty meal of s'mores, hotdogs, and vegetable stirfry we fell asleep in the dirt somewhere below Five-Boat Hole. The next morning we finished the paddle out on the Lower and arrived at the takeout at 11am for the long drive back to Bryson City.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Boater First Aid Kit

Before you even begin building a boater first aid kit ask yourself what the most likely types of injuries you’ll encounter are. Your answer to this question will determine what you pack in your first aid kit. Remember, you only have limited space – there’s not enough room for everything. Also, pack with others in mind. You may not be diabetic, but chances are somebody else on the river is, so cake icing would be a valuable addition to your kit.

The most common injuries we see are: sprained ankles, pulled muscles, head lacerations (remember to tuck), dislocated shoulders, and dehydration. With that in mind, here’s a very small, but effective, kit equipped to handle the aforementioned emergencies.

1.Sam splint: Great for stabilizing sprained ankles, or broken bones
2.Crevats: These triangular pieces of cloth can be used for slinging a dislocated shoulder, or wrapping a wound
3.Roller Gauze: Dip it in a little iodine water to create a wet dressing, or use it to wrap a wound
4.Gauze packets: to stop the bleeding
5.Band-aids and butterflies
7.Matches (to warm people up)
8.CPR mask
10. Ace wrap
11. Ibuprofen/Aspirin, Benadryl (for those allergic to bee stings, etc), Cake Icing (for diabetics), Oral potassium/salt (for dehydrated people that can’t keep water down), iodine (for purifying water or cleaning wounds – when cleaning wounds dilute the iodine)

Having a first aid kit is only the first step. Knowing how to use it or administer aid is the second step. We offer advanced wilderness first aid courses as well as wilderness first responder courses here at NOC. Even if you don’t take a course with us, we strongly encourage all boaters to take a first aid course somewhere - preferablly a wilderness course.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

False Lips and Delayed Boofs

Scouting waterfalls is a little different than scouting a traditional rapid. Determing a waterfall’s difficulty depends on four factors – the approach, the lip, the height, and the landing. Baby Falls on the Tellico is a good example of an easy waterfall to run. It’s got a fairly easy approach, a 90 degree lip, it’s not too high, and it lands in a pool. Gorilla on the Green is a more difficult waterfall. The approach is through a narrow slot, you paddle over a wave to get to the lip, it’s fairly high, and has a narrow, shallow landing with a hole downstream.

In this video we focus on the second factor, waterfall lips. There are two types of waterfall lips, the traditional lip and the false lip. With the traditional lip water will flow towards the lip and then fall straight down at a ninety degree angle. A traditional lip has one horizon line. A false lip on the other hand has two horizon lines. Water flows towards the first horizon line, slopes off for a bit, and then falls over the actual lip. The key to running a water fall with a false lip is to use a delayed boof stroke (assuming it’s not a really big drop). Don’t throw the boof stroke until after you’ve gone over the first horizon line (the false lip) and reached the true lip.

Whitewater Creeking Instruction: False Lips from Christopher Port on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shoulder Safety

Imagine a basketball balanced on a golf tee. The basketball is the end of your humerus bone. The indented part of the tee the basketball is balancing on is your shoulder joint. It’s not very deep, and it’s not very big, considering the large ball that’s resting on it. And therein lies the problem. The shoulder socket is very small, while the humerus bone resting on that socket isn’t. The shoulder socket is designed for range of motion, and not designed to be a weight bearing joint (like how paddlers use it for bracing, turning, or rolling). In contrast, the hip socket is a weight bearing joint – the bone is set deep in the socket for stability and to prevent a large range of motion. (This explains why dislocating a hip is horribly painful)

The ratio of a basketball to a golf tee is actually pretty accurate when describing the shoulder joint. Now imagine how easy it is to knock that basketball off the tee and you can see why shoulder dislocations are fairly common. If not for the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround the shoulder, humans would perpetually walk around in slings. As it stands though, it’s only kayakers that perpetually walk around in slings. Usually, the paddle is the culprit when a kayaker dislocates his shoulder. Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum to place it on and I’ll move the world”. Your paddle is that lever, and although it’s only 197 centimeters long, it’s plenty long enough to apply the minimum pressure required to knock that basketball off the tee. Keeping your shoulder in a strong position while paddling is therefore of utmost importance. A strong position is one in which the elbows stay below the hands and the hands stay in front of the torso. The easiest way to achieve this strong position is by rotating your torso with all your strokes – especially strokes done at the back of the boat.

Below are two pictures of a sweep stroke. In the first, the paddler has rotated his upper body with the stroke. His elbows are bent and below his hands, while his hands are in front of his torso. This is a strong position. In the second picture a paddler has not rotated his torso when doing the sweep stroke. You can see that the elbow is above the hand, and the hand is not in front of the torso. This is a weak position.

Strong and weak shoulder positions can also be applied to rolling. In the first picture below the paddler is executing a sweep roll. Notice how he has twisted his torso as he rolls to ensure that his hands stay in front of his body as his rights himself. (One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by following the lead paddle blade with your eyes). His left hand and elbow stay tucked close to the body to maintain a strong position. In the second picture the paddler is not rotating with the sweep. This puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder and is a weak position. The shoulder has become a weight-bearing joint – something it was never intended to be.

This concept also works with bracing. It is often said that a low brace is safer than a high brace. In actuality, a poor low brace and a poor high brace can dislocate your shoulder equally well. Both braces should be executed with the bracing blade planted in the water in front of the paddler. Bracing perpendicular to the paddler, or behind the paddler (even worse) places the shoulder at risk. The farther back you brace the more you load the blade with weight, and the more you’re depending on the shoulder alone, and not the other muscle groups, like abs, obliques, and pecs to stay upright. A high brace is perfectly acceptable so long as the hands aren’t rising above the head.

A low brace is acceptable as long as the elbows aren’t rising above the hands or head. Below are four pictures. The first and third pictures demonstrate a shoulder-safe high and low brace, respectively. The second and fourth pictures demonstrate an unsafe high and low brace, respectively.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Turn less, not more

In our advanced level instruction we spend a lot of time “re-teaching” people to paddle. Most of these guests are great paddlers who learned to kayak in Dancers, RPMs, etc and have now transitioned to the planning hull boats or shorter playboats. This transition is not always smooth for the simple reason that these smaller boats do not paddle the same way as the longer ones.

The longer boats are more difficult to turn and thus a paddler may need a combination of strokes to turn the boat. For example, to catch an eddy in a longer boat the paddler might utilize a forward sweep into a stern draw into a bow draw. Using that stroke combination in the smaller boats is unnecessary – it will in all likelihood spin you in a 720 degree circle down the eddy line. If this doesn’t make sense think of it this way – in the longer boats you focus your energy on turning the boat aggressively whereas in the smaller boats you focus your energy on preventing the boat from turning too aggressively.

In the 1990’s, we taught peel-outs with the “speed-angle-lean” concept. You have probably heard this at some point in your paddling career. Accelerate towards the top of the eddy, set a thirty degree angle, and then lean downstream as your boat peels out. This worked well because the longer boats carried the speed you built up in the eddy across the eddy line and into the current. This does not work as well in the shorter planning hull boats because they’re not very fast. If you try and use “speed, angle, lean” in a short boat you’ll find that often you don’t have the speed to bust through the eddy line into the current and you simply spin on the eddy line which is not very stable.

Instead of focusing on speed, focus on preventing the boat from turning too soon. As you hit the eddy line, that planning hull boat wants to spin. Don’t let it. Use a forward stroke on the downstream side to accelerate the boat onto the eddy line, and then link it to a slow stern draw on the same side, to prevent the boat from turning downstream. (Or if the current is slow, just a stern draw) You’re not so-much peeling out of the eddy as ferrying across the eddy line with a two-stroke combo. You are now in control of the boat – you can continue the ferry, do a peel out, or return to the eddy you came from. With “speed, angle, lean” you’re not really in control of the boat – the water is. It dictates when and how quickly you turn.

The same applies for catching an eddy. Of course you will need a little speed to cross the eddy line, but you will also need a stroke or two (now on the upstream side) to keep the boat from spinning too quickly and preventing you from driving deep into the eddy. As you cross the eddy line plant a forward stroke in the eddy water to pull you across the eddy line, and then use a stern draw on the same side to keep the bow of the boat from turning upstream too quickly.





For precision boat control in the newer boats you need to use stroke combinations to limit the boat’s turning ability, not stroke combinations to turn it more.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Go Green!

This year, for some odd reason, the instructors have spent an incredible amount of time paddling upstream. Three to five times a week we hop in a river-runner, put in at the Outfitter’s store and attain up to Nantahala Falls. It’s a heck of a workout – at least until the Green Boat arrived two days ago. Now it’s not so hard, and has become significantly more fun.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – it’s fast, real fast. It accelerates quickly and as you accelerate the bow of the boat rises slightly to maintain speed. The other nice thing about the Green Boat is it doesn’t slough its speed off like a typical river-runner. It starts fast and it stays fast. We also noticed that a well-timed stroke will lift the bow onto waves or holes before you get to them which further prevents the boat from losing speed.

The Green Boat derives part of its speed from its narrow width, so it feels more tippy than your typical creekboat. The advanced paddler (like the one racing the Green) won’t have any problems with the secondary stability, but there may be a bit of a learning curve for us mere mortals.

Additionally, this boat isn’t going to turn like other river-runners/creekers, but it wasn’t designed to turn. This boat was designed to lock in the line the paddler sets, and then drive through that line. This boat won’t be pushed around very easily.

Lastly, this boat is really fun to boof. I’d be giggling before I even got to the boof rock in anticipation of the air I was about to get. Even if you don’t ever plan on racing, do yourself a favor and demo this boat if you get a chance. It’s really fun – which is the reason we kayak in the first place.