Sunday, March 18, 2007

Whitewater Canoeing

Last year, I had an opportunity to take a Whitewater trip with Kevin Slater down the East Branch of the Penobscot. I really enjoyed it and started to seriously think about becoming a Maine Guide. This spring, I'm not going to be able to take Kevin's class so I've signed up for a Class II clinic put on by the AMC group that calls themselves NH AMC Paddlers. I had to fill out an application form and go through an interview process on the phone. These folks are serious about whitewater canoeing and brave the cold Maine and New Hampshire waters year round to do it.

As part of the class, we had a 3 hour get together last night at the Boys and Girls club of New Hampshire so that we could try out gear in their pool. They had a discussion about cold water/weather gear and then the kayak folks had to demonstrate a wet exit. The canoe folks looked at and compared different brands and types of gear. They really seemed to recommend NRS and just about everything they make. One woman in the class recommended dry suits and said that Kayak Academy rents dry suits for $30 per day. Not a bad deal at all.

I tried on my wet suit before the class and discovered that sometime in the last few years, I have matured into an XXL from an XL. I can shoehorn myself into my suit but there is no room for polypro or coolmax or any other layers that the NHAMCPaddlers recommend.

Here is a listing of their recommended gear for training day:
Coolmax or other polyester undergarments
Polypro or fleece long johns
NRS Farmer John or Jane wetsuit
NRS splash jacket
Sealskin glove liner
NRS neoprene gloves
Sealskin or Wool socks
NRS neoprene booties

We did talk a bit about dry suits but the concern was cost of the suit vs insulation ability and durability- one rip and its over.

They recommend a fun little exercise at home for a gear check. Freeze some jugs full of ice. Fill your tub with cold icewater. Take a tub. If you are comfortable with your gear on- you are probably all set. If you are cold- buy more gear!

We took a look at the canoes that they use and I realized that these folks are in a different canoe world from me. These canoes were fully rockered (rounded from bow to stern). Every canoe I have ever paddled has been flat bottomed and designed for touring. Their canoes looked like a cross between a canoe and a kayak. They even have foam saddles, knee pads, and straps to help hold you in the canoe. I'm sure I will get lots of good ideas for touring, and hopefully don't get too addicted to solo paddling in the white water. It really looks like fun.

My first impression of these folks is that they are genuinely interested in getting people into white water paddling in either a Kayak or Canoe. They were very enthusiastic and serious in their discussions. Most of these folks have been doing this for years and are either retired or in some business that allows them the flexibility they need to hit the rivers when the rivers call them. I know I am very exited about the White Water Class II class coming up.....

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