Looking forward to Summer White Water Canoeing

As we sit at home, quarantined and not able to do many of our outdoor adventures with our scouting friends, we can only look forward to the possibility of Spring Scouting adventures and our summer expeditions. I’m hopeful, like many of us, that we’ll have the opportunity to get out enjoy the outdoors beyond our neighbourhoods. My Venturer Company has an expedition to Kandersteg, Switzerland planned for this summer; but it’s likely we’ll need an alternative. I’m thinking of co-planning a 5-day white water trip, perhaps with backcountry hiking combination, building off my training last spring and more training this spring, if we’re lucky.

scouts canoeing in white water rapids

Scouting is about firsts, and last summer I had the opportunity to try out White Water Canoeing as part of an organized training expedition in Voyageur Council. This was my first time ever doing this and I was a little scared as success relied on me and my partner’s communication skills. We practiced our basic strokes on the flat water above the rapids and got more comfortable with each other’s stroke rhythm. Tim and I were doing well together, soaring through the challenges. It was clear that I was better at the front ‘power’ position and he was better at back steering.

As we went down the rapids the first time, we splashed about and had some trouble with the strong current but managed to work it out.

Communication skills were required in these rapids and were very easy to follow as we where told that the stern position should take the leadership role. Thanks to the training we received our draws and prys kept us going down the middle of the river, for the most part at least. It was tons of fun and we wanted to go again.

We portaged our canoe up to the top of the rapid alongside our other friends that wanted to go again, and all took turns carrying equipment as it was quite heavy. When we reached the top, Tim and I were asked to switch partners and go with two others. Tim and I quickly talked to our new partners about where they feel more comfortable in the boat and the plan of action for the rapids.  We were happy to help and did an awkward canoe seating swap and were ready to set off again down the rapids. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that I had to be the back seat which I wasn’t as comfortable with. The new seating position in the canoe wasn’t easy as it had many different skills and strokes that I wasn’t used to, but a good learning experience.

Being in the back seat certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone and going down the rapids wasn’t the smoothest ride. We had a fair share of close encounters with tree branches, but we made it to the end with smiles on our faces. (Well at least mine! I think my new partner was a little scared, but she ran the rapids and was happy for that).

This was an amazing experience as I gained confidence while on white water and had fun cruising down the rapids.

After we were tired of portaging up to the top, a few of us stayed down below and practiced going from eddy to eddy. My partner wanted a break, so I tried soloing a two-person canoe and managed to fill it with water.  It was quite a workout to return to shore without tipping the canoe. The whole experience was amazing, and I am getting very excited for the more advanced training course this spring. We will have bigger rapids, harder challenges and lots of fun to be had. This will set us up well for our first Company white water expedition this summer. For anybody that is new to canoeing or white water. It is crucial to understand these three tips to succeed, have respect and faith in your partner that they will be able to complete the challenge, understand the different paddle strokes and how they work, and have good communication with your partner and understand who has the leadership position to navigate you through the water.

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