At the end of January, six of us (Adam, Amy, Birtles, Ryan, The Don and myself) went on a four star (Whitewater Kayak Leader) training with Andy Turton (Ty Nant Outdoors). We weren’t lucky with rain and the Tryweryn wasn’t releasing so we did the training on the mighty Dee.
I thought the training was good and worthwhile and I was impressed with Andy; his approach was helpful and practical and he made what I thought was going to be a cold unexciting weekend on the Dee fun. He also went above and beyond the syllabus and was happy to discuss and demonstrate some Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue techniques with those of us that asked.
Instead of giving an in-depth account of the weekend I’m going to share with you my new favourite eddy hopping system that Andy spoke about:
- The leader is at the front.
- Nobody paddles beyond the leader, you can join them in an eddy but don’t go past.
- Only one person moves at a time (not including the leader).
- The person at the back (most upstream) always moves. This may mean the same person moves twice in a row if they don’t leapfrog anyone the first time.
- You can get the same eddy as someone else if you want and there’s space.
- Keep an eye on the leader for signals which override the system. (eg, All down)
- Nobody ends up left behind as the person at the back always moves.
- Everyone gets used to looking for eddies they can get and choosing their own line. (I think this is a really important part of becoming a paddler and not just a lemming.)
- If someone misses an eddy the whole system doesn’t go to pot like some eddy hopping systems.
- The leader still has control and can keep an eye on everyone (this won’t work on all sections of all rivers!)
- If the eddy is big enough the leader can just sit there and eventually everyone will join them in the eddy.
- It’s always clear who’s moving next and not too many signals are required.
Only one person moving at once reduces the risk of multiple swims.
- This won’t work too well with a big group.
- If people are too enthusiastic about catching every eddy it can be slow.
Doesn’t work everywhere (lines of sight is the main issue here).
- You can end up with a reasonable distance if the back person swims (mitigated by having support paddlers further back).
- People can get too wrapped up in the system and forget to keep an eye out for signals from the leader.
I I used this system a bit on the Tees trip at the start of February and it seemed to work pretty well. As with all systems like this, it isn’t right for all groups and situations but I think there’s a lot of merits to it. I think it’s more robust and encourages everyone to think about where they’re going a little more than other systems.
Hannis Whittam _ Regents Canoe Club