Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bottoms Up

Rio Vista San Marcos
Rio Vista San Marcos
Images from Flickr. These were taken at the same spot I was kayaking today.  There are some photos of me but I don't have them yet.

I made my first attempt at white water kayaking today. BCO arranged a Kayaking 101 class with Olympian Ben Kvanli at Power Olympic Outdoor Center in San Marcos. He's an amazingly patient teacher.

We had to practice what to do if our kayaks tipped before we could head down the river. You're supposed to tuck close to the kayak and knock on the boat to signal someone to come and flip you back up. The first time I kayaked on a lake and had to flip my kayak I had an asthma attack, I think probably because of the sudden change of temperature, so I was extremely nervous. I hoped one of the assistant instructors would help me because I didn't want to look stupid in front of Ben. No such luck.

I think he has asthma! He said he avoids cold places for that reason and suggested I relax and swallow when I first come up instead of immediately taking a breath. It helped! He also only turned my kayak halfway for a short moment the first time so when we did it for real it wouldn't be such a shock. It worked. I flipped my kayak, knocked on the hull, then he flipped me back up and reminded me about the swallowing trick. No asthma attack. So far so good.

Next, we had to practice a wet exit. We were wearing spray skirts which attach to a lip around the opening to the cockpit to seal water out. The first time I tried a wet exit, I couldn't get the skirt off the kayak. I had to knock on the hull to get him to flip me back up. He said, "You realize you are stuck with me this entire trip now? You and I are joined at the hip." That made me feel a little embarrassed but much safer. He showed me how to grasp the grab loop with both hands and pull up while pushing back with your legs and use your entire body to get free, then waited patiently while I practiced a few times upright and psyched myself up to try again.

We headed down the river and practiced a few paddling strokes.  I've paddled kayaks on the lake before, so I think I did pretty well.  Then we got to the rapids.  San Marcos has a waterpark with a series of three man-made waterfalls perfect for kayaking.  The first one looked to me like a scary drop almost straight down.  The two people who went just before me stalled on the rocks and flipped.  I wanted to make sure I didn't stall so I paddled hard to get up some speed when it was my turn.  I went down with no problem.  Ben was at the bottom videotaping and yelling, "That was awesome, Jennifer!  Way to charge that drop!"  Yay!  That was fun.  At this point I wasn't feeling embarrassed any more.

The second rapid required us to leave the calm water of an eddy into fast moving water flowing in the opposite direction, then line ourselves up to go down the center of the small waterfall.  I started out great.  I lined myself up to enter the white water, raised the right side of my kayak with my right knee like we practiced, then my kayak spun backwards.  When I was turning it back around, I didn't lift the correct side of the boat and over I went.  I knocked on the hull and waited for someone to flip me back up.  No one came.  I knocked again.  Still nothing.  I'm sure they'll be here any minute.  I knock and wait some more.  Where is my joined-at-the-hip instructor?  I finally decided enough was enough and performed my wet exit which I am very grateful to have spent so much time practicing.  The darn spray skirt wouldn't come off easily the first time I tried.  I grabbed it a second time and kicked with both feet while yanking with both arms and I was free. 

When I popped back up there were instructors all around me asking if I was okay, chasing my boat and paddle, pointing me towards shore, and telling me how well I handled myself.  I knew I was upside down for a while but I had no idea I had traveled the entire length of the rapids and down the waterfall upside down.  My hero was on the bank shooting video.  I did see on the tape that at least four instructors were right next to me trying to get in position to flip me up.  They said it was rare for someone to be upside down that long and not panic. 

After lunch I decided to call it a day and didn't run the second half of the course.  I'd had enough excitement for one day.  I'll try again another time.  Ben promises to be there immediately if I flip again.  I teased him for not putting down the damn camera and saving me, but it does make a great story.  If I get a copy of the video as promised, I'll try to post it here.                            

28 comments:

Vince said...

Get away with yourself woman. Asthma attack my eye. You wanted the attention of a hot fit guy. Now tell the truth and shame the devil.

Tempo said...

Brave girl Jen, not sure I'd have a go at that...way to go!

Sage said...

Way to go! When I was in my early and mid-20s, I did a lot of river running. But before I got into rapids, I had spent several times on a lake learning how to make a quick exit and also roll the boat. Lookin' forward to the real pics!

Brian Miller said...

very cool. oh i havent been white water kayaking in a couple years...i need to get back out there...

blueviolet said...

You make that look both scary and exciting!

....Petty Witter said...

How brave of you. I've done many youth camps where this has been an activity but have never felt the desire to try it for myself.

f8hasit said...

I've done white water in a ducky (blow up kayak), but never with a spray skirt. I commend you! If you flip in a ducky, you're just out. That hanging upside down would probably freak me.
I can't wait to see the video!

jack69 said...

Sound like fun. We shoulda tried it sooner in life, but now I guess we will stick witht he foldabote.
Be careful, and take it easy.
Happy Mothers day!

Minka said...

Wow! you must be brave! Take care!

sm said...

exciting you are brave

buffalodick said...

We used to go on canoe day trips that were more like a floating cocktail parties... Too old for that, anymore!

alady's life said...

Wow that was exciting! I felt like I was right there with you. You did extremely well.Jen

I love kayaking but I am not too sure about rapids lol
Happy Mothers Day Jen!

Kelly said...

Never done any kayaking, but it looks fun and exciting. Maybe TOO exciting for me!!

Jen said...

@Vince: I usually try to get attention with my fearlessness. I had no idea the scared approach would work so well.

@Tempo, Petty Witter, Minka, and sm: It's strange to hear "brave" when you're the most nervous person there, but if brave means doing something even though you're afraid...

@sage: I was on a lake twice before, but this was my first time with the spray skirt where you have to extricate yourself.

@Brian Miller: You should go. Take your boys...they're still young enough to be fearless and I bet they'd love it.

@blueviolet: Things have to be a little scary to be exciting, I think. That's why roller coasters are so much fun.

Jen said...

@f8hasit: I've thought about buying one of those inflatable kayaks. I was afraid you couldn't use it in white water. Maybe I'll do a little more research.

@jack69: If you are both still in good health you shouldn't let age stop you from trying. If you're strong enough to get in and out of and paddle a boat, you're good to go.

@buffalodick: We do that in tubes here. No such thing as too old.

@a lady's life: White water kayaking is very different from touring in calm water, that is for sure.

@Kelly: You can get a sit on top and paddle in calm water if you want to try it without the upside down in the rapids part.

John McElveen said...

GREAT STOREY!!

I was there!

I have done almost everything in the world that can be done outside- but Have never even sat in a Kayak!!! It sounds soooo cool!!!

We rafted the "Deliverence" area of the Chatooga regularly when we were Paramedic-ing!
Great job Jen!

Jealous in SC,

John

ρομπερτ said...

This surely kept me awake and longing for breath at nearly twenty past two in the morning. Please have a wonderful start into the new week.

covnitkepr1 said...

You have more guts than I do.lol
I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become one as well.

Jen said...

@John McElveen: I see more wildlife up close in a kayak than doing anything else. You should try it.

@Athens: It's ok to breathe now. We're both safe on dry land.

@covnitkepr1: Thank you for visiting. I'm always happy to see new faces.

Jingle said...

amazing stuff,
I never have such experiences,
thus admirable job!

Jen said...

@Jingle: Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

Jingle said...

http://itistimetothinkformyself.blogspot.com/2010/05/jingles-may-follower-award-week-2.html

awards for u.
Happy Tuesday!

Jen said...

@Jingle: Thanks. You are so generous with your awards. I'm going to have to start a new page just to post them all!

Heather said...

WOW!!! You go girl! I would never have been kayaking in the first place. I would have paniced at the first time my head went under water. What is there that you can't do?!

Jen said...

@Heather: I can't pee standing up...

Varun Yagain said...

Jen, Chandrika's blog-post brought me here. Nice posts you have!

> If I get a copy of the video as promised, I'll try to post it here.
You really should!

Chandrika Shubham said...

Exciting and interesting! :)

I will love to watch the video also. :)

Jen said...

I didn't get the video, but there is a still pic of me upside down posted here: http://jnnfr271.blogspot.com/2010/05/couple-of-kayak-pics.html

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