White water river running, rock hopping, chute hucking and bouncing some granite has been an intrinsic part of kayaking for aeons. There’s nothing more buzz inducing than flinging yourself down a gully or sending it over the ledge, dropping into the plunge pool below. All sounds pretty adrenaline fuelled doesn’t it? The fact is, however, this type of paddling doesn’t need to be as life threatening as you’d imagine. And it’s not just limited to sit in boats – as can be seen from the pics accompanying this article.
Tootega have been pushing the performance side of sit on tops for a while. They’re always keen to point out that SOTs can be much more than fair weather craft. From the surf inspired Pulse 85 (reviewed here) to the brand’s newer Catalyst white water boat, the evidence is clear to see.
Heading off to find a run perfect for showcasing the Catalyst the guys hit up an optimum place for bumping a few rocks. Much fun was had by all according to reports with the Catalyst performing great.
So what if you fancy having a bash at this kind of paddling yourself? Well, there are few things to consider. While a good many (quality) sit on tops would be fine for chute hucking and white water runs it’s the unique hull design of the Catalyst that makes especially applicable. Looking like a closed cockpit playboat but with sit on benefits of being open it’s a sled designed to punch through voluminous white water, manoeuvre in tight spaces and generally make easy work of the river environment.
If you do fancy a bit of WW then it’s wise to get comfortable with thigh straps. When ploughing through wave trains or dropping even small ledges having added connectivity to your boat will give greater control. Plus, for those who have the skills, it may be possible to roll and therefore not worry about clambering back on board should you take a dunking.
All in white water sit on top kayaking is a surface barely scratched. Yet with boats like the Tootega Catalyst it’s certainly an environment not to be shied away from – especially for those with a decent level of skill.
We recommend wearing a helmet during any kind of river running (in fact, a lid could be a good idea whatever paddling you’re into). If you’re tackling a particular rocky stretch, such as the one shown, then possibly knee and elbow pads might also be good idea as well.
Usually the best time to get involved with WW is during the off season when rain’s more likely. Water is usually cold so you’ll need adequate protection. Many prefer a drysuit. If you plump for one then make sure it’s rugged and hard wearing as bumping hard surfaces will takes its toll.
Before undertaking any new run it’s worth scoping out before dropping in. Go with a buddy (or even a few) and check your line thoroughly. Make sure you’re aware of any hazards and know where your get out points are. During the decent having someone on the bank with a throwline ready is a good idea. But make sure you and the rest of your group know how to use this! It’ll be worth practising any safety drills prior to your run.
Have a means of contact to the outside should you need assistance – after all, things can and often do go wrong. A cheap mobile phone in a waterproof pouch will do the trick.
Above all have fun – this is an enjoyable activity after all…