With ever more people getting hold of sit on kayaks and wanting to push the envelope, it’s inevitable that the white water arena should be on paddlers radars. For many years this environment has been the exclusive domain of closed cockpit kayakers, but more and more sit on paddlers are heading for the rapids.
All about the set up
There are no absolutes with anything in life. If you feel like trying to conquer the mountain, then the mountain is there for the conquering. It’s the same with the playgrounds you can access with your siton kayak. White water is fair game once you sort a few set up features out. The most important bits of kit are thigh straps. Getting some of these fitted to your boat will mean you have more control of your sit-on kayak – which is paramount to running rivers successfully. Your thighs will become one with your craft and that connected feeling is another way of steering your boat through moving water. Your paddle is your main source of propulsion and steerage but being able to trim your kayak with your body will help when successfully navigating white water and running rivers. Achieving a secure ‘lock’ is something that the paddler must keep in mind. Adjusting the thigh straps so they are tight is the first thing – then you need to find the optimum foot position, which allows you to lock out your thighs against the hull. Make sure you’re sitting upright and then you’re good to go.
Everything the same –everything different
Many of the white water techniques you learn in a closed cockpit boat are transferable to a sit on. Skills such as the J-Lean (edging your boat while drawing your paddle in the shape of J) are achievable. The main differences come when the need to self-rescue arises. If you get tipped upside down then it can be way more tricky to Eskimo roll a sit on. You would need to use a waist belt to achieve this – but the risks of entrapment are escalated when using one. If you should capsize in white water then the first ‘to do’ is make sure you are not downstream of your boat – all it takes is for a rock to appear and trap you between it and your kayak. Once on the upstream side of your boat, it’s easiest to grab the gunnels (sides) and try to haul the hull back upright. If this is not working then you may need to turn the craft back the right way from underneath the water. In each instance it may take a few attempts to achieve this. Once righted you then have the tricky task of clambering back aboard. Grabbing hold of your thigh straps is usually the best course of action. Haul yourself back into your cockpit and away you go again.
A tricky situation?
Paddling in white water is easily achievable with a sit on kayak. The best advice though is to start off gentle. Don’t go throwing yourself into a raging torrent, as this will result in injury or worse. Practice the necessary skills – such as self-rescue – in friendlier environments. This will put you in a great position for tackling moving water. Above all, learn to assess your surroundings and interpret how that may translate to your on water experience. Gradually build up your confidence and difficulty levels. In no time at all you’ll be charging!