Why Kayak Slalom Skills Make You a Better Creekboater

Here’s a sweet video of whitewater slalom kayaker Campbell Walsh in 2009 in Great Britain, notice the side to side ferry moves using a wave hole starting at around .10, it’s a gorgeous example of boat handling skills and shows you why the kind of techniques that paddlers learn by practicing slalom can give you a huge edge in creeking as well.  (And also explains why a lot of the kayakers winning Extreme Creeking races have a slalom background.)


Lately I’ve been heading up when I can to the Tamihi Rapids slalom course on the Chilliwack River, the Chilliwack Center of Excellence keeps gates there year-round and Craig and Jon Allen have been super nice about coming out to give some instruction to me and my friends even though we’re in creekboats.

If you’re wondering if this kind of practice is worth it, all I can say is that spending a day and a half trying to exactly nail a few gates and ferries on Class I, II and III did more for my technical Class IV skills than years of plowing through Boulder Drop at beefy flows.  Yes, it’s important to get used to handling pushy big water, but actually having the skills to get where you need to go is equally important and maybe harder to learn.  If you try it out you will probably be amazed at how hard it is to be extremely precise on what looks like very easy water.  Mike and I went up there once when the water was pretty high and the course was pushy, Craig Allen showed us a creeking-style course to shoot for and then greased it in a C1, while Mike (who paddles hard Class V a lot) did well but didn’t get the course completely right once.  “Humbling” was the word he used.

Check out the video of this nice move at the Canoe Slalom Technique Library, using a stopper wave like you would a rock eddy.  This would be very useful if you needed to approach the next downstream feature, i.e. a boof, with the right-to-left angle at which he leaves the stopper.

In case you’re new to all of this, K1 is regular kayak style and C1 means the paddler is kneeling in the boat – it’s much harder because they’re using a one-bladed paddle and their center of gravity is higher.  On the course you’re supposed to go downstream between the green-striped gates and upstream between the red-striped gates.  That’s about as much as I know. :)