A 10-Step Plan for Success How to Scout a Rapid
#1: Get out of your boat carefully. Usually, you do not want to swim any whitewater, but especially not a rapid that needs to be scouted. Try to find a good, calm, safe spot to pop your skirt and get onto shore. Do not crowd the eddy where your partners are trying to get out, as this can cause unnecessary anxiety and chaos.
#2 Store your boat in a safe spot. Oftentimes when creeking, you have to stash your boat in a precarious spot (on a slanted rock, on a log or branches, etc.). Before you leave your boat, make sure it is safe and will not float away without you. You don’t want to wind up chasing your boat or hiking (to buy a new boat) out of a place where it is probably easier to kayak out.
#3 Carry your throw bag. After you make sure your boat is stowed securely, BRING YOUR THROW BAG! I have seen too many people go to scout and walk down to see the rapid without a throw bag in their hands. People have gotten into trouble on the river because their partner(s) did not have a throw bag with them. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, bring it. Someone could slip and fall during the scout, or someone in the group might get the sudden urge to run something you assumed everyone would carry. When it happens, you might not have time to run up and get your throw bag.
#4: Analyze the rapid. Try to find a line, but also look for hazards like caves, sieves, undercuts, holes, etc. Make sure to look at it from different angles as not everything is obvious from a single angle (a rock could look fine from one angle; whereas, from another angle, you could see the undercut cave it forms. In addition to moving up and down the shoreline, make sure you vary your height above the river. Try to get the big picture (higher, farther away) as well as a sense of how big and scary it might look from your boat when you’re running it.
#5 Choose your line and stick to it. You should be able to visualize yourself paddling down the rapid even before anyone else runs it. If you cannot visualize yourself running the rapid in your head, you probably should not run it. Often, after a few people have taken a different line than yours, you will think, “Wow, maybe their line is better.” Whichever line you choose, make sure you are confident in it and that you can visualize yourself paddling the entire thing.
#6 Make a “worst case scenario.” This should be what would happen if something went wrong. Let’s say that you got off line: Where would you go now? How do you get back on line? Where is safety set? Could they get to you there? Your worst case shouldn’t psych you out, but it should force you to think about realistic problems you might encounter.
#7 Get you game face on. After you have your line in your head and are confident that you can stick the line, give the rapid one last look and start heading back to your boat. Signal to your friends with hand signals or with a paddle that you will be running it. If you choose to walk the rapid, make sure your friends know that.
#8 Look at the horizon line. BAck at the top of the rapid, you should take one last opportunity to scout. This is an important step in the scouting process and is often overlooked. Before you get in your boat, make sure to stop and take a look over the horizon from the top of the rapid. You need to know where you are going when you get in your boat. From water level, what markers do you have to keep yourself on line? These could be waves, holes, riffles, trees, approximate distances from the bank, etc.
#9 Get in your boat and make sure you are ready to go: skirt is on properly, nose plugs in place, elbow pads in place, back band adjusted, water bottle stowed, etc. At this point you will probably have some butterflies in your stomach. All that you should be thinking about is the line that you are about to stick.
#10 Now, ferry out and STOMP YOUR LINE!
by Adam Johnson, Team Riot
Reprinted with permission from the May/June, 2007 AW Magazine