By Shanna Gachen
The WKC beginner whitewater was another huge success! This year we taught the course in April because a lot of the instructors and some helpers were floating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon during March. Teaching in April has its challenges with the heavy rains in the northwest, but we persevered and didn’t have to reschedule any river days.
The first weekend the students had a couple hours of classroom training, where we went over a quick introduction of the course and basics on their dry gear. The same afternoon we headed for the Tukwila Pool and get some hands on practice with basics like wet exiting, swimming with their kayak and paddle, as well as learning to receive a bow rescue, which included some basic steps of the roll “head dinks and boat rotations”.
The next day they were rockin’ it on the Sammamish River, where the only current is created from the local ducks and each other. They went through all their basic strokes and started their edging practice to prepare them for the following weekend when they would be introduced to actual river current.
The following weekend, as most of you may remember, involved buckets of rain that wouldn’t stop falling all week. On Saturday before the students “roll day” at the pool, we had instructors out scouting various river stretches to find a river for Sunday that was suitable for the students first real river with actual current – a huge challenge with all that rain! Well the Cascades delivered and did a bomber job keeping all that rain on the west side, which allowed for a great water level on the Cle Elum River, just outside of Roslyn, WA. Yes, it was a little further of a drive, but caravanning / carpooling from North Bend adds to the adventure of whitewater kayaking. What a beautiful day we had, sunny blue skies, clear water, and SNOW on the riverbanks.. haha! Hey what’s kayaking without snow on the banks?! We celebrated over beer and burgers at Roslyn’s claim to fame “The Brick Saloon”.
The 3rd weekend, included their last pool day, where some dialed in their rolls and others got super close. As we can all attest to, rolling is a continual work-in-progress, even after many years of boating. Thank goodness for our club pool days where we get to practice in warm environments. We lucked out for their 3rd river day and had perfect weather and water levels, no snow in sight on the Club Stretch of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. We practiced endless eddy turns and ferries, and ended at the infamous Blue Hole where many students ran it over and over again because it is such a hoot!
The final week leading into their graduation paddle we had beautiful, HOT weather in the Seattle area, which starts to melt a lot of snow that fell over the winter. This makes finding a river challenging as well, but the Green River has a dam on it and we were lucky enough to get on the section called the Headworks. It’s mostly class II, with an exception of Railroad Bridge Drop, aka The Weir. We had lots of excitement with a few swims, which always keeps our helpers and the instructors on our toes. A successful graduation day was had by all and another celebration at a local pizza and beer hangout. Can you tell we like to celebrate?!
The beginner whitewater course couldn’t be possible without all the amazing volunteers of the club that came out this year. Our volunteers range from years of experience to alumni from the 2017 whitewater class. Almost all have passed through the WKC school of beginning whitewater kayaking course on our way to where we are today, that’s what makes it so fun to help and pass on our knowledge each year. There’s nothing better than giving back, paying it forward and meeting awesome new boating buddies along the way.
A big shout out to the helpers this year: Ross Healy, Bryan Fry, Eva Bailey, Tobey Seslar, Jenefer Monroe, Bram Rusk, Jeremy Wells, Zak Wall, Susan Batchelor, Jenn Coe, Science Kilner & Noah Compton.
And our fabulous WKC instructor crew includes: Jeff Hunt, Clea Hixon, Anne Brindle, Jon Almquist, John Kelley, Rick Schoen, Chad Coker, Matt & Nicole LeBlanc & Shanna Gachen