BGCC Flatwater Paddlers go Wild

We have had a very wet spring with the river coming down in flood a couple of times. What a great opportunity to get out the little plastic boats and learn some basic boat handling skills in the flowing water!

Craig Elliot, together with Danielle Woodward, ran a series of Wildwater skills for Flatwater Paddlers sessions in November to help us become more efficient at reading rivers and using water to make K1s go faster. The first session was held at Molonglo Reach where we learned to execute a bunch of new strokes, first in the plastics and then in our K1s, finishing off with figure 8s in the K1s between the bridge piers. Then we spent a day at the Cotter playing in the rapids near the campground and another day paddling from Cassarina Sands to Uriarra Crossing. Day 2 saw Craig (the intrepid tour leader), Matilda (fearless woman), Michael (fast in fast flowing water too!), Richard (had a few tumbles to show off his superior rolling skills), Kolya, Jesse, Ted and Margi (the back of pack) get up bright and early, execute a sleepy car drop at the Crossing and hit the water by 8 am. After a few moments playing in the small stuff, we slowly drifted downstream, playing and learning something new at each rapid. We learned how to surf the standing waves, use the water to move quickly from one side of the river to the other and always to lean downstream (which incidentally is upstream in the eddies!). The halfway mark saw the highlight of the trip when Matilda dug into the depths of her canoe and extracted a watertight container of the jummiest homemade caramel slice imaginable – we were very hungry by then. And Margi came across a platypus feeding in the turbulent water just below one of the rapids. It was an awesome day.

The last session was held on the Goobagandra River near Tumut. Danielle, Craig, Hamish his son and his Dad Bill, a visitor called Al, Gaye and Richard camped in Tumut with Margi and Ted glamping in a local motel. We were superbly looked after by Caro and Kierin who ground crewed us.

We arrived on Friday evening, meeting at the Royal Hotel for dinner – an excellent feed. On the Saturday, we paddled from Kells Lane bridge to the Tumut River confluence.

Everyone was pretty tired by the time we got to the confluence with the Tumut River and thank goodness Caro and Kierin were there with a jummy lunch. It was also stinking hot. Craig, Danielle, Al and Gaye decided to paddle the 6 km or so back to camp on a very fast flowing Tumut River while the rest of us limped home in the cars. We decided to eat out again, this time at the Woolpack Hotel which was not as good as the Royal but still a hearty feed

On Sunday, we decided to do the more difficult section upstream of Kells Lane Bridge. Ted, Hamish and Bill decided to help with the car shuffling. We don’t have many photos because the rapids were close together with a few good drops – around mid-high grade 2s and possibly a grade 3 or two. It was high concentration paddling for me and Richard! There was one big drop that we had to portage. I was pleased to find out that while my boat handling skills were rusty, I could still read rivers and managed to get down the rapids with very few mishaps. Having said that, Craig and Danielle did a great job scouting the rapids with us and showing us how to use the water effectively to get down the drops with no tumbles. Danielle, Craig and Al tried to teach Richard and myself everything they knew in the 3.5 hour paddle and I may have been heard to mutter that I could only do one thing at a time! I also got “washed” down a rapid of two to get some time-out! But by the end of the run, my boat handling skills were greatly improved – thanks to a very patient Danielle!

All in all, the three sessions were a great deal of fun and everyone learnt how to edge their kayaks to use the water to push their boat rather than waste valuable energy. We also developed more confidence in unbalanced conditions and how to use our paddles to propel and stabilise at the same time. A big thanks to Craig and Danielle and all the ground crew.