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Old 06-03-2005   #1
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 176
Bad Start to a Good Season

First I want to say how sorry I am to all who will be impacted by the accident on South Boulder Creek and particularly to the close friends and family who will be devastated by this tragedy. My heart goes out to you all.

In addition I would like to preface my statement with the fact that I was one of the primary rescuers in the Poudre incident a few weeks ago and I have been kayaking for 11 seasons now in Colorado. Also what I want to say may or may not have anything to do with the most recent incident in South Boulder Creek so if my comments do not apply please disregard them.

The first time I got into a kayak I was 18 years old and it has truly revolutionized my life since. I remember my fledgling days on the Colorado River with a found yet insecure feeling of some misguided adventures. The first time I got into a class four river was approximately 90 days of water experience from when I began. I didn’t paddle a class 5 river until the following season at Gore, which I might add is not a really tough stretch at the normal flows 900-1200 cfs. I started creek boating several years later with extensive paddling experience under my belt. By the time I began "creeking" I had run more rivers than I could remember. I was an accomplished play boater which was great because play boating =roll practice. I have had an on side and an off side roll since my inaugural season and no thought goes into either, it really is instinctive. In the five years I have been creek boating now; it has really become my passion. River running is truly the heart and sole of kayaking. There are no better days then the ones spent with your close nit group of paddling buddies, running something that you weren’t sure was possible just a day before. The comrodery that is a part of this experience is truly something to be relished. Kayaking is addictive. It is a sport that is self empowering, and deadly. I believe it is natural for people in the sport to push there limits I would say by definition if there is not a hint challenge in what you are paddling you probably wont boat it again. Therefore I am not surprised when I see inexperienced boaters running something that is above there heads. But here is where the line can get a little fuzzy. I have recently seen several boaters whom were completely outclassed by the river dropping in as is they hadn’t a care in the world. Though we all want to challenge ourselves there needs to be above all respect for the shear power of the river. The river is truly indifferent, it does not care if you have a sickest, cleanest line of your life or it stuffs you under a rock. On the water you are the master of your own destiny, and for many who don’t have the skills necessary to be on very difficult stretches of whitewater this can be an accident waiting to happen. I am worried that if every paddler including myself does not reevaluate what we should be running on a daily basis more accidents are on the horizon for this region. Kayaking has exploded lets face it with the advent of planning hulls the sport has become more appealing to a whole new group of paddlers. Today more people are getting out in there kayaks than ever before. Play parks have also opened new avenues for people to get wet. But what can never be lost is a respect for the water and what it can do to you, your paddling friends, and ultimately your family and loved ones. There is no shame in taking more time to get up to the level you aspire to. We all don’t need to be running class 5 in our first couple of seasons and we especially shouldn’t be in tight technical creek beds as soon as we can roll a boat. Lets face it Colorado is no great place to learn to kayak. It is low volume with allot of rocks, strainers, and gradient. We as a whole need to take a step back and contemplate our actions. Some who are truly on the top of their game, a very select few who I do not consider myself a part of, will not need to heed this warning. These individuals are at the forefront of paddling today and are aware of the risks they are exposed to and they have the skills to run things that normal humans can not. The rest of us and in particular those who are just getting started need to take a breath and think. So you have been paddling for three years and you can link 12 ends in the Golden Whitewater Park, this does not mean that you are qualified either. Everyone should think about the incidents of the past couple of weeks in Colorado. I am not saying we should all hang up our creek boats and quit but I am saying we need to assess our skills in a realistic manner not just some testosterone driven macho mentality, which seems to be what is on the minds of several paddlers I have seen this spring in places they should not be.

I believe unless the general perceptions of paddling class 4 & 5 doesn’t change we will expect to see more incidents in the creeks of Colorado this year. I am writing this because what I saw a few weeks ago has left a scar on me and I don’t think it will be easy to remove. I was lucky as well. Ryan survived his ordeal though had an unbelievable number of factors not come together he would be dead today as well. So please be safe on the water and remember you can always run it another day.

Good Luck,

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Old 06-03-2005   #2
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 586
Right on, bro.

I find myself in that gray area all the time, wanting to push and get better but at the same time not wanting to put my life on the line foolishly when there's so much to live for.

I recently went on a trip, and when I got to the put-in and scouted the first mile, I decided not to run. I felt bad for letting my fellow boaters down, but hey -- I had a fiance to go home to.
And like you said, I can run it another day. Maybe next year.

It helps me to read your post.

As far as testosterone and machismo go, it's like this:
It takes big balls to chicken out.

If you know a run is not for you, it can be hard and embarrassing to say so to the people who came to the river expecting to boat with you.
But you gotta have the stones to admit when you're in over your head.

Dano, would you mind if I forward your post to the forum for the whitewater club I belong to?


Have fun, push yourselves but be smart.

-Mike G.

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Old 06-03-2005   #3
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 176
Feel free to post anywhere you like.
Thanks for the support.
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Old 06-03-2005   #4
Charc in = charc out
ToddG's Avatar
Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 475
Thanks for posting that.

What I have learned over the yrs ((a lot of times the "hard way" & other times from more experienced mentors)) is that the river will most often serve as a patient & forgiving instructor, very rarely revealing her ugly side to those who respect her.
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Old 06-03-2005   #5
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 130
Dano, thanks for the post.

Your thoughts are the same as mine and the reports of the two recent events on the river, as well as some reports of likewise tradegy (or near tradegy) in other sports that I'm involved with have once again made me reflect on the activities that I enjoy.

I think that Schizzle's post over in the thread about the accident on SBC also drives home a good point, being that you have to be brutely honest with yourself when evaluating a risky situation. You should not rely on the presense of others when making a decision that involves your own safety. You should assume that they are not present, and treat running something as though you were going solo.

The other issue I believe is one of knowlege (or lack thereof). How many times have you seen some kids on inner tubes getting trashed in some hole. No life vests, no helmets, etc. What is your gut feeling? Why do you have that gut feeling? You know that what they are doing is stupid -- why -- because you know the risks and the consequences. You warn the tuber, and their response is that they are on the championship school swim team.

Igorance is not bliss, it can and does kill (the school of experience is difficult to graduate from, some times the only passing grade is a 4.0 and anything less you will not get a chance to repeat the class).

Anyway -- please be safe out there. Keep yourself informed of the possible consequences. Make sure that you are the one making the decisions that effect you, don't be swayed by peer pressure. If you feel bad, or unsure about something, take that as a signal from your lizard brain saying "Hey idiot that's stupid and you are going to get us killed".

Don't rush the learning process, the rapid/rock cliff/ski slope will still be there. Have the patience to spend the time preparing yourself so that ole lizard brain doesn't wake up with that warning.
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Old 06-03-2005   #6
Lawyer Scum
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 45
If this is the drop I'm thinking of, first after the top bridge, I don't understand the dynamics of what took place. It's a III+ drop with one big rock to miss. If it is the drop I have in my mind, I've never set safety on it. It just shows that bad stuff can happen anywhere. I'm sure explanation will be forthcoming as people share the experience. I agree with your post whole heartedly. Consequences of error on water are very dramatic. I really liked the comment about it taking more guts to say no, then to dive in and get worked. I held my tongue the other day when someone called out a paddling partner for being nervous about high water. I recognize that's what he does, and often find his posts pretty damn funny. That being said, I will never call out someone for having the responsibility to say "I'm not stepping into this today". Those situations I've been in where I've saved someones ass, I've all had to put myself out there to do so. Understanding that I will be doing the same to someone else when I blow it is just being responsible. Most of my boating partners have become very close friends. I would dread the day when I have to tell their wives or kids what happened if we all blew it.
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Old 06-03-2005   #7
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Golden Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 185
This is my first year boating and I can say that I am thoroughly addicted. I just wanted to say thank you for your post and for all the boats that I've met that are willing to help me improve without pressuring me to run lines over my head. Its boaters like you all that make this sport amazing.

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Old 06-03-2005   #8
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2
Great posts everyone. One thing that I want to add is that less experienced boaters have been cursed with lower flows over the past several and the runs that they have been able to get through are this year much much more technical and dangerous. As stated above, everyone please accept your limitations and acknowledge your abilities. Any paddling partner who does not respect you for doing this and portaging or even passing on a run is, in my opinon, not a true friend. Paddle Safe!
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Old 06-03-2005   #9
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Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 739
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GREAT POST Dano!Thanks for the read and the concern..Nice post!

Ken this drop has always been one of the most dangerous rapids on lsb...It has a sticky hole at higher flows and a sieve on the downstream rightside of the exit...It usaully flushes a person very violently towards the left and then it's a shitty swim...I have always known about the sieve just thought it would be very hard to get over there...

Heart goes out to the friends and family of this brother we lost last night...To the folks on the scene,keep your heads up and know you did all you could and it's never easy living with the end result yet you were there for your friend,working for him til the end...Peace
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Old 06-03-2005   #10
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 168
We all must remember that even with all of the balls and talent in the world there is not substitute for experience. Years of reading water and scratching swamp ass is the best learning experience of all. We need to not be subtle when we see a shaky boater pushing it a little too far. I don't think the boating community can handle much more of this. I know I can't.

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