The Kayak Interview - Mountain Buzz

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Old 01-10-2015   #1
Gnome79's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Mar 2012
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The Kayak Interview

This happened to my younger brother on a run today and I couldn't stop laughing when I heard the story. It is a straightforward class III run and he had done it many times before but he still got the "interview." Funniest part was him heading downriver to exasperated yells of, "go right, right, right!!!"

There's got to be a better name for this but I'm not witty enough to come up with it. It's a phenomena fairly common to kayaking. I've been "interviewed" and I'm ashamed to say I've interviewed others in my early years of kayaking when I didn't know better. It usually starts like this: "You been down this run before?" followed by a lot of sage advice and dire warnings of undercuts, must make moves and the unpredictable nature of the river.

When I "interviewed" other boaters it was when I was meeting up with new paddlers on a run. I asked about their familiarity with the run and their boating ability. Not a terrible idea I suppose but each time I did this I found out that I was paddling with boaters much more competent and skilled than I was. I never ask these questions anymore and assume that if someone is game that they're up for the run and know what they're getting into. So far I've never boated with any new paddling partners that I had to handhold down the river. Just wondering what others think of this?

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Old 01-11-2015   #2
Duluth, Minnesota
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Nov 2011
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Obnoxious to be interviewed but just the same when someone shit shows down the whole run when they said they'd be fine. Usually you can tell just by talking to them. If its an easy class III or IV run I actually like chasing gear, it makes for good practice. As long as I know in advance that that's whats in store for the day. If I'm trying to pull off a quick run I suppose its different.

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Old 03-10-2015   #3
JSHero's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2012
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Nervous in the service

Not sure that I would call it an interview but I need to understand the levels of the other people that I am boating with. IF I don't trust the other boaters I get nervous and I Suck even more when I can't relax. I usually boat with people that are better than me on runs that I find challenging and they consider routine or easy. If anyone questions me I am up front and tell them I suck and will try my best not to swim today.
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Old 03-13-2015   #4
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I think it is ok to ask a paddler that you haven't boated with what they have paddled before and what they are comfortable on.

For me, when they say what runs they like and paddle often it gives me an "idea" of what kind of day we "might" have.

I say this because you can still have any possible outcome.

I've seen cocky class 4/5 boaters get destroyed in class 3/4. I've seen class 2/3 boaters survive class 4/5. I've joined groups I did not know feeling strong on a run i know well and swam. I've joined groups feeling scared of the run i did not know and was the calmest coolest on line paddler in the group.

In kayaking thay say "it is a team sport done individually"

I have found so far it is important to find a core group of 3 or 4 boaters you can paddle regularly with for the new runs and harder runs you and the group want to paddle.

As my skill set improves I feel more comfortable with just about anyone on a river. I am a solid class 4 paddler. I can easily join a group i dont know or allow anyone to join us on any class 3 river, big water, creek, continuous or pool drop and be able to keep it together, have fun, help others etc...

I always remember though, anything can happen....

Now if I am paddling class 4/5 and i am not familliar with the run I tend to ask more questions. How well do they know the run? can we scout? will you set safety for me? are there 3 or more people in the group? I am more selective with who I paddle with, what i run, the water level etc...


It doesn't matter. I cant figure out why. For some reason at some point I have to stop judging, questioning, and wondering and just buck up, get fired up, be in the moment, want this and to be there for all its worth. I have to clear my mind and put on because it is why?

I am not sure of anything anymore.

I've seen people, who in my mind have no business or skill set run huge shit, get destroyed and walk away for a second lap.

I've seen people lose their teeth on class 2/3 and stop boating.

I used to think it is important to know who you are with to stay at ease about myself, and as i got to know people i found i am a poor judge of who people really are inside.
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Old 03-13-2015   #5
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BZN, Montana
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I think the interview is important to give information both ways. Not only are you setting expectations for yourself but you can set the expectations for the person you don't know. Ideally you do a little of this prior to showing up for shuttle.
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Old 03-18-2015   #6
doesn't need a fake name
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Fort Collins, Colorado
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Oh yeah. Everyone does the interview to some extent. That's a pretty good name for it. I've called it butt sniffing. Natalie has called it posturing. Sometimes it fails spectacularly (for a long time I thought Xavier Engle was a beginner), but usually it's pretty effective. The dimension not mentioned so far is asking who they know. Having a friend in common and getting a sense for how you both interact with that friend can build a bridge for comparing skills.

Examples: say that you know a paddler Joe from springwood and you discover that your interviewee is from springwood. Joe is a really good paddler.

"oh, you're from springwood. Do you ever paddle with Joe?"
"Oh, I've seen him on the river but I don't really know him. He's hardcore."
Translation: this guy is not that good, but he'll probably be ok. He will know when to portage.

"Oh you're from springwood. Do you know Joe?"
"Yeah! He taught me to paddle!"
Translation: this guy is OK.

"Oh you're from springwood. Know Joe?"
"Yeah, and let me tell you about this adventure we had together!"
Translation: this guy is really good (depending on the adventure).

"Oh, springwood. You must know Joe."
"Oh yeah. Joe is an incredible paddler. I really like paddling with him when I can."
Translation: this guy is a goddamn legend. If you watch him closely maybe you can learn something. Remember to brag that you paddled with this dude next time you see Joe.

"Springwood, huh? Do you know Joe?"
"Ha ha, yeah that Joe guy thinks he's good, but he's actually a total beater. Let me tell you an unrelated story about how awesome I am."
Translation: this guy is a hazard on the river. At putin, pretend to have forgotten an elbow pad so that you don't have to paddle with him.

"Oh, do you know Joe? He's from springwood too"
Translation: this guy is a douche. If his comment is accompanied by a hand sign, he is mediocre at paddling. If he is too lazy to hand sign, or if he uses a hand sign you have never seen, he is probably one of the ten best paddlers in the world. And still a douche.

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Old 03-18-2015   #7
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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That's pretty good stuff Leif. Enjoyed reading it and I can put myself, or some paddling friends, in some of those exact scenarios.
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Old 03-18-2015   #8
doesn't need a fake name
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Fort Collins, Colorado
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"Oh yees. Dees Joe, he make welcome to me when I first come from my kountry. We run local run, the gnar fork, is called? I worry Joe has low opinion of me. I am almost make to flip over, twice."
Translation: holy crap, get ready to paddle faster than you have ever paddled in your life. This guy is more hardcore than you can comprehend.

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Old 03-18-2015   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
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Note that the interview can be faked! Lost count of how many unknown paddlers have said "I've run the green" only to have thier ass handed to them on Gore.
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Old 03-18-2015   #10
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Wheat Ridge, Colorado
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thanks Leif. Definitely one of the bests posts I've seen on the Buzz in a long time.
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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