Hoping to get into whitewater rowing - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-04-2013   #1
Seattle, Washington
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 128
Hoping to get into whitewater rowing

Hi all,

What a great, helpful forum. I have already viewed a lot of good advice about getting started in whitewater, but thought I would throw out a few questions. A bit of background: I have always wanted to get into whitewater rowing, especially for the allure of multi-day trips on Western Rivers. I spent a year kayaking when I lived in Idaho - I loved it, but never got great. After moving to Seattle over 10 years ago, I gradually lost touch. Then marriage, kids, career - you know how it goes. Much of my free time, though, is spent on the rivers of Washington, Idaho, and Montana flyfishing. I use a single person pontoon type boat (Watermaster) and I have fallen in love with this mode of travelling through the wilderness. This summer, a few friends and I floated the Smith River in MT - two of us in Watermasters, alternating with 2 in a 16 foor NRS raft with a fishing frame. Between us, we had zero experience rafting, and although the Smith likely provokes yawns among experienced boaters, it was humbling the first couple of days spinning 360s and bouncing off canyon walls. Yet since I got back from my float all I can think about is learning more and doing more. So... some questions:

1. Thoughts on Whitewater Schools?: I see these on the web. Everything from Swiftwater Rescue courses to week long guide schools. I definitely plan to take the Swiftwater Rescue course, but are there strong opinions about the usefulness of these longer courses? On paper they sound great but I'm curious if anyone has done this before? A friend and I have discussed doing a 6 day course with OARS on the Rogue next Spring. Thoughts?

2. Thoughts on gaining local experience? I know there is no substitute for a gaggle of friends who raft and are willing to swap endless knowledge for a 1/2 rack of beer. Unfortunately I really don't have any friends who raft. I'm a little reluctant to shell out thousands for gear until I have had more time on the water.

3. Any folks in the Northwest have any thoughts about beginner rivers/ runs once I do get set up?

Thanks in advance for any help/advice. This seems like a great community - part of the reason I want to get into it.



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Old 08-04-2013   #2
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 174
White water club

The very first thing to do is find and join a local white water club!!!! I live in the desert and our club has been the gateway to learning the safe way to run rivers. If it were not for our local club I would still be on class one and two rivers, because of the club and the people I have become friends with the adventures and country I have experianced has been some of the highlights of my adult life. SYOTR
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Old 08-04-2013   #3
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at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
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A Local seattle rafting club is wrrr. Check them out on facebook or yahoo groups. Have fun!
Living in Montana, boating in Idaho
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Old 08-04-2013   #4
Stiff N' Wett's Avatar
Evergreen, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
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Dive in head first and never look back... It's a lifestyle and its amazing!
Pool and a pond... Pond be good for you.
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Old 08-04-2013   #5
Boy Howdy!
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Colotucky, USA
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,064
Dont follow me but, if you do drink whiskey
Who's your monkey?
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Old 08-04-2013   #6
River City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 205
There's nothing like rafting on multi day trips. It's like backpacking except that you can bring all luxuries and crap you'd bring car camping. And you can eat really well.

1. A SRT class is extremely valuable and you will get some great skills. I wouldn't do a guide school unless you are on a time crunch for an upcoming trip, which it doesn't sound like you are. Instead I would hook up with a local paddling crew. Either a paddle club, or put out on Facebook or Craigslist, etc that you're looking for padding partners. I think you would have more fun learning from local boater and find people you can keep running trips with. Guide/rafting schools can get expensive and you have to share your oar time with the other students.

2. See number 1. Plus rent a raft for $75-150 a day with all gear to see if its something you want to invest in.

3. I don't really know Washington water but from what I understand its mostly day trips. However a couple great multi day runs in Northern Oregon are the John Day and Grand Rhonde Rivers. Great camping, easy water (mostly flat to class 2). If you've kayaked for a year you should be able to navigate these. They are not too far from Seattle. The John Day is a spring and early summer river. The Grand Rhonde will run farther into the summer.

Welcome aboard. But be careful rafting can become addictive.
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Old 08-04-2013   #7
Dipshit with the most.
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,832
Mileage. Is the key. Time on the water. Do it as much as you can.

I know when I ran oar boat day trips or the longer trips I would let people run the boat up to a point. No bigger rapids, but if they were moving the boat and listening well I would turn them loose a bit more. See if you can get in that whitewater club and also look into fishing clubs. A guy who wants to row me down while I fish is win-win. You get an experienced eye watching you on not too hard of water, he or she gets to fish.

I don't know anything about the Oars course. I have run guide trainings for the company I used to work for. They were week long doing two runs a day of a 16 mile stretch of the Headwaters of the Salmon. I am sure there are other 'guide' schools around similar to what I did, if you want to wait until next spring. The Rogue is a great river. Fairly forgiving except for a couple of sections, it could be just the launch pad you need.
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Old 08-04-2013   #8
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1970
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 30

ARTA has a rowing school (www.arta.org/training/id_rowing.htm) every year in Idaho (Main Salmon). I considered going and may still go. From speaking to them, the trip is more relaxed than their raft guiding instructional programs and it sounds like so much fun too, with hot springs stops and side hikes. ARTA has a great reputation, although I haven't yet joined any of their trips.
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Old 08-04-2013   #9
Plunk your magic twanger!
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New Castle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,257
If you find that you like to raft, you will find friends that like to raft. Bring your positive and humble attitude, and a few extra beers, and you will be welcomed. We were ready to launch on Westwater today when a group of six showed up with a paddle boat. The Ranger asked if our group would keep them in sight - just in case. They stopped and had lunch with us above the rapids. They asked to follow our groups lines and I ran sweep. They did great! The camaraderie adds to everyone's enjoyment. Another wonderful day on the river!
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Old 08-05-2013   #10
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Spokane, Washington
Paddling Since: 2009
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 70
+1 for WRRR (Washington Recreational River Runners). One of the members held a rower's progression this past spring to help teach folks that wanted to get on the water. I found it very helpful.
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