R2ing and communication - Mountain Buzz

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Old 11-11-2015   #1
SpeyCatr's Avatar
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 446
R2ing and communication

So a buddy just bought a new to him (used) AIRE 130D - 13'0" diminished tube raft. He's got an oar frame for it and today we left the oar frame at home and did our local river exclusively R2 style (did some R2 practice the last few times we were out for some of the sections easier rapids but today was the first day we did the entire section R2 style). First off, as many of you already know, this is a highly rewarding and enjoyable way to run rivers -today even more so since leaving the oar frame at home we were dedicated to doing the entire section paddle. We seemed to rely very little on backwards ferrying but instead forwards ferry - 45 degree downstream, even 90 degrees across current, to make most maneuvers. To catch eddies we tended to do upstream forward ferries as the forward stroke is more powerful than the back stroke and easier in most cases.

I've run a true "paddle" crew before as both a paddle captain commanding 3-4 paddlers and as a paddler under paddle captain but R2 style you have to find a healthy balance of decision making between the 2 paddlers and action. We tended to analyze rapids read and run to just point or say where we needed to go and made the raft go there using a forward ferry whether it was 30 degrees up to 90 degrees or somewhere in between. With Class 3-3+ water it seems to work well.
I'm curious how you, if you R2, handle a few things:

1) Communcation and decision making between you and your partner as far as where to run the boat?

2) What direction change strokes do you tend to prefer do?

3) How much "talking" do yo do - are you at the point with you partner that you can pretty much just instinctively read what's ahead and come to almost the same conclusion about what needs to be done? Do you just point, or say "right" and move the raft right?

4) What "road rules" do you have between each other? What to do, what to never do? things like that?

5) How do you positioning in the boat with respect to thwarts, seat position, etc. ? We've kinda been leaning to eventually going towards something we've seen in Jeff Compton & Daniel Mccains videos eventually that looks really secure for keeping us in the boat as well as for paddle power for if we advance to bigger class water - 3 thwarts, the middle & front thwarts (bow) are fairly close together. Your outer foot is wedged (not too far) under the front thwart. The middle and back thwarts are a little farther apart and you wedge your inside legs knee into the middle toward bracing with your inside legs foot onto the back thwart. Run a strap around the middle and back thwarts to help pull this tight together which acts as a grab line as well as it looks like it helps counteract your leg pushing the thwarts apart. Have a look in this video for what I'm talking about (awesome video btw): - this set up puts you more towards the middle of the boat however which is probably good for the boats true centre of balancing and doing truer draw and/or pry strokes if needed.

15' AIRE Wave Destroyer - MadCatr Frame - Sawyer MXS oars w/Duramax blades
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Old 11-11-2015   #2
Aurora, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2006
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With some people I fully guide, giving commands (though they're pared down to GO, STOP, and BACK.)

With other people we never have to say anything- we know by our boat positioning and feel what the other person is shooting for.

With most people I R2 with it's somewhere in between, but closer to the second. Talking will be more like, "Left?" "Left." And then you go there.
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Old 11-11-2015   #3
West By God, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 326
1. Its best to have one person calling commands. You can certainly take turns. Depending on the stretch of river and you and your partner's familiarity with that stretch, you can certainly bend this rule a bit.
2. Its really no different than with a regular paddle crew, if you can do it yourself great, if you need your partner to do a stroke opposite of yours, then call it.
3. I like to talk a lot.
4. I think this really just gets to the importance of communication to make sure you're always on the same page. Its a dangerous game assuming the other person is thinking the same thing you are thinking.
5. This really just depends on the type of boat your paddling, but generally you want to be in the center to center front based on personal preference.
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Old 11-12-2015   #4
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Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: '05
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 394
I'm with Climberdenali. It depends who I am R2ing with. If it's another guide and our home river, we don't say a word about paddle strokes or lines, as we know the lines and organically work together to stay on them. Whereas if it is a less experienced boater, I'm the guide, calling strokes and bumps.

Absolutely my favorite way to raft. R2ing with a good boater.

In our community MiniMax we sit directly in the middle. In my 13 ft Riken we sit in the second bay back, slightly forward of the middle.

Is it spring yet?
Dude, I'd see you on the river but I'm hardly ever out there.
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Old 11-12-2015   #5
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Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Mar 2008
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The best thing about the Aire boats is being able to tweak those thwart placements. Once you get it right, you should be able to just tweak it a little for different partners. On my Super Puma, the right side is always mine so it doesn't move--the thwarts are sometimes crooked if my partner is a lot shorter than me but that doesn't matter. Once you lock into that position with the knee down, you'll never feel secure out of it--it is awesome.

As far as communication, it always helps if there is a pretty clear pecking order in the boat. That priority can change depending on the river and the rapid and many things. Sometimes it is as simple as one person calling the command or starting the move first. It is very different going with someone who sees the river different than you. Mostly though, different from me is just wrong, and speaks to inexperience. I train them to the correct method as fast as possible.

It is best if you can say "right of the first one, left of the second" and be done--with all the minutia of angle and momentum taken care of quietly. That connection can take a while to earn though. I make it clear with new partners that the way to R2 is with power moves in the downstream direction. Ferries (any power directed upstream) need special commands and usually also planning out.

Have fun in the 130D. It is definitely the best raft out there for steep creeking.
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Old 11-12-2015   #6
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Tabernash, Colorado
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And thanks for the really awesome boating video!!!
We can't always agree, but we can still be civil to each other.
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Old 11-13-2015   #7
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Jun 2014
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I'm with climbdenali and simple man. There are two types of people I R2 with, competent experienced boaters and less experienced/newbs. With the less experienced I call strokes until they become competent and then simply tell them lines and occasionally call panic-wake-up-stroke commands. With the solid boaters that I've boated with a lot, when we know the stretches the only communication is calling lines if there are multiple options and our intended line is unclear (which side should we take at three way). With my primary R2 partner it is whoever decides first. With more technical new runs one us us typically takes lead at the rapids, with no particular pecking order simply the first one to take charge. In the Minimax it is right in the middle.
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Old 11-15-2015   #8
Vail, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 66
Pry and draw strokes are great especially for a centered R2 but if you both primarily oar frame these might not fall into your default way of seeing the river.
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Old 11-16-2015   #9
Longmont, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 6
I agree with what most everyone has been saying. Most of my R2 experience is with a very good friend who reads and approaches whitewater very similarly to myself. We trust each other's judgement and listen/defer to each the other organically. The dependence and uniqueness of that relationship with your partner is what makes R2ing awesome. I remember talking to a couple of guys about this who had just swam multiple times in Gore Canyon. They were both strong paddlers with prior class 5 experience, but they had only R2ed together a couple times before. Their experiences (I would imagine swimming four or five times in a day in Gore can change your perspective pretty quick and leave your butthole permanently puckered) that day led them to conclude that they were not suited to be an R2 pair. They explained that they approached and read and processed whitewater differently and it negatively effected their communication as a pair, leading them to be indecisive. They had not found the balance between an understanding/a singular leader. This is all anecdotal of course, but I think it highlights what I love about R2ing...a great balance between personal responsibility and trust in another as part of a very active and maneuverable team that makes potentially huge whitewater accessible... rather than a traditional command-dependent arrangement that I personally don't enjoy.

As for the set up, I can provide some insight into our very irregular rig. We run a Puma with a front thwart in a normal forward position which our front foot is jammed under, then a 14' Avon raft's thwart in between the tubes in the back with a strap across the back of it. That probably didn't make any sense so I have attached a photo where you can kind of see the set up. I don't have the the expertise to express the technical details of how that weird thwart helps for handling, balance, etc., and I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on the potential effect. However, with your leg jammed between the main tube and the center thwart you are incredibly stable, which allows you to reach out far from the boat when drawing, pivoting and bracing...and give you the stable base to maintain an active paddle in holes and as you land drops. I really like that about our rig, and you can certainly achieve that with a normal thwart set-up and/or foot cups. This is just an idea we experimented with one time, liked it, and stuck with it. Also, with our weight forward and that much flotation behind us, this set up is very maneuverable and amazing for punching holes and not getting buried. Another added consequence (it can be good or bad depending on the situation) is that it makes the boat much more rigid, so you are less likely to have the taco-effect on forceful drops/holes. If you are running waterfall drops I think it is probably better to have your weight further back to land more smoothly and avoid unintentional front flips.

Anyway, enjoy your time on the water, and nice video!
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