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LOL. I suspect you were looking for a little more than that although it's certainly a valid opinion. I'd add "but not too fast". Check out the Arkansas Canoe Club message board if you haven't already. There are some top notch boaters in your neck of the woods who love to help other boaters step it up. It's also a great place to find trips to join and just hang out.
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Haha I live in NZ and I had to lie about where I'm from to join the forum. I've been paddling the same grade 3-3+ section for years experimenting and getting worked in shit and in the last year I've been paddling the Kaituna River which is 3-4. I'm just second guessing myself due to comments made by another paddler. I have been holding myself back due too school and petrol money which has stopped me from paddling other rivers.
My best paddling buddies are telling me to just man up and I'll be fine it's just the odd comment which is worrying me.
 

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Don't let anyone pressure you into running whitewater your not comfortable with. You know if your ready. I personally paddle conservative with the attitude that I want to maintain this level of kayaking for another 30 years...
 

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Don't let peer pressure push you into running something you're not ready for.
Don't let the odd person hold you back from something you're ready for.

Find a III stretch that has some IV rapids, especially if its a roadside run where you can easily get out and aren't too committed if you're not ready. Get them dialed before you jump headfirst into a river that is solid IV.

I paddled the same III- river (MF Flathead) for 13 years with a few runs on a III+ a few hours away (Alberton Gorge) before I stepped up to a nearby big water IV (the Lochsa) six years ago.

A LOT of my friends run the Wild Mile on the Swan, which is a IV+/V- depending on who you ask, but the shallow, bony, creeky water terrifies me. I'll stick to the Lochsa.
 

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While I was making the III to IV jump, I found that a familiar stretch of III was invaluable. Every time I took another lap, I kept going for tougher and tougher lines (catching hard eddys, trying to get around that one rock WAAY over there, making big ferries etc.). You can turn III into IV sometimes this way and when you miss, you're still in III so the consequences aren't as bad. When you finally make that jump, you'll find many of the lines in IV are the same as III.

Scout everything that you can, figure out what the water is doing. Pick a line and if you miss it, figure out why. Was there a feature that you thought would do one thing but did another? Did you miss a stroke? When you asses lines and reflect on what you did successfully and what you did unsuccessfully, you'll progress much faster. Then, you'll eventually realize that water features in IV (and even V) are the same as III, just bigger, more technical, longer, more hazards, or what have you.
 

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I think Ninja_Nico has the right idea. At least this is the way I've been pushed to learn. I have only been through 2 seasons now with my brother, but we often go with an old school paddler who routinely does class 5 stuff, and he has pushed us to ferry, surf and eddy all the toughest lines he can find. It's quite a challenge, but you can learn a lot from it. Unfortunately, my brother doesn't want to do class 4-5 rapids due to risks, but his friend keeps saying we are ready.

I guess the point is, even class 3+ water can be used to push your skill level, and is probably the first thing you should do, before moving up in difficulty. You'll be far more prepared when you move up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@Ninja_Nico @bystander I completely understand what you're saying and I think you guys are right and I might have to do a bit more so that I feel comfortable stepping up.
 

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Ninja Nico is spot on, but I would add the idea of taking a paddling trip. Running new runs with no expectations or preconceptions can open up your horizons, and you might find when you come back that you ran new stuff that was harder than your local run. The trip itself may or may not actually build your skills, but I often find that my big steps forward happen at the beginning of trips or right when I get back.

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I've had the same experience as Leif - I've come back from a couple trips with a big confidence boost from trying different things. I also started learning to playboat 2 years ago, and spending some time at playparks and in the pool has upped my river running skills too.
 

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I stepped up my game by paddling green water solo until I felt comfortable running C3 rivers solo. At that point I would be very confident on C4 with a group


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Don't let anyone pressure you into running whitewater your not comfortable with. You know if your ready. I personally paddle conservative with the attitude that I want to maintain this level of kayaking for another 30 years...
This ^^ is great advice. Also know that there is no rule that says you HAVE TO get better or that you HAVE to graduate to class 5 at some point. If you feel like you are maxed out at class III or IV, then that's fine. Enjoy that for the rest of your life and take the stress out of it. There are plenty of rivers in that category for a lifetime of exploration.

For example.....I don't think I will ever run class 5. I just have no desire. Sure, I may try to run an easy waterfall at some point in my life, but as far as running something like Gore Canyon or Valliceto, I know that there is a 99.9999% chance I will never run those stretches, and I am fine with that. I am perfectly happy being a class III-IV boater, and know that I can enjoy a great lifetime of boating amazing rivers and sharing them with amazing people.

I've seen people leave this sport because they feel pressured to "get good really fast". And that is missing the whole point of paddling. We paddle because it's fun; not because it's a ladder that we all have to climb. Some people will always be class I junkies and love every minute of it. Some people will find the hardest V/VI- rapids they can find and still not feel like they are reaching their peak. We are not all Laemmler Brothers.

Find what you love to do and keep doing it. Progression comes differently for each person and finding your own comfort zone, AND being happy in that zone will make you enjoy the sport for a lot longer than if you constantly feel pressured to do things you don't want to.

That being said, if you want to level up, my advice is to find a river or two that offer mostly the level you are at, but with one or two drops that you can work up on. For example, in CO, if I was a class IV boater looking to step up a notch, I might consider doing the "Pine Creek" stretch of the Arkansas- it's got a fair amount of class III and IV, but there is one class V rapid in there that's a good step above everything else on the run. So it would be a good training ground for someone looking to step up. But, as I said, everyone accelerates on their own pace, so make sure you just stay true to yourself and let the progression happen naturally and don't get pushed into going too far too fast, because then you might just end up being pushed away from the sport altogether, and nobody wants that to happen. Good luck!
 

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I can definitely attest to not caving to pressure from others, but sometimes the confidence other people give you is what you need to push yourself. My first year kayaking all I did was goof around on flat water, work on strokes, rolling... maybe run a couple class II rapids.

Second year, long story made short (nobody wants the long version): My boyfriend maybe gave me a few too many confidence boosters and talked me into running some stuff that I thought I wasn't ready for. Had a super successful run until the unfortunate but relatively low consequence swim at the end. Lost my boat for a few hours and ended up with some blisters on my feet. But it scared me enough to the point that for the rest of the season I was pretty panicky even on lower, slower water. I yelled at my boyfriend for making ripples in front of me, making a wake... Had a freak out one day and made him solo the rest of the run and come back for me. :oops:
I'm not sure how or when I actually got over all of this. I guess at some point this season (third) is when it happened. I think running Steamboat multiple times at so many different levels really helped me. I've been able to choose new lines and push myself a little harder, play around and relax because I know the run. If anything does happen the friggin bike path is right there! Plus I only had three swims this season, two of em were on the same day... within minutes... but three swims out of maybe 50 river trips??? That's pretty good for a beginner. I'm gonna toot my own horn here, I've got a good brace!
And we did the lower blue, which is about the same grade, but you're in a pretty inaccessible canyon and some of those waves are pretty darn big, considering. Those few runs down the blue really made me feel good about my skills (no swims), and again, running it multiple times and remembering lines and trying new ones... I feel comfortable on the river again.
Next year I plan to work my way up to a IV, hopefully do Cross. :shock:
Plus I'll be in a new river runner or maybe a creeker as opposed to an old playboat... that might make a difference!
 

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To me, stepping up is one part of kayaking that is exciting and fun but its just 1 part of the equation. There's something to be said for building confidence on a local run and trying all sorts of different lines, micro-eddies, ferries, surfs, boofs, backwards, sideways, playboats, etc. that you would never think of doing in an unfamiliar place or while "stepping up". Getting super comfortable pushing yourself in a particular class of whitewater within your ability will make "just running" the next harder class seem within your skill range when you are faced with the opportunity.

For me stepping up the last couple seasons has been pushing myself in Golden Whitewater Park and running it a bunch of times a bunch of different ways (slalom-style, surfing stuff no one surfs, different boats, etc.), and then "stepping up" to Boulder Creek during runoff last season and getting super comfortable there, and then stepping up to Waterton/Foxton and getting comfortable trying various moves in there. And that placed me comfortable "just running" some class IV stuff like Lower Clear Creek, Mish/Pineview (Poudre) and the Numbers (Ark) last season. Maybe toward the end of next season I'll step up to Bailey or just be happy where I'm at. At some point the risk/reward equation will stop me from moving into anything harder so if I do get to class V, I'll be very selective. (2 little kids at home changes perspective.)
 

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Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.- T. S. Eliot

when i began paddling harder rivers i got in way over my head and frequently got destroyed and swam a lot. however, i didn't get hurt and i got comfortable being scared on the water. i learned to focus. if you're comfortable on class 3 then try out some easy 5's. then when you step up to the 4's, they won't seem so bad. also, when you jump right into 5's make sure it's with an unknown crew that you won't likely paddle with again. this way your regular crew won't think you're completely shady and reckless. i recall showing up to a decent class 5 in colorado that i'd never seen before and joined a group at the put in. i convinced them that i knew what i was getting into (i had no idea) and i was completely sketched and ran shady awful lines all day- what a great learning experience!
 
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