While reviewing the pages of Stand Up Paddling, Flatwater to Surf and Rivers by Rob Casey, I found the International Scale of River Difficulty description for Class 1 and 2:
Class 1- Easy. Light Current with a few riffles and small rapids, and few or no obstructions. Easy self rescue.
Class 2- Novice. Easy waves, wide open channels, little difficulty, and rocks that can be avoided with some skill. Some scouting from shore.
This finding promptly deflated the ego I had grown after having took a few white water runs just below Big Eddy on the Upper Deschutes last week… “Easy”? Really? While I was pleasantly surprised at my capabilities in the white caps, I definitely wouldn’t have called it “Easy”. Not to mention the laceration friendly snags lining the western shore on both runs and the wealth of lava rock on river bottom just waiting to grat you like cheese. Just remember, I grew up in the city, pretty terrified of water most of my life. My white water experience amounted to 2 rafting trips, one over Big Eddy (Class 3), and the Mckenzie (Class 2). I had zero kayaking experience and the same number of reasons to think I would be successful at this sport. Volunteering for white water was a shot in the dark at best.
However, when Paul Clark, photographer, slacklinner, and, more pertinently, white water paddler extraordinaire, offered to take me for my first white water run, I jumped at the chance. Dressing for the part was the most time consuming phase of the whole endeavor. Luckily, I’d purchased a second hand (circa 1990) wet suit in mint condition for the epic, which kept me at a totally comfortable temperature during the 2+ hour session and took approximately the same amount of time to squeeze into. Cheers to Gear Fix for supplying the suit.
Clark also supplied safety gear: helmet, shin guards, PFD (chesty style), leash, and strongly encouraged me to wear boardies over my wet suit, claiming it was the “industry standard”. Obviously I opted not to cover the glorious neoprene 8th layer of skin, it cost me $18.00, no way was covering it. I know what your thinking, where are the prints? Unfortunately, there are no photos to document as we Simul-SUPed and there was no one on shore to keep record.
Take away STATS:
- Stoked after one try I made it down the Class 1 standing, although I prefer the Class 5 definition for this run as we did an excessive scout from shore … just saying. Mad props to the Hala Nass which gracefully floated me down the rapids. For such a long board it handled quite remarkably and it would be my number one choice on a multi-day float. The hard tipped nose was great when hitting lava rock and the stability was hardy when pulling my fallen self back on the board.
- Riding down the Class 2 (arguably +, maybe?) after a 30 minute paddle upstream in some rapidly moving water, hopping eddy to eddy, Clark recommended I stick to my knees and lent me the Hala-Atcha. Significantly wider, 36 inches rail-to-rail, and 9’6 feet, I rode the Atcha majic carpet style down 4 huge waves over 40 feet river distance. Though I was super tiered and my balance was off after the several sessions on the Class 1 and the paddle upstream, I barely worked for my kneeling victory. Balance came easy on a shorter, wider board and it was truly boat knows best rolling over the waves.
- It was really hard carrying the boards. Just remember, I weigh 120 lbs. If you think committing to the perceived danger of rapids is the hardest part, your wrong.