Making Peace with Rocks

Rarely is there a line on your favorite creek which doesn’t incorporate at least one ill placed rock. Dealing with rocks and not letting them affect your plan is an important skill to learn and become comfortable with. Here at Frankenstein we learn how to make peace with rocks, a classic rock jumble which has caused millions of bad lines because of some ill placed rocks. Shane takes a moment to explain the importance of carrying your momentum up and over the rock and keeping your eye on the prize while Robin Betz demonstrates near perfect form.

Making Peace with Rocks from Whitewater Instruction on Vimeo.

Once you get comfortable getting over rocks without them throwing you off line, feel free to start using them to spice things up a little. Here’s international superstar Yonton Mehler demonstrating a beautiful rock spin.

One important aspect to keep in mind is to keep your hips loose and always lean into rocks if you get pushed sideways against them. Frankenstein has some classic pin spots and the key to success in a rapid like this is to keep moving and never give the water a chance to load up on your boat when there’s a rock blocking your escape on the other side.

Notice Robin’s aggressive forward posture.

Shane chimed in with a few more thoughts on dealing with rocks.

The biggest thing in learning to deal with rocks is actually knowing what is going to happen when you and your boat interact with rocks. The only way you are going to learn is to mess around with them. Thats why boofing, sliding, spinning, and glancing off of lots of rocks on your normal run is going to make you a better paddler. Its that repetition of banging around in the rocks thats going to teach you how to deal with them.

Mefford holding the control stroke while meeting the rock

Mefford is using a correction stroke here to account for the deflection the rock is delivering.

In a general sense I think of rocks as being another river feature like a wave, or a hole. The rock is going to try to deflect you just like a pillow, or diagonal wave. So often times I deal with the rock in a similar fashion to how I deal with other river features. The only difference is you aren’t going to be able to plow through the rock like you may a wave. That rock is going to deflect you some unless you can get up and over it but that is a deflection also isn’t it. When I approach a wave that I think is going to deflect me I keep a correction stroke at the ready to deal with that. The same is true of a rock. If you are going to glance off the rock have a correction stroke ready to deal with that and know its going to happen. In fact I use a stroke that is going to take me to the rock, over the rock, and beyond in the direction I want to go. That way I am in control of my direction and interaction with the rock the entire time. Its crucial with any river feature that you are working with to keep your paddle working for you through out the action between you and the feature.

Continuing to use a control stroke past the rock

Here he is continuing his stroke well past the rock so he stays in control.

The water that is moving over and around the rock is also important. The more water you have going over the rock the easier it is going to be to get over it. Often times the spot where you use the rock is the near the highest point where the water meets the rock, because you get the lift of the rock along with the slickness of the water. What the water is doing just at the rock is also important. Is there a strong pillow at the rock that might deflect you? Is there a curler coming off the rock? Is the water disappearing under the rock, ahhhh?

The rocks themselves and their consistency will affect your move. Are you paddling on pristine smooth granite, or manky roadside scrapple. The quality of the rock is going to also influence how you will move over and around the rocks. Pretty much if its manky I try my hardest not to touch it because its going to stop you cold. Its also one of the reasons that the Smoky Mountains, the Sierras, and other smooth rock rivers are so awesome to paddle.

Yonton using the slope of the rock

Yonton dealing with the slope in the rock.

The rocks shapes, and angles are also hugely important. When you are working with the rocks you have to take into account the shapes and how you are going to use them. Is it sloping the direction you want to go? Is it going to slow you down? Is it going to give you a kick? Will you be able to release easily from the rock and continue downstream? Its a lot to take in but the more you take notice of the rocks you are working with the more precise you will be.

So like I said at the beginning of this little spew, get out there and mess with rocks. Repetition is the best way to learn about how to work with them.

Just a few more thoughts.


P.S. If you have any ideas or thoughts about this subject leave a comment. I would like to work with folks and talk about instruction concepts.

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0 Responses to Making Peace with Rocks

  1. Bill Frailey says:

    So how can a wave or hole be like a rock? Not saying your not right I am just trying to understand it.

  2. Shane says:

    Well what I am trying to say is that it will affect your boat and deflect your boat, and a wave or hole does that as well. So use the strokes like you would any other river feature to keep yourself on track. I use very similar strokes to keep myself headed where I want to go whether its water or rock. Example… A wave is coming from the left I use a sweep on the right to keep the wave from pushing me too far right. Same is true of a rock on the left that I don’t want to let deflect me to the right. I put in a sweep on the right and carry my momentum through the rock or wave.

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