On the River: Going old school
ASPEN I started whitewater kayaking when long, big-volume boats like the Dancer and the Pirouette were as radical as they came.But after a long hiatus from the sport – grad school, global wandering, etc. – I returned to the river only to find that my Wavesport Micro, which was small when I bought it in 1993, (thus the “Micro” moniker) was a barge compared to what everyone was paddling.It would be like showing up on the slopes today on a pair of long, straight skis.Most of the kayak kids these days paddle potato-sized play boats, no more than a cockpit with a little plastic on each end and just big enough to jam their legs into. The boats are slow and sit low in the water but are great for spinning and flipping on waves and in holes.So I got one, too. I’ve enjoyed my relatively low-volume Wavesport Ace, and have learned how to stern squirt and do some moves that aren’t possible in high-volume boats.But I hung on to my Dagger RPM, a longer, higher volume boat with a narrow tail that is a good, stable stepping stone between the old and the new boats. I keep it as a river-runner or for teaching people to paddle.The boat’s been gathering dust, but after a rough first ride through the Class 4 Slaughterhouse rapid on the Roaring Fork River below Aspen last week, I decided to get out the old gal and see how she ran.What an improvement!Sunday I aced Entrance Exam, the rapid that sent me on a nasty swim on my first run, and was able to just drop into holes and ride over features that swallow my smaller boat.And Monday I hit the stretch again with a whole new confidence.OK, it felt like a cop-out as I watched my fellow-paddlers, Zeke and Njord, flip, flop, squirt and boof through some nasty rapids. But I was happy for the stability, and enjoyed the increased hull speed of the bigger boat.I was able to get some momentum and bust out of eddies for fun jet-ferrying moves, or surf holes and waves that spit out smaller boats. And now I’m thinking I’ll stay old-school – maybe even find a classic fiberglass slalom boat and buck the shrinking trend.For more information on area paddling action, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/paddling.
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