Kayaking newbie exits wet | VailDaily.com
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Kayaking newbie exits wet

J.K. Perry

RANCHO DEL RIO – From immediately downstream came what resembled the sound of a freight train.The sound issued from rapids in the Rancho Del Rio to State Bridge stretch of the Colorado River – my first ever rapids in a kayak.My heart kicks into a higher gear as I trail Alpine Quest Sports owner Sean Glackin into the rapids, followed by Heather and Camilo Lopez of Boulder. Cold water sprayed onto my formerly warm dry face as my boat crashed through waves. Paddle, paddle, paddle. The boat rocked one way, then another each time it met a new wave.”Woo hoo,” I holler repeatedly.Exhale, and done. Everybody remained upright and dry, minus the beads of Colorado water dripping down each person’s grinning face.All the talk in the office and local pubs about big spring water inspired my inner boater to break free of the Chicago landlubber mold. Sitting below the first rapid, I understood all the talk.

Kayaking outfitter Alpine Quest got me started. The Edwards-based guides sell two-day kayaking lesson for newbies, as well as a host of other excursions.The instruction began the day before on an Eagle-Vail pond as the sun steadily crouched below the mountains to the west. The Lopez’s joined me and instructor Katie Shepard.Weighed down by a helmet, life vest, dry jacket, wet suit, spray skirt and water booties, Shepard coached us into our snug-fitting kayaks, telling us to stretch our spray skirts – which keep water out of the boat – around the cockpit.In turn, each of us slide our boats in the water to practice the “wet exit” – a somewhat dreadful experience the first time around. The wet exit entails flipping the boat over, leaning forward, ripping off the spray skirt and kicking the boat off your legs, all while you’re under water.The exit is easy and not worth worrying over. It takes just a few seconds to get out of the boat and come to the surface.Next came the varied strokes used to maneuver the boat – the sweep stoke for turning, the forward stroke to go straight and the stern draw for adjustments in direction.Tipping the boat to varying degrees at the hip puts the boat on edge – much like a ski or snowboard – to help the boat turn. Feeling confident, I tipped the boat over as far as I could while turning and I managed to flip the boat and myself over.A wet exit or two later and Shepard proclaimed me the “swim team captain.” Luckily, Camilo caught up and shared the captain designation.

The skills we learned on the pond were used the following day on the Colorado River. The most difficult maneuver to stick is reentering a rapid by crossing an eddy line.Glackin encouraged Camilo and I to reenter the “Never-ending” rapid – called so because you can go down the rapid the back up the adjacent eddy.Camilo entered, got part way down the rapid, and flipped. Not to be outdone, I successfully crossed the eddy line, got into the rapid, and nearly immediately began performing the wet exit.Swimming to shore after doing the wet exit three times, I regained the dubious title of “swim team captain.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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