Being able to pick a good line, read the currents and pick out the crux move(s) are key to a successful scout. We find there are often 2 extremes in scouting: 1.) people will see a sieve on river right and get so freaked out about it that they never even realize the good line is down river left FAR away from the sieve, or 2.) people pick their line and don’t look beyond that. They get back to their boats and realize they have no idea how to approach the rapid, or their friend asks, “what are you going to do about the big hole” and they respond “what big hole.”
(Tarquino, your jungle-kayak guide extrodinare! The socks give him kayaking super powers)
So, being able to see the whole picture while you are scouting is a really important skill. You need to look at the crux of the rapid, but also at the lead in to the rapid, and the run out of the rapid. This way you’ll know what you have to deal with in order to GET to the crux move, and also what you will have to deal with as you finish the crux. You need to identify all the hazards that your line poses and then figure out how you will deal with those hazards. Once you’ve done all this, you can ask yourself if your skills are up to the challenge and, if they are, is the reward to risk factor worth it? Then you are ready to either portage or go successfully run your line!
But once you’ve committed to running, then mentally it’s got to be all or nothing (I should say it’s got to be all or portage)! From your eddy, you need to be focused, confident, and ready to put your physical creeking skills into practice to do what you need to do to give yourself a good, clean line. You shouldn’t be walking back to your boat saying to yourself, “umm, I guess I’ll give it a go, although I’m not too sure it’ll work out.” You should feel good about your decision and be visualizing yourself styling the line.
Having the right tools in your tool box, so to speak, will make your scouting decisions easier and more clear. So whenever you get the chance to practice strong forward strokes, sweep strokes, boof strokes, body positions and any other kayaking skill, do it! That way you’ll know what sort of things you are good at and which skills you need more work on in the future. For example, if you know you aren’t very good at boofing yet, and the rapid you are scouting requires making a boof or surfing a big hole, well then, you’d better give it a miss until you can refine those boofing skills.