Refine your Creeking Skills in Ecuador

Matt and Anders navigating some of Ecuador’s infamous “Boogie Water”
We just finished up with our first ever Advanced Creeking Clinic and it was an awesome week of paddling Ecuador’s best creeks.  We had an eclectic group of characters from all over the US.  Luckily, all their personalities meshed well together and when they weren’t busy giving each a hard time, they did manage to run some sweet rivers and learn a little more about creeking.
Brian lining up on the final ledge of Discotec on the Rio Piatua

We covered a ton of ground during these 7 days of paddling and tried to talk about as many low volume paddling techniques as we could.  All the guys were solid Class IV and IV+ paddlers so it was easy to move right into the some of the more advanced creeking skills such as boat scouting, setting up on tricky boofs, rest on the fly techniques and much more. 
I’m not sure who was staring more–us at these guys’ crazy river-crossing contraption, or them at the crazy gringos and their river running contraptions

We were super lucky with our water levels last week and so got to practice on low volume runs like the Upper Jondachi at roughly 500-800 CFS and then also on some bigger, pushy creek runs as well such as the Oyacachi at probably 1500-2000 CFS. 

Kevin putting the week’s lessons into practice with a perfectly time boof stroke

Reading and running and boating scouting on the fly was another skill we constantly practiced.  All the boaters soon learned to fear the term “boogie water” whenever Don or I said it.  It’s easy when you can describe a rapid with distinct characteristics–such as the “Best Boof in the World” on the Upper Jondachi.  All we have to do is tell people to drive left, get a piece of the sweet dished-out boulder and boof like a rock star!  But when there are tons of holes and rocks to dodge and you can’t describe an exact line, we like to tell people it’s boogie water (always with the qualifier that boogie water doesn’t mean it’s easy) and then let people follow us and read and run as they go.

And these little piggies tried to follow us home.  But then they heard all the boys commenting about bacon and turned and ran the other way

Another point we tried to stress was that, while the lead boat in any boat scouting mission on a new creek has a lot of responsibility–catching eddies, keeping themselves safe, picking out the best line, and ultimately deciding whether or not to scout–the 2nd boater in line also has a great deal of responsibility.

Matt powering through the froth leading into “The Boof” on the Rio Oyacachi

 The 2nd boater in line has to make sure they stay close enough to the lead boat to watch where they go and “watch their back” so to speak.  But, they don’t want to be too close and pressure the lead boater out of an eddy before they are ready to leave.

Anders blasting out of a rather sticky ledge on the Piatua.  He was very pleased with the performance of Ecuador’s very 1st Liquid Logic Stomper!

That 2nd boater needs to make sure that they can be “the back up plan” to the lead boater.  It’s happened more than once that the lead boater will go downstream 1 eddy too far and will get themselves into a position where they can’t get out to scout AND they can’t see another eddy to boat scout to.  Then they are really hoping that their 2nd boater will come to the rescue!

The incredibly picturesque “Tres Huevos” rapid on the Upper Jondachi.  It doesn’t really look like it from this angle, but this rapid is good to go down the river right side.  There is an ugly under cut and cave on the far right, but it is avoidable if your advanced creeking skills come through for you

Often all the 2nd boater will have to do is get out from an upstream eddy, scout the line, see that it goes and can give directions to the lead boat who is stuck in the lower eddy.  But sometimes, if the 2nd boater scouts and finds that the rapid doesn’t go or doesn’t go from where the lead boater is stuck in their eddy, well then, it’s lead boater rescue time and that 2nd boater has to help their buddy out of the “last eddy” and to safety (this can be a tricky endeavor so make sure you are up to the task)!

Doctor Steve getting aggressive with his boof body position.  He was nailing boofs all week long!

If you are the lead boater, I’d NOT recommend that you go that eddy where you are trapped and can’t get out of your boat and can’t go further downstream.  It’s just not a fun position to be in, but it seems it will happen to most people at least once if you do a lot of boat scouting/eddy hoping.  Then, it’s really damn important that you trust your 2nd boater!  So, pick your boating posse wisely!

Anders testing out a sketchy bridge on the Upper Jondachi.  The crazy part is that the Quichua folks around here nonchalantly walk across this bridge all the time carrying 80 lb loads of narjanillas

We also did some talks on how to get yourself out of holes.  People often think that there aren’t bad holes on creeks because they tend to be low volume…but the reality is quite the contrary.  On big water runs where there are really big holes, boaters will often flush through after 1-3 go arounds because there is so much water and power that a kayaker can’t usually get stabilized in a proper “I’m stuck in this hole side surf.”  But on lower volume rivers there seem to be more of the pour over type holes that can really hold a boater.

Dave busted out his hand paddles for the Piatua and he rocked it.  That guy is incredibly smooth without his paddle

We talked about, in addition to just bracing and stabilizing yourself in that side surf, you should try to paddle forwards either by sculling that brace or by actually taking paddle strokes on both sides of your boat.  If that doesn’t work, try to paddle backwards.  People like to try to get out of the hole they way they are facing, and often neglect to try backing out which will work surprisingly often.  Getting yourself to the edge of the hole and then committing to a big reaching forward stroke on the upstream side (reaching out into current that is going downstream) will work quite well too.  You are pretty much committing to being upside down but the hope is that your body will catch current and wash you out of the hole leaving you to roll up in nice downstream-moving water.

Brian, Kevin and Matt contemplating Chibolo on the Cosanga River.  Scouting skills are crucial to a happy creeking career
Don even demonstrated his very fine hole-escape techniques in a sticky hole on the Oyacachi (a hole he went into on purpose that crazy guy).  Don’t just hang on the brace he’ll tell you, be active with it!

And so,  if there are any words of wisdom that we can take away from last week’s trip, it’s this:  “Remember, stroke it, don’t hold it.”

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply