White Water

White-water paddling – what’s it all about?

Well it’s no different from any other aspect of our sport – it’s about having fun!! OK so the fun may not be right for everybody, but if you like a little excitement in your paddling then you should give it a go.

If you’ve not done it before then white-water may mean different things to you than to an experienced paddler, that’s OK too as there are several grades (Grades I to VI – see below for the official classification) – what this means is that grades I to II are easy, grade III is what most club paddlers would consider to be genuine white-water, grade IV is difficult, grade V – danger to life and limb, you need to be on your game for this, grade VI – don’t go there!!

An example of a simple grade II is the picture on the right (my son Kris on the R.Herault gorge in France back in 1985).

A straightforward grade III is a picture of Town Falls on the R.Dee in Llangollen, taken from the bridge (Mike Jones Rally – 1987) – below.

Stepping up to grade IV – the Venter Ache in Austria – it’s quite a commitment when you start in this gorge (above) – a bit like Mastermind –“I’ve started so I’ll finish”. This is one of the quickest rivers I have paddled and like all Alpine runs can change dramatically as the day warms up and the snow begins to melt.

Then we come to one of my favourite runs of all – the Upper Golo in Corsica, plenty of grade IV with a few bits of grade V thrown in for good measure – it starts high in the forest, has rock slides, falls, must portage sections and a spectacular finish – a shot of Kris in his full-face helmet, a couple of Howard and a shot of us inspecting!

So – a brief run through of what white-water is about – if you want a bit of adrenalin in your paddling then give it a go.

In case you are wondering – yes this IS a spud river!!

And if you want to know what grade VI looks like then here’s a shot of the Oetz cataract (Austria) – and no that’s not anyone from our club! And then the minus rapids in Zambia – this shows the difference between  steep & technical and high volume rivers at the same grade.

If this wets your interest then ask anyone on the committee – they can put you in touch.

Happy Paddling – Kev

White-water Grading – from Wikipedia

Class I: Easy – Waves small; passages clear; no serious obstacles.

Class II: Medium – Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear. Requires experience plus suitable outfit and boat.

Class III: Difficult – Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in manoeuvring; scouting usually needed. Requires good operator and boat.

Class IV: Very difficult – Long rapids; waves high, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; best passages difficult to scout; scouting mandatory first time; powerful and precise manoeuvring required. Demands expert boatman and excellent boat and good quality equipment.

Class V: Extremely difficult – Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient; close study essential but often difficult. Requires best person, boat, and outfit suited to the situation. All possible precautions must be taken.

Class VI: Class U. Formerly classified as unrunnable by any craft. This classification has now been redefined as “unraftable” due to people having recently kayaked multiple Class VI around the world.