Need Help Learning Swift Water...

If your boat is sitting still in still water the rudder will have no effect.

If your boat is moving at the same speed and in the same direction as the current, your rudder will have no effect.

If your boat is moving slower than the current your stern rudder becomes a bow rudder or jam with very different effects than when the boat is moving faster than the current.

If your boat is moving faster than the current the rudder will work quite well.

Jack I’d be surprised if a racer like you was often moving slower than the current.

I don’t think it’s wise to assume that of non racers though.

Read my mind.
This has been my experience as well, but in my case the instinct component didn’t really materialize until after some instruction. As for the particular circumstances plainsman found himself in, I’ve been there done that. I’ll take rock gardens, S curves, drops, etc. etc. etc. over strainers all day every day. There are always varied opinions regarding what one should do in a given situation, but it sounds like a couple of good hard forward cross strokes by the stern paddler would have been a good start.

While videos are fun
they are not the whole answer. People often watch videos and then show up at a workshop where they demonstrate what they have learned.

Often they are NOT doing what they think they ARE doing.

There really is no substitution for on water time. First with instruction…then practice practice practice.

With video, you have NOT made that mind to muscle connection.

For some people, videos are very good

– Last Updated: Jun-27-13 11:00 AM EST –

It depends on one's learning style. Some people can't truly understand out how the various strokes work without a hands-on approach, and others are good at picturing all the pertinent factors in their mind and can apply them "for real" after some kind of explanation. I'm not saying that the person who easily puts two and two together in their mind will be able to execute the moves they saw in the video flawlessly, but they WILL immediately know if they are doing it right or wrong - getting the desired effect or not - and can modify what they do accordingly (and I'm not saying this is better than hands-on learning via a good teacher, only that for someone with the right learning style, it's a lot better than waiting for such an opportunity that may be a long time in coming). I am pretty good at seeing and understanding forces in my mind, and the first time I paddled whitewater, my P-net friends asked me where I'd gone to get so much practice since the last time they saw me paddle. The answer was "nowhere". I hadn't even been in a boat, and certainly not whitewater, but had read "Path of the Paddle" and it all made sense to me. For me, it wasn't difficult to apply those techniques in "easy" whitewater (you've still got to work your skills up in step-wise fashion, no matter what the learning method), but if I had NOT read that book, and IF I didn't have anyone to practice with (which was normally the case in those days), it probably would have taken me years to figure out those same methods instead of working to improve them "right now". Yes, the hands-on approach is better, but only IF you are getting instruction from a good teacher, and not everyone can start out that way. In a part of Nebraska where canoes are scarcer than fleas on a cue ball, I'd encourage the original poster to pursue any and all avenues of learning, because the nearest canoe-paddling instructor is probably hundreds of miles away.

Some people definitely will NOT get much from videos or books, but some definitely will. It just depends on the person and how their mind works.

River instruction IS available
in Nebraska

In that case, you must see my point

– Last Updated: Jun-27-13 1:38 PM EST –

Notice that nearly every state has far more instructors listed than can fit on your computer screen, while the number of instructors in the whole state of Nebraska is ONE. Fortunately, it's not "hundreds of miles" away from the OP, but 200 miles is still pretty far. Better hope nothing happens to that one individual too, like moving to start a new job somewhere.

I still can't see the point in discouraging the use of books and video (not just this time, but often). People who don't easily absorb stuff by that method aren't likely to fully realize how helpful it can be for certain others. This guy sounds really practical in his ways of thinking (I remember his questions last year too), and I'm pulling for him when it comes to book and video effectiveness, and further, I think that for THIS person, it might be a good thing to do before seeking instruction, not after.

Find a club. Practice in easy current.
You need to learn basic river control and maneuvering techniques, both tandem and solo. These techniques are different from and harder, but a lot more fun, than flatwater techniques.

You can learn the basic techniques from books, videos or instruction. I initially learned everything from books. Then you have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice each of these techniques – starting in easy current and gradually moving into more difficult currents.

Instruction is very helpful. You don’t need to find an ACA certified instructor or pay for it. Most of the best whitewater and flatwater paddlers I’ve known have not been ACA certified. If you can find a canoe club, there almost always will be experienced canoeists who will be happy to give instruction on basics and to provide on-river companionship and support.

I respectfully disagree

– Last Updated: Jun-27-13 3:23 PM EST –

but I do agree that depending entirely on ONE instructor is unwise.

My view over 16 years of teaching canoeing is that folks watch videos and then fail to transfer what they saw to what they are doing. But they THINK they are doing fine. Far more useful I think is to have someone video you doing what you think is correct..from what you learned in books and then get some helpful analysis from someone else to make sure what you are doing is the same as what you are watching.

Be it formal instruction or someone you like to paddle with..

Videos and books are fine..but not a stand alone substitute for coaching. If you are an intuitive learner..and I have met some who catch on really quick.. any instruction you get ought to be tailored to your faster pace of learning..

I am not tooting any instructors horn but often an hour or two of personalized attention is really well worth the cost, if there is any. I have had the pleasure of meeting students from Oklahoma and Nebraska here in Maine!

Once upon a time I was there on the water with a book.. the book got wet.I lost my place.. It was frustrating. If you go the video route make sure you air paddle as you go..(and watch the glassware on the kitchen counter)

My forte is not moving water.. so it was not something I relished tackling about learning alone way back when. I did take a few courses, including a week at Nantahala Outdoor Center, which greatly boosted my confidence. If you know you will be there will be someone there as safety boater in ten seconds your learning really speeds up.

And now I could use a refresher course..

Read some of the books suggested. Find a club or at least a mentor. Go look at lots of rapids after you read about them. Imagine your line thru them. Learn the basic moves like ferries, eddy turns and peel outs. Practice makes perfect. Learn rescue skills and paddle with other experienced people. Pfds and dress for immersion.

To clarify - it’s a matter of degree

– Last Updated: Jun-27-13 6:51 PM EST –

At no time have I said books and video are better than formal instruction or even and equal substitute. However, the practical side of me says I can't ignore the fact that I know a far greater number of good paddlers who've never had a bit of formal instruction than I do good paddlers who have. This is not the same as saying that all these paddlers wouldn't be even better if they'd taken some good classes along the way. Of course they'd be better, but that's not the point. The point is that they are "good enough" for the conditions in which they go boating. By my way of thinking, if a person can become proficient to a degree that they do well, even extremely well, in the places where they go paddling, it doesn't make much sense to buy into the notion that formal classes are extremely necessary for these folks. For such people as I am thinking of, taking classes would be a good idea, but to what purpose? THIS is why I say it's a matter of degree. We don't all need to strive to be the best we can be, especially when for most of us there's a recognizable level of being "good enough".

The original poster isn't expressing the need to paddle in conditions that are any more difficult than what plenty of semi-experienced paddlers can handle without batting an eye. The first thing he needs are really basic skills of the type that lots and lots of people have learned on their own - proof that "it can be done". If classes are a practical option, great, go for it, but if not or if very inconvenient, it likely won't be much of a problem.

And of course I DO recognize that there are some people who just won't ever achieve a very good practical skill level in the absence of good instruction, but those people aren't "all of us".

To put my point in perspective, consider that nearly everyone could be far better driver if they had formal driving classes the way police officers do. Most of us could be far better at riding bicycles if we had formal bike classes. Most of us would be far better typists if we'd taken typing classes. And most of us would be far better at writing our thoughts if we'd have simply stayed awake during high-school English classes. But in all those cases, most of us are doing "well enough for our own purposes" in spite of it all. Insisting that canoe classes are so incredibly vital to success makes no more sense to me than insisting that people should take classes for all those other things. People should take classes because they can and because they want to, or even because it might be fun, but not because someone out there keeps saying they simply can't be good enough until they do. That statement is just too easy to prove wrong for average people who paddle average conditions.

ACA instructor
I emailed the instructor linked above by Kayakmedic. Thanks for that link. I’ll see what comes out of it, Lincoln is 3 hours from me, and we just don’t ever go there for anything. Hopefully we can work something out.

I was thinking about this thread yesterd
With all the rain the rivers are up, and I had the chance to paddle a section of the Blackstone River that I usually only paddling in the spring. It’s a pretty section – a little quickwater, and lots of twists and turns. On many of these turns, the fast current on the outside edge terminated in a tree or other strainer. This one is typical:

Nothing big, but you can see the jet of current on the outside edge, and the big eddy on the inside. In most cases I just stuck to the inside edge. If the current spun me around that’s OK – eddy turn practice.

I agree with all the other advice – especially getting some formal training.

Swiftwater Rescue
You may not be ready for this now, but sometime in the future you might. I took a two day certification course in Swiftwater Rescue. You spend most of the time swimming or wading and practicing rescues, but you do it in whitewater under the watch of some pretty experienced folk. It may or may not help with reading water, but it will improve your skills, especially the skills you need for when things didn’t go quite right. It was quite a bit of fun.