Scouting rapids is an important skill for a kayaker to have, effectively scouting rapids can mean the difference between having an enjoyable paddle with your mates and an epic.
Make sure you use suitable footwear as walking around on slippery river banks can be a serious business. We know that most accidents happen 3 metres from the waters edge. i.e. slipping on the bank and ending up in the river.
Keep your helmet and buoyancy aid on in case you fall in the river.
Take your throw bag and paddle with you, this may save you valuable time and could be useful if somebody does fall in.
When do you get out to have a look?
One of the basic principles of Safe River running is the line of sight principle. This is where you can see the river ahead of you.
Visibility is usually limited by bends and drops. If you can.t see ahead you must get out and have a look. You might know that there aren.t any grade six rapids on the river, because the guide book says that the hardest rapid is only grade three, but you can.t be sure there isn.t a fallen tree across the river.
Early warning signs are:- Noise, river gets louder.
Spray usually means big drops
Horizon drops; you can no long see the bottom of trees or the river ahead
If you.re unsure, an early exit is better than later one.
When looking at a rapid
Walk down the rapid to the bottom first to make sure there is nothing obviously impossible, This could save a lot of wasted time. Choose your line from the bottom of the rapid to the top picking markers, which could be on the bank or in the river. Water features in the rapid are the best; they will be much easier see once paddling down the rapid in your boat. Scouting at river level makes this much easier.
If you can scout from both banks it will give you a clearer picture of the rapid and enable you to choose the best line.
The line you choose needs to focus on the cleanest line. You need to be positive about the route and choose identifiable water features as your markers.
If you focus on negative markers you can be sure to end up on that rock or in that stopper.
Ask yourself a few questions when scouting
Can I make the line? What is the percentage chance of me get the line? The harder the rapid the higher the percentage needs to be as the consequences of a swim will become more serious.
What.s going to happen if I blow it?
Which hole, boulder or under cut could get me?
Where is the best place to put people if some one has a swim?
Do I need anybody to give bank support with a throw bag and where is the best place on the bank for that person?
Can I communicate from the bottom of the rapid to the top? If not, how.
When not to run the rapid
If you can.t see it from your boat or inspect it don.t run it.
If your mates are telling you, .you will be alright.. Be cautious, make your own decision. Don.t be lead by peer pressure
It is often down to a gut feeling when you approach the rapid for the first time.
Trust this feeling. The rapid will always be there, you can run it when you become a better paddler or at a time when it just feels right.