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River Running Strategy

By Jon 'Spike' Green


Level 5 Coach Jon 'Spike' Green has put together some great tips on river running.


River Running Strategy

Decisions, decisions... There you are staring down the barrel of a gun that is the river, you can't make up your mind whether to commit to the rapid or not...

These top tips are aimed from the river guide all the way over to a group of mates having their first white water adventures together . good practice shows us that the decision making process is the same anyway!


Tip One

River Running Strategy

Try asking yourself this .primary question..

.Is it easy and are there lots of eddies?. If the answer is .yes., then there is no need to do anything except get on with it, until such time as the answer becomes .no.!

If the answer is .no., then what you are now seeing probably falls into one of these general categories.

1. Easy, but currently no eddies.
2. Hard, but with eddies.
3. No idea, can.t see any eddies.
4. Obviously hard, can.t see any eddies.

We are now left with 2 big questions. Who defines easy and hard?! What do we do once we have categorized the nature of the river below us?


Tip Two

River Running Strategy

Honestly appraise your team!

If you are working as a river guide (paid or not), then a large part of your job is to quickly identify the ability level of your group . one of the main reasons we usually run a sensible section as a warm-up. So, easy for some clients will be Gd. 3/4, for others it will be slow moving flat water. The main challenge for a river guide is to have sufficient experience to be able to make the right judgement call about your groups ability. This is why the BCU 5* is hard to get - you need a lot of mileage. For the guide the .primary question. is . .Is it easy (for my group) and are there plenty of eddies (that they can all make)?. Answer .yes., then life is easy. Answer .no. then you.ve got to earn your money!

If you are a recreational group of mates/peers, then it becomes a little harder. Ego.s/ peer pressure/ ignorance/ varied skill levels and many other factors can lead people to make rash decisions. But actually the .primary question. remains the same. .Is it easy (for us) and are there lots of eddies (that we could all make!).. The question as with the led group is especially aimed at the weakest member of the group. If you have group members that you don.t know, then until you know otherwise, the answer to the primary question is always .no.!

Before coming to a conclusive answer to the .primary question., don.t forget to try moving your position on the river to get a better view/ more information. Also don.t forget that you should have .line of sight. of the rapid you are committing to . one day there will be a tree in it! No .line of sight. = inspection.

It may be ok here, but what happens next?

Once you have an answer you now have to act upon it.

So as I.ve said if the answer is .yes., you can get on down the river. If the answer is .no., then .


Tip Three

River Running Strategy

You need to identify an appropriate river running strategy to apply to your situation . for example.

.Easy but currently no eddies.. If in doubt, get out and inspect. But in this scenario only one person needs to get out initially (to save time and reduce the irritation of getting in and out unnecessarily). Alternatively, a strong/bold/expendable paddler commits . working on the theory that they have the skill to avoid any dangers. They will then, if they survive, be in a better position to see if the way ahead is clear and signal the others to come on down/ inspect/ eddy hop/ portage/ etc. It is plain to see that this second option is riddled with danger . it is also plain to see that we all do it all the time!


River Running Strategy

.Hard, but with eddies.. If in doubt, get out and inspect. Again in this scenario only one person needs to get out initially (to save time, etc). Once they have a clearer idea of the nature of the river they can advise on the line, or advise to inspect. Alternatively, a strong/bold/expendable paddler commits . working on the theory that they have the skill to avoid any dangers. They will then, if they survive, be in a better position to see if the way ahead is clear and signal the others to come on down/ inspect/ eddy hop/ etc. It is plain to see that the second option is riddled with danger . it is also plain to see that we all do it all the time!


River Running Strategy

Hang on, those two categories of river were dealt with in a virtually identical way (hooray for .cut and paste!.)! . Good, that keeps things simpler!

.No idea, can.t see any eddies.. An easy one this, .line of sight. is lost. the wise will inspect!

.Obviously hard, can.t see any eddies.. Another easy one, it.s likely you.ve lost .line of sight.. inspect.



So, in conclusion you should try asking . .is it easy and are there lots of eddies?. What you should find is that your progress down the river will be smoother and quicker. You will spend less time utilising inappropriate strategies and hopefully find the whole process a little more fun!


River Running Strategy


River Running Strategy


River Running Strategy





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