Reflections on my Moderate White Water Skills Course with Paddle 365

What’s the Paddle365 moderate white water course all about?

Paddle 365‘s (run by Jamie Greenhalgh) moderate white water skills booster course is focussed on helping people build the skills and confidence they need in order to become strong and adaptable grade 3 whitewater kayakers.

They vary in length depending on when they are held. I joined for 3 days of a 4 day course. You paddle grade 3 water and use the different opportunities the river provides to practice a range of techniques. Jamie is very happy to tailor the course to your individual needs.

Why did I decide to do this course and pick Paddle365?

I’m working towards my White Water Leader qualification so getting more time on moderate water is super helpful. To help with my learnings from my white water leader training (see my reflections on that course), an intense 3 days of paddling where I’m purely focussed on skills was perfect. Having not paddled a huge amount because of Covid, my paddling felt a bit clumsy so the moderate rather than advanced option seemed like the best course for me. Although I should be aiming to be improving my skills at the upper end of grade 3 and pushing in to grade 4 water so I have plans to do his advance course next. My confidence had progressed so much, so I’m playing the careful game of pushing it that bit further without damaging it in any way.

Why Paddle365? I didn’t know Jamie personally but I had seen some recent articles he had published with Chris Brain and he came recommended. He seemed to be very much focussed on skills progression rather than just see how hard you can paddle, which is definitely more suited to me. So I decided to give it ago.

How did the course go?

Day 1 we paddled the Wharfe in North Yorkshire. We met up and did the usual get to know you stuff, before running shuttle and heading on the water. We worked on a wide range of things including ferry gliding and being able to hold your angle, boat based scouting of features, boofing, surfing and selecting a line for a feature. I really liked how Jamie used games to bring the skills to life in a more interesting way. It got you working, even on the flat sections. It helped me see how you could use flatter sections in a more creative way to do skills based development.

Day 2 we paddled the Kent in the Lake District. This took a similar approach, including re-running features and games/challenges like seeing who could get to the bottom of a set of ledges with the least amount of water in their boats (paddling with decks of). Clearly I failed the attempt on the right! It was good fun and helped make the section interesting.

Day 3 we paddled the Duddon in the Lake District. I had been constantly asking questions about leading so Jamie got me to lead sections of this river. One of the things that stood out for me here is how you can bring fun to a river when leading rather than just getting people from A to B. I set the group the challenge to make as many eddies as possible in a particular section. We did more here on crossing the flow too using waves. At the end of the Duddon is a feature that is grade 4 on paper but probably more like grade 3. I royally f**ked this one up and ended up swimming. I haven’t swum in a while and I don’t even know why I pulled my deck, I shouldn’t have. But I did. I was soooo pissed off with myself as I was feeling so good up until this point. I had been paddling super well and confidently and then that happens. At the end of the day, we all f**k up on occasions, and that’s ok. But it didn’t stop me from being pissed off with myself. That wasn’t Jamie’s fault though haha.

What did I learn?

There was a lot of reinforcing skills on this particular course as I’d paddled two of the three rivers before and had experienced that kind of water. As well as building on existing skills and adding new ones to the list too. The key learnings for me were:

  • Boofing – this is one of those mysterious things that I had always ‘tried’ to do but never successfully. We broke boofing down and practiced it by trying to mount the river bank and then boofing on rocks as we paddled down river. After always calling people who do that on rocks show offs, I found myself doing it and really enjoyed it. Although my brand new Ripper probably didn’t so much. Sorry to anyone I ever insulated for doing that, I will be joining you from now on!
  • Cutting the corners isn’t always a good thing – when I’m worried about making a line I tend to take what feels like the ‘safest’ route but actually that may not be the best line. At Coniston Falls for example I was trying to keep as close to the bank as possible but actually the way the flow was moving it impacted my momentum and was actually more likely to push me where I didn’t want to go. By moving further river right (closer to the gap I was trying to avoid!) I actually hit a better line. I had an issue with this recently at Town Falls too on the Dee. I was so focussed on making an eddy, I cut the corner of a drop and ended up in a hole…
  • I can make most eddies that I want in low/moderate levels but is still get caught out on must make eddies above bigger features – I loved paddling the Kent. It was so empowering at that level because I could get anywhere I wanted and felt totally in control. My confidence seems to take a hit though when I have a must make eddy above a bigger feature and I seem to muck up making that eddy. I did it on the Duddon which led to my swim and on Town Falls after a roll in the hole as mentioned above.
  • Bringing fun to leading – leading isn’t just about getting people from A to B, it’s about making sure people enjoy it plus are using their skills to the max. I learnt some great games to help with that!
  • Relax more when leading – it doesn’t need to feel as formal as I was making it.
  • My paddling is ok – I went in to this thinking my paddling was really clumsy but actually I realised I’m in a much better place than I thought I was (still loads to do though obviously!). There are still things that are holding me back when it comes to my confidence. But I built a much stronger belief that I deserve to be working towards my white water leader qualification. I would never had before said I’d be happy to lead people down the Kent but now I wouldn’t twice about it at lower levels.
  • I am now an independent paddler – these 3 days plus the paddling I had done the previous week helped show myself that I am now an independent paddler. And that’s a huge confidence boost. Aside from that one little incident (which I’m trying to forget about) I now feel like I can look after myself and I’m not a liability to others in grade 3 water which is so empowering. Being able to do these kind of courses has helped me prove it to myself. Even writing this learning down is making me smile!

Would I recommend the course?

Yes, I would definitely recommend this course and Paddle365. Aside from taking a pretty cool picture which now forms the main header picture of this website, Jamie is very skills focussed and really helps you think about how you would run a river, teaching you to be independent and be able to do things for yourself.

Jamie has a very relaxed style which works great for me as I’m probably less like that so I can learn a lot from that way of leading and managing groups.

If you want to find out more about Paddle365 here’s their website and their Facebook page.

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