Learning To Kayak On The Snake River.. In Hells Canyon… What Could Go Wrong?

Last campsite.

Last campsite.

Learning To Kayak On The Snake River.. In Hells Canyon... What Could Go Wrong? Day #4

Day #4 was the first of three days that we would spend rafting.  After hitting our first class IV only a short distance from camp, I hopped into the kayak and tried to learn as much as possible before the next rapid. The Tributary Tomcat Solo Inflatable Kayak from AIRE  was perfect to learn on. It's lightweight, fast and easy to maneuver.

Some of the tips were -
Stay back from the other rafts when paddling through a rapid.
Hit the rapid straight on and paddle paddle paddle.

You'll be fine.

It's likely there were a few more but at the moment only these two stuck with me.

After a few small rapids, I was pretty confident, for a beginner I was doing well.

Went down the rapids in the right direction check!
Paddle still in hand check!
Group still in sight check!

This would not be the case a few moments later. Sitting on the kayak at water level as opposed to sitting on the raft, I was unable to see the water ahead. The other boats would let me know what was coming and what to expect. So far the rapids I had paddled through were exciting and fun. Nothing I couldn't have floated down in just my life vest until now. As the other boats started the rapid I could see them dip down, then climb up and over the giant tongue. Again I'm at water level and it looks huge. Paddle paddle paddle, dipped down, stayed straight, hit the upward curve of the tongue, a huge wall of water in front of me and nothing else.

I found out later one of the guides had attempted to wave me around, but my eyes were focused one thing. My mind was focused on not dying. I hit the rapid straight on.

Paddle, paddle, paddle, forward I went into what seemed like a vertical position, for a moment looking at the sky then rolling to my left. Under the rapid I go. I look up and the sky is now darker and filled with bubbles. I reach for it, but it's too far. I remember using my arms to swim up but immediately being struck with fear, knowing as long as it's on I'm ok, My life jacket starts moving up my torso. I grab on at my shoulders and start using my legs. I want to breath but remind myself to stay calm and tip 3 comes to mind DO NOT try to breathe underwater. I think I blanked this one out as I was hoping if I followed steps one and two, three would not occur. It may sound silly but at the moment when breathing is the ONLY thing you want and need to do it helps keep you calm. Kick, kick, kick, my head reaches the surface to only be swept back under.

The fear level at max while still staying calm I make it to the surface. I see my kayak. It's a few yards away. I see the rest of my group ahead. Hoping they had seen me and would rescue if needed, I make my way to my kayak.I reach it, but it's upside down. I take a few moments to catch my breath. I've run out of tips.

No idea how to flip it over and not knowing which rapids are next, I lock eyes with the others who have started padding to meet me. I attempt to flip the kayak over, hoping to rescue myself but end up pushing myself under only to surface and see the kayak still upside down. The other raft is closer now, but I don't let go of the kayak until Jeff, my fellow Hell Hike and Raft crew mate has me by my life vest. Just as he's about to pull me out I realise... my pants are around my knees. I tell him to hold on, then thinking I'd rather not die over showing my ass I tell him to pull!.

Thanks to Jeff's helmet mounted GoPro it's all caught on video. So far I've only seen the screen shot below but I fear it'll show itself sooner or later.


How to Get Back into a Kayak from Mild to Wild Rafting on Vimeo.

8-year-old Charlie demonstrates how to get yourself back into an inflatable kayak after falling out. For more information on river kayaking, visit http://Mild2WildRafting.com.

1) Orient yourself in the river in relation to your boat and paddle.

2) Swim aggressively towards the kayak.

3) Place paddle length wise in boat.

4) Position yourself at the middle of the boat

5) Raise your legs high in the water, trying to position your body as parallel to the surface as possible. When you use your arms to pull yourself into the boat, you want to minimize the amount of direct downward pressure on the boat.

6) Pull the boat under you as you kick your legs. Reaching across to the holes in the floor or the holds for thwart can be helpful as you pull the board towards you.

7) Sit up and smile! Your back in your boat and all cooled off!

Learning To Kayak On The Snake River.. In Hells Canyon... What Could Go Wrong?