I’ve met kayakers who could not paddle for a year or even longer and then one day roll off the couch and do some of the hardest class V runs around. For most of us however, that is not the case. It’s been tough in California the past couple winters. We haven’t had much water and even our staple run, the SF American, has gone down to only one day a week releases. Then when we do get a little rain and everything runs people aren’t ready. A lot of folks choose not to go on their old favorites like Chamberlain Falls or E to P because they feel like they haven’t been paddling enough. Some other folks go anyway and some of them end up having a rough time instead of the enjoyable day on the river they were hoping for. Despite the scarcity of water, there are ways to keep yourself in paddling shape so you can be ready when the goods do run. Here are a few things that I do to help me stay in good paddling shape while there’s no water.
- Low water gorge laps on the South Fork. It can be a little boat abusive in a couple spots but most of the rapids provide fun lines that offer great practice at tight technical moves. The moves can be challenging but there is hardly any current so if you do run into trouble you don’t have to worry about being swept away on a long and unpleasant swim. As and added bonus, you’re likely to have the river to yourselves for the day. There is never a crowd on low water days.
- Touring and Sea Kayaking. Lake Tahoe is amazing in the winter on a calm day. It’s like paddling on a mirror and there is a good chance you’ll be the only one on the lake. This beautiful setting is a great place to work on your forward stroke and your paddling endurance. Paddling is paddling, and the strokes you take on the lake will benefit you when you get back on the river. If Tahoe is a little too far, lake Natoma and the Bay are also great spots to get a quick after work paddle in. You don’t have to do hours on end to get the benefits. A 30 to 60 minute trip around the shore once or twice a week will have you in great shape when the rivers do run again.
- Paddle Boarding. Any of the afore mentioned locations are great to paddle board as well. Paddle boarding provides excellent cross training and really forces you to develop core stability. That improved core strength will pay off huge when you get back on white water.
Don’t let yourself be caught unprepared the next time your favorite run comes in. Make a little time in your week to get out there and dip a paddle in the water. When that rain comes you will be glad you did.