Sunday, May 13, 2012

River Kayak IDW/ICE -- done!

Have Kayaks, Will Travel: whitewater edition.

The first kayak class we took was offered by the Chicago Whitewater Association (CWA) at our local YMCA. A group of dedicated paddlers taught us to roll and paddle in the pool and on local rivers. But we soon discovered sea kayaking, and nearly all of our paddling time and effort was focused on longer boats and larger bodies of water. We still assisted at the pool class we previously took, and we eventually took over as lead instructors. But our hearts belonged to open water. And so did our certifications.

Then Geneva Kayak Center moved to the Marge Cline Whitewater Course in Yorkville, IL, and our interest in river paddling was rekindled. We spent considerable time playing on the quarter-mile course, took an Instructor Development Workshop with Kent Ford, traveled to Wisconsin to paddle rivers with the other staff at Geneva Kayak Center, and finally enrolled in an IDW/ICE (Instructor Development Workshop/ Instructor Certification Exam) with Instructor Trainer Educator (ITE) David Su and Instructor Trainer (IT) candidate Scott Fairty this past week.

Scott Fairty (left) and David Su (right) conferring before the start of our IDW/ICE.
We expected the process to be intense. The combination of training and assessing is meant to be challenging, both mentally and physically. And it was.

The IDW began with a trip on the Vermillion River in Illinois. Here, instructor candidate Jim Tibensky leads a session on ferrying.
David Su scouts Wildcat, the much loved drop on the Vermillion...
...and then runs it.
During an IDW/ICE, candidates are typically required to demonstrate paddling and rescue skills, effective coaching techniques, and knowledge about the type of paddling in which they are seeking certification.
Alec conducts a spontaneous parking lot forward stroke lesson.
David Su and Greg Anderson demonstrate a method for emphasizing torso rotation and shoulder protection during a sweep stroke.
They also benefit from demonstrations by the ITE and/or IT about how to teach various skills.

Sharon plays the part of a student as David demonstrates wet exit instruction.
Different craft, different paddle, but many of the same techniques: We worked on canoe skills, too.
Then we got an inch of rain in a 24-hour period and the Vermillion, which had been running at 1,100 CFS swelled to 11,000 CFS. When it dropped back to a healthy 5,500 CFS, we took the opportunity to run it again, this time with pushier water and some more challenging features.

Greg surfs the top wave near the put-in.

Sharon runs Wildcat on river left at the higher level.

On flatter sections between features, David introduced us to an activity he uses in the pool: the "air loop"--a flip over another paddler's boat.

It's a's a, it's a kayak in the air.
We were also able to paddle into Matthiessen State Park, past bluffs and beneath a waterfall. It hardly seemed like Illinois.

Alec paddles past caves in Matthiessen State Park.
We were fortunate to go through this process with several friends and paddling partners who supported one another and, in the process, grew closer. The experience tends to solidify bonds between instructor candidates, regardless of whether or not they knew each other beforehand, and that was certainly the case here. 

Anne Margaret, one of our fellow candidates, now a fellow instructor.

Paul Redzymski, another sea kayak coach now going through training in river kayaking, who participated in the IDW and plans to take the ICE at a later date.
In some ways, an IDW/ICE replicates what works best in a class: a mix of instruction, exploration, and experience paddling in varied conditions. And now that we're certified in river kayaking, we look forward to bringing all of this to our students. 

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