Catch the Eddy

Eddy turns are the foundation for controlling the speed of your descent down the the river. In the quiet of the eddy, you can look at the rest of the rapid, rest, and line up for your next move or get out to portage. By paddling into the eddy at the correct angle with a bit of speed, and then tilting the boat up on edge, you'll remain right side up and feel secure.

The proper approach into an eddy gets you there, not a magic set of strokes. This requires setting your approach angle well in advance of the rock and its eddy. Take into account that the current usually bounces off rocks just before the eddy line. This changes the water direction and speed, pushing your bow away from the eddy. By watching the current as it hits the rock and is deflected, the eddy line becomes easier to see. Study the size and shape of the rock to anticipate the changing current.

\photo\ paddlers point of view approaching an eddy.

Position the boat slightly sideways to the current, keeping the momentum. Sometimes you will need to pause briefly before accelerating into the eddy. It will look like you are going to hit the rock.

Take whatever strokes are necessary to penetrate deep into the eddy. Sometimes a sweep on the downstream side is needed to compensate for the current deflected off the rock. Othertimes a sweep on the upstream side keeps the boat from turning early. Be sure to allow the bow of the boat to stick into the eddy before initiating a turn.

\illustration\ forces of the current help you turn into the eddy

Upon entering the eddy, tilt the boat in order to stay balanced. Start leaning into the turn when your feet cross the eddy line. Gradually flatten the boat as you turn upstream.

Summary:

Set your ANGLE of approach

Build, (or keep) momentum towards the eddy

Tilt your boat as you cross the eddy line

\illustration\parts of the eddy

Your approach path should land you high in the eddy, and deep, away from the eddy line. This will require an aggressive forward speed. If you finish your turn close to the eddy line, or lower in the eddy, where the eddy is less distinctly formed, you'll risk slipping out the bottom. This will make you feel out of control until you spin, and find another stopping place.

Floating Sideways

On occasion, you will position your boat sideways, at an angle to the rapid while running it. This will allow you to paddle forward to get to one side of the river, and backwards to get to the other. Downstream momentum will be lessened as you remain slightly sideways to the current and the river obstacles won't seem to come at you as quickly. You need to turn straight to avoid the instability of hitting a rock or ledge hole sideways.