Paddling Film Flops
Eddy’s got answers on Hollywood and kayak physics
Eddy, the beloved boating guru in Canoe & Kayak’s print magazine, has come to life on the website. This story featured in the June 2007 issue and was written by Frederick Reimers and Sam Moulton.
What is the worst Hollywood paddling movie of all time?
Not only is “Up the Creek” (1984) the worst paddling movie of all time, it might possibly be the worst movie period. As in ever made. It’s basically “Animal House” on the Deschutes River, in which two actors from that seminal flick (Otter and Flounder) compete in an intercollegiate raft race. Predictably, the lovable losers quickly run afoul of the evil cheating preppies, who use model airplanes to make other teams’ rafts explode in balls of flame. But thanks to the losers’ hyperintelligent dog, they somehow overcome all obstacles to win the race as well as, of course, the amorous affections of several coed teams. Cheap Trick does the title song. It all sounds awesome, I know, but sadly, it just isn’t. Trust me. Despite actual whitewater scenes and one gratuitously naked Playboy Playmate (Jeana Tomasina), the plot is so hackneyed and the rafting so cringe-inducing that it’s pretty much unwatchable. The movie’s only saving grace is the dialogue—“Are you ladies here for the raft race?”; “No, we’re here to get laid.”—which is why Eddy owns it on Beta, VHS, and DVD.
My buddy just bought a sea kayak and keeps bragging about the boat’s prismatic coefficient. What the hell is he talking about?
Sounds like he’s asking for a big ole knuckle sandwich—but since Eddy has yet to complete his anger management classes, here goes: A boat’s prismatic coefficient (Cp) is a measure of the hull’s “fineness”—or how sharp it is at the ends. Why does that matter? Because, along with a host of other factors, Cp affects boat speed. In general, a boat with finer ends has a lower Cp and is therefore more efficient at lower speeds, while a sea kayak with fuller ends has a higher Cp and tends to be more efficient at higher speeds. When poindexters like your pal toss the term around, they’re referring to the decimal rating of the hull’s shape. Sea kayaks generally have Cps in the 0.5 to 0.7 range, as opposed to barges, which have Cps close to 1. For comparison, the prismatic coefficient of the triangle on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover is, strangely, 11. But don’t worry too much about it. According to Nick Schade, owner and designer of Guillemot Kayaks, “For the average sea kayak, it doesn’t really matter that much. But if it excites you, more power to you.” Eddy is excited, all right. But not in a good way.
Is it true that voyageurs were only five and a half feet tall but carried 180-pound loads on portages?
Yes, and they also worked 14 hours a day for weeks on end, which is amazing when you consider the fact that most voyageurs were French. Because the up-to-40-foot-long canoes they paddled were so packed with furs, trade goods, and, apparently, baguettes, there wasn’t room for tall, lanky paddlers. So they recruited short stocky guys who could handle carrying two 90-pound bundles of beaver pelts—the standard cargo—on their back by means of a tumpline stretched across their head. According to Mary Graves, cultural resource specialist for Voyageur National Park, the powerful munchkins—she says they averaged between 5-5 and 5-7—would carry the load half a mile, then drop it and head back for another, moving across the portages in stages. She also says that the only breaks the burly mini-dudes took were to smoke their tobacco pipes and, to keep the mosquitoes at bay, they eschewed bathing. At least some things haven’t changed with the French.