Most new year's resolutions have a penitent tone: drink less, lose weight, work harder. At C&K, we're interested in the positive: go paddling more, and have a better time doing it. You'll find our list to be both inspirational and useful (see number 10, How to Start a One-match Fire in the Rain.) We had trouble containing ourselves to this page though. Check out the December 2007 C&K – there are additional resolutions spread throughout the issue.
1. Learn to Roll
You're always safer in your boat.
2. Go for a Night Paddle
Your tried and true local waterway is a whole new place at night. The navigational challenge will add spice to the experience, and you'll be surprised at the amount of wildlife out after the sun has set. For a stellar backdrop, plan a trip during the Perseids meteor shower in early August.
3. Paddle during every month of the year
Snowbound in January? check out one of our favorite winter escapes.
4. Enough with the tuna mac
Sure, it's tasty and filling, but three nights out of seven? Do your trip-mates a favor and learn a new recipe. Here's an easy one.
Chicken Rice Almandine for three (or two after a big portage)
- 4 cups water
- 1 6-oz can chicken
- 4 cups instant rice
- 1 package sliced almonds (2 3/4 oz)
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 2 tsp chopped dried onion
- A dash each of onion salt and celery salt
Place chicken and water in pot and bring to boil, then add everything else and boil again. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with fork, serve. Accept compliments modestly.
5. Get in Shape
It's no secret: paddling power and endurance (and popping fewer Advil) stem from strong core muscles. We asked four-time Olympic kayak medalist Greg Barton how he keeps his six-pack firing on all cylinders. "I do eight different stomach-crunch exercises in a row a few times per week," says Barton, who won the Mayor's Cup race around Manhattan last year at AGETK. "I do each one for a minute, so the whole routine takes eight minutes. [Most mortals only do 30 seconds of each, so the routine only takes four minutes—Eds.] I include it as part of a general strength-training program that also includes pull-ups, push-ups, and bench press.
(1) Lay flat on the floor with your legs slightly bent, crunch your stomach to 30 degrees. Repeat for 60 seconds.
(2) Continue crunching, now lifting your knees to your chest and touching elbows to knees with each rep.
(3) Lift your legs in the air so your body forms an "L" and point your hands forward palms-down off the ground. Resume crunching.
(4) Put your hands behind your head and keep your legs in the air. Bring legs up to meet your elbows with every crunch.
(5) Now bend your knees and continue crunching in a bicycle motion—twisting so you bring the opposite knee to your elbow with each crunch.
(6) Lay on your back with one foot flat on the floor close to your buttocks. Cross the other leg on your knee. Twist while crunching so your elbow touches the crossing knee.
(7) Repeat with your other leg up.
(8) Back to the "L" position with hands extended, and flutter kick while you crunch, touching your toes with the opposite hand each time.
6. Take Mom Floating
For the past six years, we've done a Mother's Day float down the gentle Pumphouse section of the Colorado River. Class v Gore Canyon is just upstream, and every year the temptation of a guy's day out is strong. But it's never really a contest–today is all about thanking the person responsible for our strong connection to the sport's lifeblood. After all, before coming into this world, each of us spent nine months encased in water.
Last year 10 different mothers participated in the gathering. My mom happily joined in, complete with her straw sun hat, ancient flip-flops, and one-piece turquoise swimsuit. My wife came too, simply to enjoy her kids enjoying the outdoors. Be forewarned: While bringing both your mom and wife along creates a twofer as far as fulfilling your maternal resolution, it also creates some mixed currents. "You're not feeding them those snacks before lunch, are you?" my mom would ask, drawing a scowl from my wife. "They don't really need those lifejackets on this flat part, do they?" (Yes, Mom, they do.)
Still, my mom couldn't have been happier. She watched her granddaughters swim, jump off cliffs, catch fish, frolic in hot springs and–when 4-year-old Casey climbed onto my lap to take the oars–Mom snapped the photo that became our family Christmas card.
If giving your mom such a gift isn't enough incentive, consider this: family outings encourage young girls to grow up into paddling women, which we all can agree is a good thing. Mother's day is coming up May 11. Mark your calendars now.
7. Improve your Karma
Pick up hitchhikers wearing PFDs.
8. Work Less, Paddle More
Kayak instructors and raft guides literally paddle for a living, but if pampering tourists isn't your bag, don't give up — many "real-world" pursuits allow for plenty of time on the water. See our regular Guidance Counselor department.
If you haven't noticed, 2008 is an election year. If some suit-and-tie (or dress-and-scarf) in the statehouse or the White House is going to make decisions about important issues like river access, water rights, conservation, and land preservation, wouldn't you rather it be your suit, the one you voted into office? Paddlers should consider the issues that affect them, and then ask questions and do some research. The League of Conservation Voters (lcv.org) is a great place to start.
10. Learn to Start a One-match Fire in the Rain
It's been raining for a week. A penetrating chill invades everything, including your spirit. What you need is a good hot fire—but without a stick of dry wood for miles around, what's a sodden backcountry boater to do?
(1) Locate a dead, downed tree and saw off a wrist-thick limb. Touch the cut end to your cheek–the center should feel dry. The cut should smell like clean, fresh sawdust.
(2) Saw the limb into foot-long sections, then split the pieces. Whittle wafer-thin shavings from your dry splittings.
(3) Set two 1-inch thick sticks about six inches apart on the ground. Place four kindling sticks one-half inch apart across the sticks, creating a dry, well-ventilated platform for your fire–the raised fire base will produce a powerful draft that encourages a bright, smoke-free flame.
(4) Now stack an inch-thick layer of shavings on this platform, allowing space between them for air flow.
(5) Set a half-inch thick support stick across the fire base at each end. Place fine-split kindling across this "bridge." Sticks must not touch one another or compress the tinder.
(6) Light the tinder from below. Hand-feed shavings into the developing flame. Don't add kindling until you have a reliable blaze!
(7) Bask in the warmth of your superior survival skills.
11. Paddle with a Legend
Want to get future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre to tune up your passing game? Forget about it—you'd be lucky to get his second cousin to toss you a Nerf ball. But arranging a lesson from the legends of paddling is a snap.
Is whitewater your gig? Three-time world freestyle champ Eric Jackson teaches clinics all over North America, including the renowned Ottawa River. Whether you choose a weekend class or a five-day clinic, EJ personally guarantees "more playboating than your body can handle" ($449-$919, wildernesstours.com).
Canoe tripping more your style? Spend five days honing your paddling and woodcraft with single-blade swami Cliff Jacobson at Camp DuNord on the edge of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area ($1,295, cliff-jacobson.com).
Does ocean paddling float your boat? Take a lesson from Nigel Foster, pioneering expedition paddler, boat designer, and author of five books on paddling technique. The Seattle-based Brit teaches in Washington's San Juan Islands and all over the world ($TK, nigelkayaks.com).
12. Learn to roll
See Resolution #1. Because when you swim, you become a liability to your group.
13. Take an Expedition Long Enough to Grow a Beard
(or hair on your legs).
14. Take a Rescue Course
In July, Nantahala Outdoor Center kayak instructor Jon Clark taught an "Advanced Creek Week" course culminating with a run on North Carolina's Cheoah River. After boofing God's Dam, the class proceeded downstream as instructed, but then Clark saw a paddle blade sticking out of a pourover–it was one of his students pinned by a log. "I eddied out, pulled in closer to let him know I was there and then gave him the bow of my boat," says Clark. "Making that initial contact was the make-or-break point of the rescue–it bought us time to figure out what was happening.
"I climbed out into the backwash and pulled myself up to his boat, clipping my kayak into my PFD's tether so I could access the rope and first aid kit inside my boat. Then I got him up high enough so we could communicate about what part of his body was pinned. I reached in as far as I could and felt a stump sticking into his cockpit and pinning in his leg.
"We devised a plan to unpin his leg by moving the boat up and down, even though it meant putting his head back under water. Finally he was able to free his legs.
"When I decided to put my body within reach of a 200-pound man in distress, I knew I was breaking some serious rules. My focus was on making sure he was breathing and that I wouldn't be carried down into a compromised position. If your instinct tells you something may be wrong, get out and help."
Think you'd be this calm in a similar situation? If you have any doubts, take a rescue course (rescue3.com). And while you're at it, take a wilderness first aid course (nols.edu/wmi).
15. Recycle Your Old Gear
Your '80s-era Day-Glo dry-top or battered spray skirt may no longer serve your high-fashion sensibilities, but they could help someone else fall in love with our sport. If you can't find a local pool session, paddling club, or summer camp worthy of your (still serviceable) castoffs, check out Gear for Good, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that shuttles surplus gear to children's outdoor programs, environmental researchers, and other charitable causes (gearforgood.org).
With contributions from: Kyle Dickman, Ryan Graff, Tim Farmer
16. Enjoy the Portage
Voyageurs, Native Americans and others have been using many of those northwoods trails for eons. Hoist that canoe, and enjoy connecting with canoeing's rich heritage. Don't forget your head net.
17. Do a First Descent … Even if it's Already in the Guidebook
First descents, like oil, are dwindling but still out there, even in America. Look for them in places where people don't kayak, like Arizona's Sonora Desert, where creekboaters Kyle McCutchen and Todd Gillman notched the first D of a rain-flooded Christopher Creek last year. Look for them where old schoolers say the riverbed is crap, like the newly re-discovered Bottom Box on Colorado's Animas. Better yet, forget about first descents. They're not all that. "I don't think running that waterfall got me laid even once," one kayaker confided in me recently about a 10-story drop. Instead, recreate the experience by foregoing beta, guidebooks, and locals to lead you—just don't ignore the difficulty grade. Start referring to your un-researched runs, like climbers do, as on-sighting. A good place to start: The Class IV Canyon run on Idaho's South Fork of the Payette. Just be sure you . . . oh wait, I wouldn't want to spoil it.
18.Splurge on Something You Can Feel Good About
This year, sleeping bag manufacturer Big Agnes urged their insulation supplier to develop a synthetic fill made of 100 percent recycled materials. They added a recycled nylon shell, stuff sack, draw strings, and corn-based plastic draw-tabs to make the Skinny Fish ($179.95, bigagnes.com ) a 99 percent recycled product. That remaining one percent? The zipper, which, to mate properly with another bag needs to be sturdier than recycled materials currently allow. After all, what's more ecological than sharing a bit of body heat with your spouse?
19. Improve your Karma II
Carpool. You'll pollute less and save fuel. And don't skimp on your share of gas money either.
20. Get a (Paddling) Date
We don't get many desperate pleas from ladies seeking paddling companions. That's because women, especially boater chicks, know everything. At least according to our resident advice maven, who was happy to share some tips with love-starved C&K readers. First, she says, follow the rules below. Then take a number–your chances of landing a paddling lass are still slim in this male-dominated sport. Give up? How about doing the rest of us (and yourself) a favor this year–and teach the outdoor-loving cutie in your life what boating is all about. Then refer to step one.
- —Shower at least once a week. With soap.
- —Get a physical address, preferably not with five other dudes. Your buddy's house where you park your van does not count.
- —Try to have a conversation with her that doesn't include the words "boof" or "skeg."
- —Warm Bud and potato chips at the take out will not impress her. Cold Fat Tire and hummus with pita chips will.
- —Take your moldy booties and dry top out of your truck (at least the cab) before you pick her up for a date.
- —Don't bring your dog everywhere. Unless you have a puppy.
- —Swap the Tevas for closed toe shoes if you're going out for a dinner that costs more than $15 per plate.
- —On occasion, take her out for a dinner that costs more $15 per plate. Or better yet, cook one yourself.
- —Bring hand-picked flowers, not the grocery-store variety.
- —Don't drive around town with boats on your car if you're not actually going to the river or ocean. It makes you look like a poser.
- —Don't make her drive shuttle. Or, worse, utter the words "shuttle bunny."
21. Improve Your Karma III
Remove one piece of trash from the water every time you go paddling. It will make a difference.
22. Pimp Your Ride
Deck-mounted painters are fine for tie-downs, but they can cause a capsize when lining rapids because they exert their pull too far above your canoe's center of balance. The safest angle of pull is a few inches above the waterline. Here's a quick and easy way to install a watertight lining hole in your Royalex boat.
You'll need: an electric drill and assortment of bits, Dremel tool or coarse rat-tail file, foot-long piece of half-inch diameter PVC pipe, instant epoxy, scissors, paper, pencil hacksaw, sandpaper.
(1) Make a paper pattern by taping a sheet of paper to your canoe and marking a spot on one side. (2) Remove the template and fold it in half. Punch a hole through the spot where you've marked the lining hole. Then, tape the template back on the canoe to make a consistent match on both sides. (3) Drill a one-eighth-inch diameter hole through the canoe at each mark. Then widen the holes with a larger bit and then a Dremel tool or rat-tail file until its large enough to accept the PVC pipe. Work slowly and try the fit of the pipe frequently. (4) When the pipe just fits, insert it through the hole. Then trim and sand the pipe so that the ends are perfectly flush with the hull of your canoe. (5) Epoxy the pipe into the hull. Later, chamfer the insides with a pipe reamer or Dremel tool. (6) Attach your painter, and enjoy vastly improved boat control while lining through the burly stuff.
23. Stop Hiding your Car Keys in the Usual Spots
Who among us hasn't just dropped our keys under the floor mat, stuffed them into the bar end of our Thule rack, or set them on top of the tire when going for a paddle? Guess what? Thieves know all about those so-called hiding places, as Robert Peerson learned the hard way last summer. His rig was stolen at the Green put-in and found in South Carolina a couple of days later. Word is the thieves did some sweet burn outs with his Subaru before taking off, filled up some gas with Peerson's credit card and made some free calls on his cell phone. His car was returned with a couple of new scratches, no roof rack, floor mats, or owner's manual. Leave your keys inside your locked car, and carry a spare on a lanyard around your neck. If you make it back, so will your key.
24. Go paddling when it's cold.
Go when it's raining.
Go when it's snowing.