By Ben Warf
The Green Race will go off in just over 24 hours, which brings up an important question: What to wear to the big dance? Here are a few essential items for a safe and enjoyable day on the Green Narrows, or any serious stretch of whitewater.
Kayak: No one kayak is best for the Narrows, though that hasn’t stopped racers and designers from striving to create the perfect Green Race boat. This section of river has single-handedly influenced modern long-boat technology, including such iconic names as the Green Boat, Stinger and Karma Unlimited. The Narrows sees regular descents in play boats, and has even been run in a sit-on-top kayak and in a sea kayak. Most paddlers settle for a boat somewhere between these two extremes. I paddle the Jackson Kayak Karma ($1199.00 coloradokayak.com) and I love it, but any creek boat will produce fun and successful results for boaters with the the skills to race the Green.
PFD: The Astral Green Jacket ($239.95 nrs.com) is my preferred and recommended choice. First, the name hints at the jacket’s pedigree. Naming convention aside, the Green Jacket is the most comfortable and effective PFD I have encountered. I have used the rescue features many times and I trust the Green Jacket. It is comfortable, versatile, utilitarian and seems to have all the right things in all the right places. Also, the Green Jacket has lots of storage for the necessary safety and rescue equipment.
Paddle: Whatever paddle you use and feel comfortable with will be sufficient for the Narrows. I use the Werner Powerhouse ($249.95 coloradokayak.com). As its name implies, the Powerhouse is, well, a powerhouse. The large blade area of the Powerhouse is paramount with those must-make moves. The durability and construction of this paddle comes into play on every trip down the Narrows as it is not necessarily a gear-friendly run. With the exception of the 200-percent flow days, rock contact is generally a regular occurrence on the Narrows. The Powerhouse is strong ,and it will take one hell of a beating without any signs of quitting.
Protection: I prefer and use Shred Ready helmets when I paddle the Narrows. I personally use helmets from the standard line, like this standard full face ($120.00 shredready.com). The fit, comfort and adjustability of Shred Ready helmets are a winning combination for everyday use. I also feel very protected in these helmets, and I literally trust my life to them.
Next, if you’re going to charge the Green’s narrow and technical lines, I will suggest you invest in a good pair of elbow pads. Think of it as preventative maintenance for your elbows. There are endless opportunities for elbow jacking as the Green Narrows flows through the maze of boulders and bedrock on its way downhill. This isn't to say you can't make it down the Narrows without elbow protection, but one quality elbow dink is all it takes to make you rethink that decision. I use Six Six One Elbow Pads ($30.00 kayakshed.com). The adequate protection and low cost make them perfect for the Narrows paddler.
Spray Skirt: I use and love the Immersion Research Lucky Charm ($179.00 immersionresearch.com). Gear failure on the Green can be the difference between an awesome day and one ending with some quality aches and pains, or worse. An implosion, say in Gorilla, will more than likely lead to a swim down the next two slides. (Hint: they are not deep and there are no fluffy bunnies under the water's surface) The implosion resistance of the lucky charm is just awesome. I have had some implosion prone situations with this skirt. In one instance, I could feel the water pressure all the way against the inside of my thighs. All the air in my cockpit "farted out" of the tunnel, but the skirt was still holding on firm as ever to the cockpit rim. Additionally this skirt keeps me extremely dry.
Safety and Rescue Gear: The Green is perhaps one of the most accessible rivers of its caliber. Coupled with the 300+ days the water is on, this can cause some paddlers to become complacent to the true dangers of the Narrows. Just as on any other Class V run, safety gear is the most important equipment to have on hand. Always have an adequate throw rope in an accessible location within your kayak or on your person. Even if it's just a quick lap before work or a race training lap, there is no reason to not have this simple piece of gear. It can save your friend's life. In addition to a throw rope, you should carry a basic pin kit. If you are good enough to paddle the Narrows, you should have one and know how to properly use it. Lastly, it is a good idea to have a small first aid kit on the river. Rocks hurt and they usually don't play nice when allowed to contact bare skin. Gorilla has a tendency to bite people and "Go Left and Die" tends to be an equal opportunity smash up. These V+ rapids obviously come with their increased probability for bodily harm, but every rapid on the Green Narrows has the potential to create some lacerations or injuries. Some closure strips and basic first aid supplies are all I generally take on these short, generally accessible runs.
Gear is a personal choice. This is the equipment I choose to paddle with, and it serves me well. When you venture on to the Green, or any Class V whitewater, its critical to have quality gear that you can trust. The Green Narrows is bread and butter southeast class V whitewater. I love paddling this section of river and hope to see you out there someday, albeit with all the necessary equipment for a safe and fun experience. So long, and see ya out there!