What was it about watching the participants of the Mulberry Fork Race that helped reinforce TeamERA’s commitment to finding parallels between slalom and whitewater? Mainly watching an enthusiastic group of race competitors–in canoes, kayaks, sit-on-tops…veteran slalom boaters and laid back whitewater enthusiasts, execute their course through a well-laid course of gates that for us is analagous to the thought process behind running a well-planned path through a rapid.
Whether the laid back Mulberry Fork Race or the Olympics…success with a gates course means cleanly passing through 18-25 gates. The two poles that make up each gate are placed 3-1/2 feet apart. The goal is to run through each of the gates clean (without touching them). To do so successfully is influenced by using some advanced planning: thinking about that particular gate before arriving there (two to three gates in advance); finding pieces of water that will help make the move; timing strokes and using the right edge. When we try and explain the thought process for running a set of rapids successfully our presentation is all about presetting boat angles (whether coming through a big water wave train or firing off a boof), using the water/features on the river to make the move, and putting your boat in the right place (aka, in a place where there will be no touching through the gate).
You would think that being given 3-1/2 feet of space to maneuver through would be easy, but often it is not. For less-experienced or rusty slalom boaters, cleanly running gates on even a Class II run like the Mulberry Fork can be a challenge; the same is true for a whitewater boater through a set of even Class II rapids. Whether it is a set of gates or the heart of a rapid–either one will show whether the boater is on line or not.
Parallels? Over and above the techniques behind the two disciplines, how about a love for carnage?!? There is nothing that holds the attention of a paddling audience better than carnage.