Wall shots: a river feature created when downstream current runs directly into the downstream wall. Doing so creates a pillow alongside the wall, and a compression eddy line where the pillow and the downstream running current meet. There is nothing intuitive about paddling wall shots initially. But in Costa Rica you figure it out really fast!
The trick to running a wall shot is to paddle directly down into the wall, paddling either up on top of the pillow and riding the downstream current or angling slightly downstream to drive into the downstream current…all the while leaning into the wall.
The two most common mistakes made are leaning away from the wall and/or trying to cut out upstream of the wall in an avoidance maneuver. While leaning into the wall should be self-explanatory to any kayaker–it comes across as counter-intuitive when you are approaching a giant pillow mounding up on a wall! And sometimes all it takes to drop an edge is to try and take a stroke away from the wall. Cutting out to avoid a wall shot oft times gets you caught up in the tail water of the inside eddy which is moving downstream into the compression eddy line formed where the water falling off the pillow meets the water moving into the pillow. The best word to describe that is “squirrely.”
Wall shots are particularly indigenous to Costa Rica rivers because all the rivers here are in a constant state of change, whimsically alternating from one channel to the other, from a straight downstream course to an extreme 90-degree wall shot, etc…
Our Class III Costa Rica offers boaters ample opportunities to learn how to paddle wall shots. Just the lower Sarapiqui alone has six wall shots, as do the Savagre, Balsa, Pacuare and Pejibaye. Once mastered a common exclamation at the end of a paddling day is “I love wall shots!!”
It was only fitting that the last rapid for our final group of whitewater paddlers here in Costa Rica was a wall shot! And of course everyone charged into it with the confidence gained from a week’s worth of training!