Gila Wilderness Kayak Expedition documentary movie

I was asked to select a cast of 12 people who've never kayaked before, and teach them the skills they'd need to do a class III multi-day expedition whitewater kayak trip.  The plan is to take them thru the Gila Wilderness during the week of Mar. 12 - 18. However the snowpack is light there now, so we're looking at other options; either Big Bend or possibly the Rio Chama.

The producers noticed a shift in their lives after turning 50yrs old, that continually drew them to the outdoors, to learning new things, to continually challenge themselves mentally and physically, but with calculated risks.  Kayaking is not about taking risk, but more about problem solving, learning new skills - and some valuable life lessons - and conquering fear in a methodical and systematic progression.  In short, the producers wanted to document this learning process, as they knew many people in this age range could relate, and since many are also parents, these are messages that most parents would like their kids to learn - so we knew the project would have a broader appeal, transcending the sport of 'kayaking', or the location to be filmed.

In order to prepare for this event, we had to start our training in February (the day it was -10 degrees in ABQ), and included several days of class III whitewater training in late Feb & early March.  We knew the February weather would be uncooperative, especially for beginner kayakers, where flipping (in cold water) is part of the learning curve. 

We also knew the Gila wilderness, in mid-March, would have it's own challenges, but by the time we began - kayaking should not be one of them.  The training consisted of ~40hrs of instruction over ~5 weeks.  While some can learn class III in a matter of days, it was necessary to be over-prepared for this trip.

We just finished our last official day of training; thus far, we had 4hrs in the indoor, heated pool covering basic strokes and paddling concepts; 4 hrs in the pool working on the roll, another 4hrs in the pool doing a variation of 'indoor slalom', one day on the Rio Grande Bosque in ABQ (it was 31 degrees that day with a wind-chill of 18), one day on the Orilla Verde State Park (Class I-II; ~39 degrees and snowing), and one day on the Rio Grande Racecourse (Class III).

At this point, most have developed pretty good fundamental class III skills; namely - a good forward stroke. The rest is just a matter of spending time in the seat and making hard moves on easy water; in other words, make the class III move in a class II rapid, where there is only class II risk, or the class IV move in a class II or III rapid, etc.

It's natural in a class this large, to have some divergence in skills. Some are rolling already, others are not. All have made huge progress from where we began to where we are today, and while all may still have some skills to work on, I think all are capable of the trip(s) we have in mind. 

To effectively manage risk, it's first necessary to develop their skills; there's no substitute for competence on class III.  The boats themselves allow us to manage risk to another degree. We needed super-stable, beginner-friendly gear-hauling boats. The XP-9s and 10s fit the bill perfectly.  The right boats will give them some margin of error while their skills are still developing. The right boats will also allow us to carry additional gear, since raft-support is not an option.

It's been an interesting project, and there's much more to the developing story.  I'll keep everyone posted here, and on my blog at Facebook Fan-page


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Upcoming Kayak Instruction Classes

Currently there are no Intro to Kayaking clinics scheduled. Please see our Calendar of Events for upcoming Intro, Roll, Whitewater and Touring clinics, or Contact Us for a private lesson.
Currently there are no Kayak Roll clinics scheduled. Please see our Calendar of Events for upcoming Intro, Roll, Whitewater and Touring clinics, or Contact Us for a private lesson.
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(Level 3) Whitewater Kayaking Made Easy Saturday, September 22, 2018 - 9:00am - Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 5:00pm Pilar Pilar Yacht Club
Currently there are no Advanced Whitewater clinics scheduled. Please see our Calendar of Events for upcoming Intro, Roll, Whitewater and Touring clinics, or Contact Us for a private lesson.
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"Open House" Kayak & SUP Fun, Games and Practice Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 5:30pm - 7:30pm Bernalillo Sandia Lakes Recreation Area