The water glistens in the late afternoon sun. Across the way, kids frolic in it ankle-deep, while father down fishermen dot the rocky shore of the stream and huddling below the bike bridge kayakers in PFDs and bike helmets lay out a rainbow of kayaks at the edge of the beach. Anticipation, elation and anxiety churn in each one like the river before them. Looking out over the quiet scene their thoughts of doubts and hesitation are instantaneously interrupted by the booming voice of Dan Crandall.
"Are you ready to paddle tonight? We gotta about a week left. I want to hear something out of you otherwise we're just going to give up...Go home. Watch TV. Eat popcorn. Peppermint Patties. Drink milkshakes. All that good stuff you want to do, that you can do the day after the race."
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips have been conducting intensive kayak workouts with racers for the past several weeks building up to Eppie’s Great Race next week. Known as “The World’s Oldest Triathlon” the race is one of the largest paddling event in the United States. Founded in 1974, the race features a 5.82-mile run, a 12.5-mile bike and a 6.35-mile paddle held along the scenic American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova and Sacramento. That 6.35 miles down the American River with all its ripples and one rapid requiring whitewater skills presents the most challenging and exciting part of the annual race. Participants are expected to transfer from bicycle to boat at the Jim Jones Bridge for the final leg of the race. While most of them come with running and biking skills many of them have never paddled the river.
"Kayaks steer from the back," Crandall tells the group in some beach instruction, "You have to learn to speak this boat's language. It's a combination of edging correctly so the kayak knows what you're after and following your stroke through behind you, that matters."
Current Adventure's sessions have given instruction on paddling technique, river reading and turning troublesome San Juan Rapids into a speed bump. However, this year the rapid has offered many challenges for the new paddlers.
"Lean forward and smile, " said Crandall, " Show the river you are not afraid and keep a paddle in the water."
There are three ways to pass through San Juan Rapids. Being off to the right provides the best waves, in the middle for a fun drop and extended bubble wave or stay to the far left and avoid the rapid only to feel it's powerful eddy effect. Underneath the rapid, the river flows back together smashing into the cliff creating a circular boil, before slowing down to gentle speed. The practicing racers are encouraged to run the rapid a couple of times to familiarize themselves with its nature.
Some paddlers have used these sessions to update their skills and get in a practice run for the event, while others are kayaking for the first time. The instructors help each paddler with paddling fundamentals that will be handy come race day.
"You gotta stay in the current all the way till the outside of that corner." Crandall, calls out as the kayakers raft up together, So just think about that tonight. Start being very aware of the lines on the river. Use landmarks look ahead. Every time you come around a corner, set a new course to the next corner, don't just be staring at the bow or the deck of your boat. Looking ahead is what makes you faster and keeps you in better lines."
At the end, of course, tired paddlers pull their kayaks across the finish lines with an understanding of the river and what is hand for this next weekend's great race.
Current Adventure Kayak School and Trips
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
USPS: Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
owner Dan Crandall firstname.lastname@example.org