Making slick moves in a rapid where there are serious consequences may be the hallmark of an accomplished moving water paddler. There are many things at play here from the head game to the onshore support, but most of all it’s skill and confidence that allow you to make those lines.
So how do we gain that skill and confidence without the often disastrous consequences of a fairly steep learning curve? Class 4 and 5 have the kind of consequence that you don’t want to learn by discovery. A great way to up the level of your paddling is to look for and challenge yourself (and paddling buddies) to the Fantasy Line.
The fantasy line is in any rapid. It is the impossible line that you make up from shore. You know it, you’ve done it dozens of times when portaging something nasty, but you just have to stop at the set and find the line through it- catch that tiny eddy there, surf the wash of that hole into that tongue, catch that micro eddy… you can’t help yourself. The fantasy line that you will run, however, does not have dire consequences as it is found in easy class 2 and 3 water.
Here’s how it works:
You find a fairly easy set that you are confident has little or no consequence (a swim or being upside down is of no concern) and set a course of the most impossible looking moves within it. Perhaps it’s a micro eddy to catch or a series of moves that look impossible. You try the moves over and over until you either make it or deem it in fact impossible.
What does it do for your paddling?
Practicing the fantasy line does several things. It builds confidence to try new moves that you would not try in a more challenging set. It gives you the chance to hone your skills by running a difficult line over and over with little to no consequence. It forces you to work on water reading skills and use the subtleties of water- all skills necessary in more challenging rapids.
Finally, the fantasy line is simply great fun. Pushing yourself and your friends on the river to try new moves is a wonderful way to step up to the next level in your paddling while having some fun. I have often said that we don’t become class 4 or 5 paddlers by practicing in that water, but by finding the challenging lines in easier rapids and refining our skills. That way, when we get to the big set we see the line and we have the confidence to make it- we have done that line many times in our fantasy line practice!
So get out there and make your fantasy a reality.