Photo: Erik Urdahl

Photo: Erik Urdahl

Skills: Your Town Run

Most people don't realize they have incredible SUP river resources right down the street—most towns and cities have rivers in the Class II range running right through them. Discovering moving water and how to paddle down it safely doesn't have to be a big mystery. Here's a simple guide to accessing your "Town Run". —Dan Gavere

Contact the locals. Local paddling shops (SUP or kayak) are great resources. If you don't have a local shop, look online and/or ask around around to find a local paddling group. Most towns, event if it isn’t large, have some sort of paddling community. You need to know the rules, regulations, and access points. Ask questions. Paddling an unknown river with minimal knowledge is a sure way to get into trouble. Many town runs have parks and bike paths next to them so doing a "scouting mission" by foot or bike is the easiest way to see it first. If you don't want to use a set of cars, bikes also make great shuttle vehicles. Locations like Steamboat Springs, Colo., on the Yampa River, the Clark Fork of the Columbia in Missoula, Mont., and the Potomac below Great Falls in Washington, D.C., are great examples of town runs.

Use a leash. One of the most common questions in whitewater SUP is, 'How do I safely use one?' The first thing to note is that a leash should never be worn around the ankle or lower leg. This could create a potentially fatal situation should your leash snag on anything with you unable to reach it. However, using a leash properly—in conjunction with either a rescue vest with a quick-release system, or a waist belt with an easy-to-reach quick-release system—can be a safe and convenient option if you fall off your board.

Watch for hazards. Any moving water has potential hazards. Logs, weirs, low-head dams, rapids and debris should all be avoided. Local message boards can be excellent sources of information about hazards that may exist. One harder rapid or particular hazard on a town run doesn't mean you can't paddle it. Oftentimes the stigma of one hazard affects people's conception of it; most often the hazard can be easily portaged or even run using a "sneak" line (the route making a rapid easy). But most town runs are generally on the easy side, meaning just small, pool-drop rapids with lots of recovery time after.

Get better. Peel in and out of every eddy by carving on your downstream rail. Ferry across the river and back. Spin on your tail. Try surfing small waves. An easy town run is also an easy way to improve. Basic maneuvers need to be mastered in slow-moving water before tackling bigger rapids, so take your time and learn it the right way. Many of the same maneuvers and concepts will translate directly from kayaking to SUP. For instance, "LDS": lean down stream. This is an important term that describes the technique of leaning into a turn while entering or exiting an eddy, or really, attacking any river feature. Enjoy yourself. That's what town runs are for.

This originally ran in our Spring 2012 issue.

Look for our 2014 Beginner’s Guide on newsstands March 28.

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