Frisky Ripples: Whitewater Standup Paddleboard clinic

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I introduced myself last month as a gal who enjoys outdoor activities (especially paddling), but without expert skills or “badassery”. When I think of women who DO possess those next level skills, I’d say these two women are great examples. Let me back up and give you a little history….

Brittany Parker and Natali Zollinger are the founders/owners of RVR 2 RVR, a two-woman team who teaches all things paddleboarding, in their home towns and touring to destinations like Bend. They’re professional river SUP paddlers and absolutely excel in their field. What’s additionally impressive is the humility with which they approach their sport and their enthusiasm to grow the paddling community in general. I met the duo last summer when I partnered and attended their whitewater SUP clinic at the Bend Whitewater Park. I’d had some experience with both whitewater downriver and SUP surf but was excited to hone my skills. It was a good experience. This year, fantastic.

We had a smaller group this year, with some attendees unable to make it last minute…sadly…their loss. The group that did make it was a varied and wonderful group of mostly women and one very dedicated guy from Reno. The RVR gals grouped us up at our neighbors Craft Brewing for a meet and greet and gifted us with a fabulous goodie bag valued at over $400! Little did we know that we’d be cliniced in how to use the three “TriggerPoint” pieces of equipment that I now consider a game changer for my overused and abused muscles.

In our group, we had the guy from Reno who was quite comfortable in whitewater—literally a Hala ambassador that hasn’t really done much river surfing and wanted to improve his skills in that area. We had a woman who is an ambassador for Starboard who teaches flatwater SUP and SUP Yoga but has just started “flirting” with whitewater this past year having taken the clinic last year as well. Another woman who has solid flatwater experience and some whitewater time on board (TOB) but no formal instruction. And most impressively, a woman who is comfortable on flatwater but had never paddleboarded on a river. Ever before. Can I say she ROCKED it?! For someone who does this stuff with total baby steps, I was thoroughly impressed by her confidence and ability to put herself in a challenging situation and move past her apprehensions. Finally, there was me. I’m a solid Class 2 paddleboarder. I’ve paddled basic, straightforward class 3’s. But it’s not something I’ve “stuck” and it gets my heart rate up for sure.

Everyone was energetic, positive and excited to learn. We spent the first morning breaking down the basics of flatwater paddlling…strokes, maneuvers and bracing…because if you aren’t solid on flatwater you’re probably not going to be comfortable on whitewater. We drilled knee drops and pivot turns. Over and over again. But these are the skills whitewater is made of. Similar concept to whitewater kayaking and rolls. Clearly you have to know how to roll, but if you master your basic paddling skills your chances of having to roll (or swim, when talking about SUP) are much less.

After the morning session and a MUCH needed lunch—I think we all burned about 1000 calories in the morning alone—we headed out to the whitewater park, where we talked about wave configurations, safety and ways to navigate including ferrying and peel outs. These are crucial maneuvers to know when dealing with whitewater. The progression was simple and comfortable. To wrap up day one, a couple of us who have run whitewater before took laps on the bottom wave of the park. I’m not going to lie…this was my favorite part. I enjoy river surfing, but running downriver is my jam. It felt good and was a confidence booster. A perfect way to jumpstart my season since the first time out on the easy section of the Crooked last month left me feeling a little out of practice.

Day two began much the same way… Trigger Point session on my now, screaming muscles!! What a workout. After more safety talk, and the wave-shaper Ryan literally changing the wave before our eyes (super cool) we began surfing. We all started on our knees and as we felt comfortable stood up. After a few laps some of us went farther up the bypass with more challenging wave features. I tried several boards and I both succeeded and also go my bootie handed to me on a platter. I was probably most excited and impressed by the “newbie” (woman who’d never paddled on a river) surfing the bottom wave on the bypass channel. That is AWESOME! This exemplifies my overall premise of Frisky Ripples and my approach to activities such as surfing, climbing, biking…whatever! It is just. Plain. FUN!! The wave she surfed is tiny. But to feel that feeling of surfing under you, no matter how small, is just fan-frickin-tastic. We can embrace that joyous feeling and know that we did something to enhance our personal pleasure and contentment with life. I love that Brittany travels the world and gets it DONE…also educating people along the way and sharing her kind nature as the ideal ambassador of this sport and an American. But props to the five other people in our weekend clinic, and the other 15 people out there last weekend, enjoying the friendly beginning and intermediate waves. There’s something out there for all of us to be passionate about. Now go out and find yours! And be wonderfully average at it, if that’s what creates your stoke.

Cheers, and happy paddlin…

Sue Fox