As my friend Eric once said, if you
ride your bike in a circle around a parking lot you get good at it.
Then you get bored, and then you try tricks. Many of our paddling
students become very comfortable running Fife Brook – catching eddies,
making ferries and surfing waves – but what some don’t realize is how
good Fife Brook is for learning how to do cartwheels. Here are some of
my favorite spots for cartwheeling on this section:
Hangover Helper or Diamond Drill
Use the wave train to
try wave wheels. Wave wheels are often easier than other cartwheels
because your boat has less water tension, so it rocks more easily.
Dial in the timing and you’ll be swinging some great ends.
Use the river left pourover at
the top of the big river left eddy to practice your double-pump
initiations. Use the current side to throw some good left ends. This
small ledge hole has plenty of punch to help encourage your bow down
and you can often get two quick ends.
Right Turn Riffles
Use the right turn just
after Fisherman’s Bend to practice more wave wheels along river left.
Be careful; this spot can be a little shallow if you get a real
Freight Train / Hoosic Tunnel
Halfway down on river
left there is small birch tree that leans into the water. This marks a
small really fast eddy on the left. At the top of this eddy is a small
ledge that can be doubled pumped along the eddyline – also a lefty
spot. This is a good spot to show off to the rafts; they always seem
to catch me here.
Just before the bridge there is a
pourover hole on the left. Use the river left side of it to practice
some right spins and ends. It will kick you out to the middle if you
initiate too far to the center. Beware, this is one of the few spots
that does have a head clunking rock just downstream of it on river
left. Make sure you tuck!
This is a nice deep
area for practicing flatwater initiations. Also check out the cliffs
on river left. The strange objects clinging to them and bobbing bow
and stern alternately up and down happen to be fellow kayakers working
on their torso rotation.
The Lemon Squeezer
Normally I’m not a fan
of naming rocks, I like naming rapids, but I’ll let this one slide
because it’s such a good spot. These are the two large rocks on river
right at the top of the rock garden. This is an incredible leftie
spot. Use the micro eddy that forms along the river right side of the
lower rock. Once you start to dial in your cartwheels they will become
endless here. Let me know what your record is. On the other eddy line
is a very nice swirl for practicing righties.
The Rock Garden
Rock spins abound
through this area. I love using rocks as a way to practice the timing
of the bow initiation. As you spin and the bow begins to drop your
reverse sweep needs to match the drop to keep the rotation coming
around. This section has great rocks for low and high angle spins.
One of my favorite rocks here is halfway down where there is a large
slot with a large rock on the right. On the left is a long dark
colored rock that is about a foot above the water and perpendicular to
the current. The upstream face is vertical, and so will be the ends of
I once told a student
Miami Beach might not be as good as the real Miami Beach. He hesitated
a moment and then said, “it’s better.” Use the wave train to practice
This is the last class
II rapid before Zoar Gap. Where the two channels come back together
there is a side surfing hole on river right. Try initiations to either
side but beware the rock in the center. It is also best to initiate
slightly downstream from the seam of the hole.
The Gap boasts the most
cartwheeling opportunities for the brave. Try wave wheels before the
entrance chute and also in the exit waves along the bottom right. Use
the pourover on river left before the entrance chute for some more
leftie opportunities. At the top of the challenging entrance chute and
top river left eddy is a powerful ledge hole for some quick lefties but
it will spit you out and send you into the middle of the Gap quickly.
The bottom left has another nice leftie spot if you work your way back
up along the rock wall as high as you can get, then initiate. The eddy
on river right near the bottom across from the surfing wave has a high
eddy fence that is a good righty spot for the bigger boats.
Check out the small
play hole on the right across from the large center rock. This hole is
great for righties on the river left corner. When you flush off for
the last time you can throw a big rock spin on the round rock just
below it. Beware, because the next rock just below it on the right is
undercut along the bottom and tends to collect some deep underwater
The next section down
Sometimes tubers know
best. Although most paddlers take out at the Gap, and the tubers put
in there, the next section down has some great early-on play. There
are a couple rock gardens where super fun rock splats and spins
abound. Have fun looking at the river in a new light on your next run
– Jim Sullivan