by Cassie Hayden
This past weekend saw the 5th annual Whitewater Symposium at the ASCI center in Maryland.
Getting to the course late on Thursday Mike and I rolled in after a long drive and a long season ready to see what the Symposium had in store for this year. While it had been said the Upper Yough would release for the event it turned out that the weather and dam had other plans. However, seeing as there is a brand new whitewater course on the top of a hill we went to see what it was all about. Whatever your view of artificial whitewater it serves a certain purpose and paddles slightly differently than the usual river. That said once you get used to the fact that the eddies don’t stop, the current is always changing and the boils are infuriating as hell, they are fun as you like; oh and there’s an elevator.
Day one of the conference saw similar weather conditions and given that the course is on the top of a hill, the wind was whipping. However, it didn’t put a hold on the sharing of ideas; the on-water clinics continued on. The first session that took place on the water was a presentation on aggressive foot entrapment rescue techniques. Charlie Walbridge was getting wet to show us all some methods. While there was nothing new in terms of subject matter, the focus of being more proactive and leaning towards less rope-intensive techniques showed a shift towards more real-life options. Basically it was, get there quick with whatever you have, and quite often that will be you and your boat.
During the weekend there were few clinics attended more heavily than Janet Cowie’s “Game On!!”. As Head of Instruction at Zoar Janet has been playing games on the water for some time and has an arsenal that would make the most seasoned camp councilor immensely jealous. While other groups were wondering where the shouts of “YOP!” and “POY!” and the occasional NASCAR noise were coming from, the participants were having a hoot playing Assassin and Guardians.
The Symposium is also a time to meet up with old friends from the industry who are spread liberally around the country. So Saturday night it was off to the Black Bear to see what we could get ourselves into. A lot of locals and an average cover band made for a great night with Woody and Wayner providing plenty of entertainment.
While we all dusted off the cobwebs from the night before Sunday was equally informative and Mike Mather produced yet another fantastic rope trick. Mary Deriemer got technical with teaching the roll and Bruce Lessels schooled us all in the Slalom Survivor.
With the Red Sox leading the charge and the Symposium over we were off to the course for one last session. The variable wave-shapers are an amazing piece of engineering and there are four of them. With four full pumps the main features allow you to do pretty much anything and are not small. Although the features can be a little intimidating they have some easier features too and it makes an interesting place to paddle.
While we are off to North Carolina we’ll leave you with some photos of the course.