7 types of whitewater paddlers you’ll encounter on the river

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Words and illustrations by Adam Nawrot.

The river is filled with colorful characters. You can find whitewater paddlers ranging from experienced to first-timers running rivers around the country on any given weekend.

These are seven different types of whitewater paddlers you will encounter on the river.

The Club Beater

An empty kayak and loose paddle are usually good indicators that the Club Beater is just upstream ready to make an appearance.

Happy to pay his paddling club’s participation fee every time he boats, the Club Beater paddles the same stretch of Class II+ every other weekend during the summer (note that the Club Beater does not paddle through the winter). Scared off by fellow club members’ warnings of undercuts and ‘weird currents’ on other rivers, the Club Beater does not stray from his now familiar stretch of riffles.

A misled champion of the mantra “catch every eddy, surf every wave,” the Club Beater relishes in introducing new paddlers to the sport, but shames them from progressing past the club’s collective level of mediocre paddling to retain membership like it’s their job.

The Hole Hog

The Hole Hog favors a balance of low consequence and high skill over adrenaline-fueled exploits of some of their whitewater counterparts.

Their keen sense of boat control and cat-like reflexes are matched only in potency by their tolerance for the mundane. Undeterred by the mind-numbing act of surfing the same wave over and over again year-round, the Hole Hog could probably put the local creeking scene to shame if they could just muster up the nerve to run ‘the sh*t.’

The Sh*trunner

It’s sometimes tough to tell whether the Sh*trunner’s fearlessness is the product of years of disciplined whitewater pursuit or the side effect of a constant state of mild inebriation. One thing’s for sure, the only thing more impressive than their willingness to taunt death is their ability to turn up at the after-party.

The Sh*trunner lives for “steezy boofs” and “brown stouts” but often spends more time driving and hiking to the put-in than in their kayak. After years of dirt-bagging, the Sh*trunner has finally given into pressures from parents and significant others to get a ‘real job’ and now makes ends meet as a nurse at the local hospital where their absentee record curiously mirrors the rainy days of the forecast.

The Open Boater

Like the Telemark Skier or the Single-speed Mountain Biker, the Open Boater has elected to make their life more difficult in the pursuit of aesthetic.

What that aesthetic is, however, isn’t really clear as the Open Boater isn’t exactly paddling a hand-built wooden canoe or something. It often seems like the choice to impose artificial challenge on themselves stems from a self-reconciliation that they don’t have the chops to push the envelope of their discipline’s more conventional counterpart, but maybe there really is some sort of special magic to paddling a bathtub that needs constant draining down a river.

The Raft Guide

What started as a fun summer job during high school has spiraled out of control and left the Raft Guide with neither money nor degree four years down the line.

Having perfected the art of subtly slipping ‘tip your guide’ into their standard repertoire of stories, the Raft Guide has saved up enough cash over the summer to hitch a ride to the mountains where they’ll be working the same seasonal gig they worked last winter at the ski resort.

The Slalomist

The Ivan Drago of the whitewater world. Speculated to have been raised in a lab, the slalomist knows only one true love – training.

Adhering to a strict workout regimen, the slalomist is unamused by your latest Facebook ‘dawn patrol’ post, and has logged his first set of laps long before your alarm clock even sounded. With the ability to sink a stern like a U-Boat and make turns on a kopek, the Slalomist possesses a certain type of athleticism unadulterated by the bravado and ‘balls’ of their Red Bull-fueled counterparts.

It’s probable that the Slalomist would preform at a high level on the daring Class V pursuits of the Sh*trunner, but doing so would expose them to too great a chance of injury – an unacceptable reality that would jeopardize chances of taking the gold at their next event.

The Zombie

The Zombie started boating well before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye. Having exhausted pretty much all there is to do on the river, the Zombie has now taken to entertaining himself under the river.

By using ancient Chinese foot-binding techniques to force himself into a surfboard-sized airplane wing painted like a hot rod, the Zombie now spends their days at the local ‘arena,’ where they hold their breath and spin around in circles in what amounts to a weird tribal dance that seeks to grant them passage to ‘The Underealm.’

More from Canoe & Kayak Magazine

What to wear on the river

Why whitewater kayaking is a team sport

Learn more about the world of whitewater kayaking

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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