The Paddler’s 12 Step Program

1. Choose what you would like to wear for the next 3 weeks, but make sure it fits in a paper grocery bag.

2. One week before the trip, have a yard of sand delivered to your house. Sprinkle liberally in your dresser drawers, and on the kitchen counter, and fill your salt shaker,sugar bowl and cereal boxes.

3. Pour sand on garbage can lid. Place in front of a fan. Set on high.

4. Rent a projection TV and illuminate the walls and ceiling of your bedroom with old Dracula movies, especially the snake, lizard, scorpion rodent and bat infested scenes.

5. Each day at 9 am and 5pm, have your friends form a long line. Then pass the entire contents of
your home out the front door, around the side, and into the back door of your house.

6. Wash all your dishes by hand using only gross, chunky dish water.

7. Sit on the hood of your car while riding through the car wash. Make sure you stay wet for a few hours in a breeze, or in front of the fan–the one thats blowing sand.

8. Set up horseshoe stakes in the back yard. Then practice kicking it with your bare toe every night.

9. Line your sandals with sandpaper and spend two hours a day on a StairMaster.

10. Drape the contents of your brown grocery bag on the bushes and rocks in your back yard. Twice a day practice changing clothes while your neighbors  watch.

11. With 16 friends standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool, practice looking nonchalant as you carry on a conversation and pee simultaneously.

12. Go to the bathroom in your upstairs waste basket and then, with your pants still around your ankles, run downstairs and pee in the tub.

International System for Rating Rapids

Class I  Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Swimming is pleasant, shore easily reached. A nice break from paddling. Almost all gear and equipment is recovered. Boat is just slightly scratched.

Class II, Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Swimming to eddies requires moderate effort.  Climbing out of river may involve slippery
rocks and shrub-induced lacerations. Paddle travels great distance downstream requiring lengthy
walk. Something unimportant is missing. Boat hits submerged rock leaving visible dent on frame or new gash in plastic.

Class III, Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid. Water is swallowed. Legs are ground repeatedly against sharp, pointy rocks. Several eddies are missed while swimming. Difficult decision to stay with boat results in moment of terror when swimmer realizes they are downstream of boat. Paddle is recirculated in small hole way upstream. All personal possessions are removed from boat and floated in different directions. Paddling partners run along river bank shouting helpful instructions. Boat is munched against large boulder hard enough to leave series of deep gouges. Sunglasses fall off.

Class IV, Advanced. Water is generally a lot colder than Class III. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise swimming in turbulent water. Swimming may require `must’ moves above dangerous hazards. Must make moves are downgraded to `strongly recommended’ after they are missed. Sensation of disbelief experienced while about to swim large drops. Frantic swimming towards shore is alternated with frantic swimming away from shore to avoid strainers. Rocks are clung to with death grip. Paddle is completely forgotten. One shoe is removed.  Hydraulic pressure permanently removes waterproof box with all the really important stuff. Paddle partners running along stream look genuinely concerned while lofting throw ropes 20 feet
behind swimmer. Paddle partners stare slack-jawed and point in amazement at boat which is finally pinned by major feature. Climbing up river bank involves inverted tree. One of those spring loaded pins that attaches watch to wristband is missing. Contact lenses are moved to rear of eyeballs.

Class V, Expert. The water in this rapid is usually under 42 degrees F. Most gear is destroyed on rocks within minutes if not seconds. If the boat survives, it is need of about three days of repair. There is no swimming, only frantic movements to keep from becoming one with the rocks and to get a breath from time to time.

Terror and panic set in as you realize your paddle partners don’t have a chance in heck of reaching you. You come to a true understanding of the terms maytagging and pinballing. That hole that looked like nothing when scouted, has a hydraulic that holds you under the water
until your lungs are close to bursting. You come out only to realize you still have 75% of the rapid left to swim. Swim to the eddy? What #%^&*#* eddy!? This rapid usually lasts a mile or more. Hydraulic pressure within the first few seconds removes everything that can come off your body. This includes gloves, shoes, neoprene socks, sunglasses, hats, and clothing. The rocks take care
of your fingers, toes, and ears. That $900.00 dry suit, well it might hold up to the rocks. Your paddle is trash. If there is a strainer, well, just hope it is old and rotten so it breaks. Paddle partners on shore are frantically trying to run and keep up with you. Their horror is reflected in their faces as they stare at how you are being tossed around!

They are hoping to remember how to do CPR. They also really hope the cooler with the beer is still intact. They are going to need a cold one by the time you get out! Climbing out of
this happens after the rapid is over. You will probably need the help of a backboard, cervical collar and Z-rig. Even though you have broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds, missing digits &
ears, and a concussion, you won’t feel much pain because you will have severe hypothermia. Enjoy your stay in the hospital: with the time you take recovering, you won’t get another vacation for 3 years.

Work Crew

And finally, a note on work crew structuring I have a 10 point system that works very well for me, but no one else seems to like it. I don’t know why.

1) Arrive at camp well after all the boats carrying the camp and kitchen gear. This assures that
the work is already done.

2) Have a stash of cold beer in your own well-disguised cooler that you do not allow anyone else to even know about. Keep other beer in a drag bag and always fail to actually drag it by absent-mindedly leaving it in the rowing compartment. This insures that the beer you offer to others will be warm, and they’ll stop asking you for beer.

3) If you happen to be asked to set up the groover, set it up near the kitchen in full view of everyone. Then, when someone asks about ”privacy”, tell them there really is no need for privacy
on a river trip, instead it is a good time to lose your silly hang ups. This insures that you will not be asked to set up the groover again.

4) If asked to take down the groover, do it at first light. Set it in front of the boat that carries it (hopefully not your own). Then when someone complains about breaking down the groover too early, point at it. This insures that you will not have to take down the groover again.

5) If you actually get stuck on some cook team, politely explain that you are a poor cook and
will gladly do all the dishes in exchange for not cooking. Then drink way too much during dinner prep so that you pass out shortly  after eating, rendering you unable to wash dishes. This not only
insures that you will not be allowed to wash dishes again, but will also relieve you of cooking duties as you will be kicked off the team.

6) If some wise guy thinks its going to rain and insists on putting up a tarp, file your objection with the TL vociferously and in such a manner as to discourage anyone from helping the paranoid
lout with the tarp. Then put up your one person tent in the best family tent spot you can find, quickly, before it rains, which it’s obviously going to do very soon. This insures that no one will find out you have an advanced degree in tarpology.

7) When rigging, always be certain to complain loudly about the amount of gear you
have to carry and how having such a heavy boat is why you are always last to camp, and does anyone have any ibuprofen please, because you used all yours already taking care of your aching joints. To do this well, always carry a dozen or so various sized dry bags stuffed with crumpled newspapers. They don’t weigh much, but it sure looks like you’re carrying a lot of stuff.

8) Never volunteer for anything. I learned that in the Army, which of course I volunteered for.

9) Make sure everyone knows exactly how many Grand trips, Selway trips, Middle Fork trips, overseas and South American trips, huge class VI drops and first descents you have done. On about day 3 this will help support your explanation of not doing much of the work, because when your rescue skills and vastly superior whitewater reading and running skills are needed, you will be fresh and not worn out from the daily river trip grind. It doesn’t matter that this is Deso. Anything can happen anywhere, anytime.

10) Enjoy solo trips. You’re going to be doing lots of them.