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Submitted by: Dave Turner Crerar

Do you find yourself saying things like…

“This is the year I will paddle that class IV river I have always dreamt about!”


“Yes, after 5 years I will finally run that class V rapid that I always walk on my home river.” … and never seem to get much past those words?

If this sounds like you and you still don’t know HOW to make these dreams a reality then here are 5 tips that will help you get to the next level in your paddling progression.

Perform HARD moves in EASY water-

This is the best way to bump up your skill level before upping the risk factor. Find a sticky hole to boof or a diagonal wave to jet ferry across into a ‘must make’ eddy. There are lots of ways to do this in class 3 whitewater. If you’re not sure- ask! We use Aquabatics Calgary ( for all of our instruction up here.

Have Solid Rescue Skills-

If you don’t remember the last time you were part of a rescue then sit tight. This is a skill you should be practiced in. Practice things like towing boats, rescuing swimmers, swimming rapids yourself (ones you know), throwing ropes, EVEN perfecting your roll. Not only is this going to contribute to your confidence but your crew will be much more likely to bring you on rivers that are on the upper end of your skill level.

Trust Your Crew-

This is important. Make sure you have paddled with these people before to know their skill level, their rescue capabilities, and their overall attitude on the river. You need to be surrounded by your rock-solid crew when leveling up.

Have the Right Gear-

Were you so nervous you forgot your float bags, helmet, or any other PPE that you should be paddling with? Aside from this being a sign that you are not ready, it is also the fact that you don’t have your whole kit and so you shouldn’t be stepping up your game, not today. There’s nothing that brings my confidence down more than having to wear someone else’s ill-fitting borrowed gear. Which brings me to my last point.

Be Confident-

This is a tough one to navigate since you will never be 100% confident when paddling something for the first time but here are ways that I know I’m feeling confident.

I can visualize myself paddling the line successfully 3 times (key thing here is ‘successfully’).

If you visualize yourself rolling or swimming… (keep visualizing).

I have been paddling well so far that day (or I feel healthy, fit, and energized at the start of the run)

I have done very similar moves on other rivers before – it’s just in a different sequence.

I hope you find this article helpful in your paddling progression and feel free to reach out on my Insta @davecrerar if you have any questions!