Water has momentum. Your boat has momentum. Use these to your advantage! Understanding the role of momentum in whitewater is critical and particularly understanding the importance of creating cross-current momentum.

If you want to catch a large eddy on river left then start your approach to it from upstream but from the opposite side of the river. By starting on river right you build cross-current momentum as you paddle which will drive your boat deep into the eddy. If it’s a small mid-stream eddy behind a small boulder that you wish to catch then aim to wash off your speed and momentum by the time you cross the first eddy line. Otherwise your momentum may take you straight out the other side of the eddy and you will have missed both it and the opportunity to stop at that particular location. Note that the ability to instantly ‘stop’ yourself moving downstream on a river is a significant safety advantage, not just for you but also for your team mates.

Many paddlers make the mistake of trying to catch an eddy by starting their approach from immediately above it. When you do this, you are creating downstream momentum that is often parallel to your objective. This downstream momentum is likely to take you straight past your goal. If you find yourself spinning helplessly down the eddy line or regularly washing out from the bottom of the eddy then this is often the cause (along with planting strokes in eddylines rather than in the actual eddy). It is possible to catch eddies from immediately above but it is challenging as it requires the skill to plant your paddle at just the right time and place and the ability to edge your packraft in order to halt your downstream momentum. Remember to always build your momentum so that you can use it to your benefit. If having lots of momentum is going to be a disadvantage then go initially into the rapid slow with minimal momentum. Once you have then discerned the best line, you can then build momentum to set yourself up to take the line.

The onetime that you do want downstream momentum is when you are about to hit a large hydraulic. Plant your paddle as far forward as you can and drive your boat forward with speed. Try to use your paddle to get hold of the water moving downstream on the far side of the hole so that you can make use of the momentum of this water. When water is moving downstream faster than you and in the direction you want to go then you often do not even need to do a forward stroke. Instead, simply plant your paddle powerfully within this current and hang on for the free ride. Use the current to draw you towards where you want to go.

Note that if you follow the main current and simply let the water take you where it wants to go then you are likely to submerge your boat and to be at the mercy of the water. The ability to generate power may save you in this situation but there is a better way. Deliberately setting you packraft up to drive across currents is often a huge advantage.

Moving across currents can really help to keep your bow up. This then gives you control of your boat rather than allowing the water to push it around and control it. It is important to remember that whitewater is three dimensional – it moves not only left and right, forward and backward but also up and down. Don’t just follow the main currents as you may find the current taking your boat places where you don’t want it to go.