Step two of our raft guide training: the pool session.
Before we could get out on a river again we needed to do a bit of a deep dive into flipping the rafts and using a throw bag, two essentials to river rafting safely. Usually you get some practice with this the first weekend in the Wenatchee, but with the river being so cold and so low we couldn’t get in the water. Instead the club had opted for a half day pool session.
We spent the morning at the clubs garage, learning about the gear, how to store it, clean it, and repair it. Then we practiced with the throw bags, which I was predictably terrible at. I hate fitting any shitty untrue female stereotypes, but I am just really bad at throwing things. The first one I threw went straight up in the air and then off to the left, ultimately landing about ten feet away from me. We all laughed. Kyle, on the other hand, was a natural with a throw bag.
After my arm was relatively sore and I had made a tiny modicum of progress it was time to head to the pool. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I went swimming in a pool. Probably since after the AT when we would swim laps at the community pool in Kyle’s home town. Well, Kyle would swim laps and I would flail from one end of the pool to the other. Oh yeah, because have I mentioned yet that I am not a very good swimmer. I mean, I am good at staying afloat. I can doggy paddle around all day, but if you ask me to swim a lap I am seriously just going to laugh at you.
This pool experience was wildly different however. The difference? We were all wearing life jackets. Life jackets! They are amazing. With a life jacket on I am so buoyant and relaxed. Plus I was wearing Chacos, which are rubber, so my feet were extra buoyant as well. I loved it. Some of the big things that we had to practice were self-rescuing, assisted rescue and flipping the boats.
Self-rescuing is where, when you fall out of the boat, you cling onto the chicken lines that are attached around the outside and then you pull yourself back in. It’s one big heaving flopping motion and, thanks to my smaller-than-most mass I find self-rescuing fairly easy.
Rescuing someone else, by bouncing them up and down in the water and then hoisting them into the boat, while you fall backwards, is slightly more challenging for me, but I didn’t do a terrible job. Then there is flipping the boats. To right a boat your first have to get up on top if it, tricky because there isn’t a lot to hang on to. Then you have to reach over the side and pull the flip line out of its little sack. Once you’ve got the line in hand you have to stand up, using stellar balance, and walk backwards to the other side of the boat and then lean back, arms straight and legs straight, using your bodyweight to pull the boat over. For many people this feels counterintuitive and there is a natural inclination to bend your legs. Despite being small I also managed to flip the boats back with little difficulty, aided by the fact that the position you assume is very similar to rappelling.
Kyle meanwhile, was an A++ student.
Despite being fairly competent I was receiving frequent pointers from an older gentleman who insisted on swimming over to me after every lesson from our head instructor to repeat what had just been said. At first I wrote it off. After the third or fourth time though I was starting to get suspicious that some man-splaining might be taking place. When he explained to me that I needed to keep my legs straight to flip the boat back, after I had just flawlessly flipped the boat over, I knew what was up. Kyle gave me meaningful, “I’m sorry, guys are jerks” eyes over this dudes wrinkly shoulder. I raised an eyebrow.
We took a break from boat flipping to practice turning and steering the boats. While I was steering our older male friend insisted on continually putting his paddle in the water. Finally I told him to cut it out, I would let him know when I needed his paddle to be in the water.
However, I got my revenge. At the end of the session we all had to partake in a timed flipping session. The sequence of events was you jumped into the pool and swam out to the boat, then you climbed into the boat and flipped it upside down, then you swam around and shimmied up on top and flipped it right side up. Finally, you self-rescued back into the boat. I didn’t rush through mine, just tried to take my time and do everything carefully and efficiently so I didn’t waste energy. I finished in 1 minute and 2 seconds. I felt pretty good about that. Kyle, starting his timed session off with a perfect dive, finished in 43 seconds. Our older gentleman friend? Well, he had been struggling with self-rescuing the whole time, being a rather portly fellow, so it took him a while to get into the boat in the first place. Then, after he had flipped the boat upside down and struggled to get on top of it, he fell off before he could grab the flip line. That means he had to mount the boat again in order to flip it over. Around four minutes later he had finally gotten back in the boat to end his times session. I turned to Kyle and whispered, “You think I should let him know that it’s easier to flip the boat over if you keep your legs straight?”
But seriously, man-splaining is a serious problem. The thing that frustrated me the most is that I spent a good part of the rest of the night thinking about all the clever things I could have said to bring to his attention how dickish his actions were. It shouldn’t be my job to spend my time and energy figuring out how to tactfully tell an older man to fuck off without hurting his feelings. And yet that is what I did, for hours, before realizing I was doing it and becoming furious with myself. I guarantee he spent zero time thinking about me, or any of the things he said to me, or why he singled me out (I am the only female trainee). He hasn’t thought about it once since then, and I am writing about it now. Think about that.