Are the rivers and the salt water ready for you and calling, but you reluctantly realize your skills are just a bit rusty? Don't worry. An afternoon's fun in an English Gate will knock that rust off and have you ready to rip.
An English Gate is simply a slalom gate hung over flat water - and that includes a pool if the flat water is cold or still hard. No poles? Anchor a couple of plastic jugs four feet apart. You can keep the jugs in position with a four-foot chunk of plastic pipe two feet below the surface.
Here's one set of skill drills that work for both whitewater and touring paddlers.
- Paddle through the gate, and as you clear the gate make a s-m-o-o-t-h arcing turn to the left so that you circle around and pass through the gate again. As you pass through the gate, make a similar turn to the right and pass through the gate again.
- Stop just past the gate with your stern pointed to the gate. Scull sideways to the right, and then back past the gate without passing through it. Scull sideways, lining yourself up with the gate, and paddle forward through the gate. Stop just past the gate, scull sideways to your left, and then back past the gate without going through it. Stop, then scull sideways until you are again aligned with the gate and paddle forward through it. If you can roll your boat, do a roll each time just before going forward through the gate.
- Stop just past the gate, with your stern pointing at the gate, and then scull sideways to the right until you clear the gate. Back past the gate without going through it. As you pass the gate, make a left turn and back through the gate. As you clear the gate going backwards, make a right turn and continue going backwards down the outside of the gate without passing through it.
- Stop and paddle forward on the outside of the gate without passing through it. Once clear of the gate, stop and scull to the right until your stern is lined up with the gate opening. Back through the gate. Once clear of the gate, scull to the right and then go forward past the gate on the outside without passing through it. Once completely clear, pivot your boat end for end with a combination of sweep strokes and paddle forward through the gate. You can roll just before backing through the gate and just after going through it forward.
Repeat a few times, going for smoothness and precision, and your paddling skills will reawaken!
Want to make a competition out of it? Time each paddler through all four stages (with or without the rolls), with 10-second penalties for every gate touch.