It’s hard to know when you are ready to go for a bigger waterfall than you have ever done before. There is an element of the unknown and there is only really one way to find out if you’re ready. After a hugely successful trip to Mexico, here are some tips to help you to make good decisions when it comes to stepping up your waterfall game.

Nailing the basics

Start off small. Waterfalls in size of around six to nine metres are a great place to start to dial in your technique. Some waterfalls need a boof, some you have to tuck up to land vertical, and some you’ll want to angle your landing right in the middle at forty-five degrees. You can practice all of these on smaller or fluffier drops, preferably with a nice easy lead in and a big pool below. Waterfalls that come to mind for me are the Falls of Falloch, Scotland and the the waterfalls at Rock Island, Tennessee.

Getting your angles right and feeling like you are in control on these smaller drops put you in a great place to start thinking about testing your skills on something taller.

Falls of Falloch, Scotland


So you’ve made the decision to look at something taller and you’re stood next to it scouting. Can you see the line clearly? Do you understand what the water is going and how you’re going to move your body to make your boat do what it needs to do? I like to paint a clear imagine in my mind of myself going down the drop. If it is simple for me to do this, I know it’s pretty good to go. If I’m struggling to create this imagine in my head and I don’t feel like I know exactly what is going to happen on the way down, I think twice about running it.

Hollin, Ecuador


Having safety and the right gear is important on any kind of river, but it is especially important when you are pushing your limits. My none negotiables for stouts include my Orbit deck, gradient boots, throwline, four-piece breakdowns and Nevis PFD. When setting safety, you want to make sure that you have protected any hazardous areas and you are with a group of people that you trust will do their best to help you if something goes wrong. Which brings me to my next point …

Hollin, Ecuador

The crew

I always aim to paddle with people I know well, trust and enjoy paddling with. I like to talk through my decisions with my team and know that they are aware of my abilities and support me to make smart choices. I wouldn’t recommend stepping up with friends that you know are loose individuals or lack experience in harder whitewater. I also like to paddle with people who are honest about everything and if somebody I paddle with all the time tells me that maybe it’s too soon to step up to something this stout, I’d think twice about running it as I know they mean well.

Dungeon, Lower Jalacingo, Mexico

Listen to your gut

Fear is a natural feeling to have when pushing yourself past your comfort zone. Some people definitely get less scared than others, but I think nerves are a good thing to keep you sharp and on your toes. It’s important to recognise what things are rational and irrational to fear. For example, not running a dreamy looking drop because it has a class 3 lead in above it is an irrational fear since you know you could run the lead in easily if there wasn’t the waterfall after it. Not being sure if your boof is good enough to keep your bow up on a super shallow landing is a completely rational fear. Understanding these differences goes a long way to making good decisions.

At the end of the day, listen to your body! If every part of you is screaming out that it’s scary and a bad idea, it probably is. Remember, the river will always be there. You don’t have to run everything just because you’re there and people will respect you more for walking round something than running it upside down.

Twisted Pleasure, Lower Jalacingo, Mexico