Training Students to run Whitewater with the Culebra

Tom Zimmer Uses the Culebra hard in Western Colorado

Wyoming Catholic College runs trips on the Green River, the Colorado River and the Snake river. They use culebra for training students in the Nuance of whitewater.

Tom Zimmer- Professor of Leadership and Outdoor Education, tells us, “I can honestly say that I take never-ever boaters and in 2-3 days they are paddling through Class IV rapids on their own. That just doesn’t happen in a big raft or a kayak.”

“The boat has been absolutely amazing and everyone who talks to us about it gets an ear full of positive reviews about the boat. We did a Gunny Gorge overnight trip, I put the boat in a drybag and carried it down the mile long trail while my wife had a dry bag with all our gear, tent, food, sleeping bags, clothes, etc. We got to the river, inflated the boat and put all the gear on a cargo net we had in the back of the boat and had our dog ride in the boat with us. The boat handles great through the whitewater and my wife guided the boat through the mellow sections while I fished right from the boat, amazing.

Gore Canyon was great, my wife and I loved it, ran it 3 times. There were about 6 other similar boats (original Shredder, Hyside paddle Cat, Stinger) but in my opinion your boat is the elite of the bunch. The boat is much more stable compared to the other boats, it is a tighter inflation providing quicker manoverablility and it crushed through holes, Tunnel Falls was easy in this boat. Running Class V in this thing is very smooth. We are taking it down Westwater in a few weeks so we will see how it works down there. My wife and I have been boating for 15 years and have been stuck only on kayaking, however, while she runs class IV in a kayak, Class V is a little over her head so whenever we get to a Class V section I either wish I could run it or try to find some strangers to run with. Now we can do any river we want with this thing, it fits right in our Subaru with plenty of room for our other gear. We have done Pine Creek and the Numbers, and the Royal Gorge but can’t wait to run harder stuff like Bailey this Fall. We have a whole new perspective of Class V in this boat, excellent design.

Originally I thought it might be better to have a lower floor but after further use I think the design is ideal especially for punching through big holes, the higher floor really makes it act like a Cat rather than a raft. I really think it opens up hard boating to a whole population of people who are terrified to get strapped into a kayak not to mention the amount of practice/skills you need to have in order to run hard rivers in a kayak. This boat really allows a non expert to run hard whitewater, very stable and easy to guide a friend.

Last December my wife and I and our 2 year old son spent 6 weeks in New Zealand. Since the Culebra is just under 50 lbs and fits in a duffle bag it flew there for free as a check bag. We rented a tiny little car and fit the Culebra in the car with all our stuff. After finding babysitters we paddled over 10 different rivers on the north and south island including multiple Class V runs and the classic 22 foot waterfall on the Kaituna. The highlight though was the Whataroa. For three days we were waiting to get a helicopter flight to the put-in but it was non-stop rain. We really wanted to do this run and we only had one more day so I looked at a map and there was an old trail that went up the river. I rolled the boat and threw it on my backpack, and my wife carried out drysuits, helmets, paddles, etc. and we hiked on a “somewhat” trail for 5-6 miles up the river and made it to the put-in. What an amazing river! A little spooky without other boaters for safety but the boat cruised through everything no problem.

Thanks for a great boat.


Jack’s Note

The story about New Zeland is new. Absoutely amazing. Tom and his program are great examples of what really thrills us at JPW. it is a life style one could write novels about. Thank you Tom!

Thomas Zimmer’s job is Professor of Recreation and Outdoor Education at Wyoming Catholic College. He purchased his first culebra while working at Western state in Gunnison Colorado. He is a graduate of Western and has his Doctorate from the Universtiy of Utah. Tom uses the Culebra as a training aid to teach the intricacies of river hydralics with his pupils on many western river sections.

The boat serves to drive home the ideas of momentum and maneuverability when the students can trade off between gear boat and Culebra. They can still get great white water experience without having to learn how to roll a kayak. They learn the concept of raft momentum, and can compare a weighted down raft performance to the maneuverability of a culebra.