To begin with, and so that we’re all on the same page, we’ll introduce a few basic directional definitions regarding moving water. Upstream indicates the opposite direction to the way the current is flowing. Looking upstream would be looking towards a paddler behind you on the river, or back at something you’d already paddled by. Downstream indicates the direction in which the current travels. Looking downstream would be looking at a paddler ahead of you, or at a river feature you’re moving closer to. River Left indicates the left side of the river (or left bank) as you look downstream. River Right, of course indicates the right side looking downstream. Sorted? Good.
Now the single most important thing to remember when paddling in moving water, whether it is a gentle river float or raging whitewater is that, well, the water is moving. It is going somewhere. And since you’re floating on top of it, it is taking you along for the ride. Because of this fact, paddling in moving water is inherently different than paddling on flatwater, even though the paddle strokes you take are often the same (there are several techniques you’ll learn during this course that are only relevant to paddling in moving water, but we’ll get to this later).