Practice the basics in the pool or at the local lake, all paddles benefit from a good flat-water session. Flat-water sessions with basic drills and exercises can help condition and improve skills such as edging, forward paddling and can really benefit you for those must make moves on grade 4. Support strokes and rolls can also be practiced but try to think about staying up right as much as possible so that you call on these skills only in an emergency as any capsize in grade 4 rivers can be dangerous.
Practice the hardest moves on grade 3, which will help you in turn make the easy moves on grade 4. Try and find a venue with good grade 3 water which you can do circuits on practicing the same moves over and over such as eddying in, out and ferry’s. Some venues allow you to be able to repeat a circuit by the use of paddle ups that also help improve your forward paddling. Once you have found a good venue you will be able to challenge yourself to improve how high you can make eddy’s, practice with the speed and angle for the next linked ferry or eddy, see how efficient you can become in your paddling style. All this experience will help you to form the judgement needed to become a silky smooth white water warrior.
Invest in your own safety, grade 4 is good fun but more dangerous than grade 3. Consider improving your white water safety and rescue skills through practice of self-rescue and swimming, throw bags, and rope work. This is most often safest done as part of an organised course such as BC white water safety and rescue or a Rescue 3 white water rescue technician.
Consider your own equipment! Is it up to protecting you from a grade 4 swim? Pay special attention to your helmet and BA, are they up to the task. Is your boat outfitting up to scratch are there any entrapment issues? Have you buoyancy bags fitted and secured in the boat?
Paddle your first grade 4 water with an experienced leader who can help you with your lines and guide you along the best route. Often the best place within a group is the middle so you can follow a leader’s line but have somebody looking out for you from behind. Experienced groups will also know how set up safety and work as a group to keep all safe within the group. Paddling as part of an experienced group will really improve your enjoyment of paddling your first grade 4 rivers.
Consider getting some professional coaching bad technics or habits will really affect your performance on grade 4 or worst still lead to injury. Look for a coach/centre with a good reputation who will be honest about your ability and able help to coach you towards a better performance and provide you with an action plan to continue to improve your paddling technic. My biggest tip of all is have fun if you are smiling it is impossible to be nervous and fun will flow.