This week, Wet Planet hosted seven young paddlers, aged 9-14, in our 4th annual Kids’ Camp! For the past four days, instructors Libby and Jackie have been teaching these youngsters the fundamentals of kayaking through pool games, time on the river, and demonstrations on land.
Jackie and Libby are passionate about whitewater kayaking, both being excellent paddlers themselves. These ladies love spreading the excitement they feel about whitewater to others! The kids have also experienced another important part of being a paddler– the camaraderie that comes from spending time with friends both on and off the water. They have played games on the lake, tie-dyed T-shirts, practiced yoga, eaten lunches, and written journal reflections together.
Day one started with icebreaker games and learning about the parts of the kayak and each piece of gear. The kids headed to Wet Planet’s outdoor pool and sat in their boats, getting a feel for what it’s like to be in a kayak on water. Libby and Jackie taught them how to swim out of their kayaks if they flip upside down. Next they learned about hydrology, water features, and how the river’s flow and its rocks can affect your boat when you’re paddling through rapids. A walk around Husum, WA showed them an example of a hole at Rattlesnake rapid, a waterfall at Husum Falls, and waves and eddy lines on the White Salmon River. To see further how water features will move a boat, the kids were given a chance to use mini-kayakers made from foam and play in the nearby Rattlesnake Creek. The creek was a great opportunity for Libby, with an environmental science background, and Jackie, a middle-school science teacher, to spread their knowledge of water ecosystems. They showed the students how to tell the difference between clean and polluted water ecosystems, and found little critters and plants around the creek.
Day two opened with yoga and stretching before returning to the pool to work on skills. Each student practiced their paddle strokes, bracing, and using their edges to make turns. Next, it was on to the lake to play games in their kayaks! Tag, water polo, and other games were played before lunching and picking wild blackberries. The day concluded with making a whitewater collage together and writing in their journals.
Day three’s focus was rescues, reading current, and paddle signals. Libby, Jackie, and the crew spent their day on the Klickitat River running a class I-II section and practicing the skills they learned the day before. The kids had a blast paddling through the waves and small rapids, putting their new skills to use. In the afternoon, the kids had team competitions related to river safety, such as throwing ropes and river signals.
The final day began with paddling around the mouth of the White Salmon River, where it meets the Columbia River. The students practiced eddy turns, ferrying, and T-rescues with Jackie and Libby under the views of Mt. Hood. They headed back to Wet Planet Headquarters where pizza and parents awaited them. An awards ceremony and slide show viewing of the week’s events were shown right before they all headed out for the final part of camp– a rafting trip with the instructors and parents!
Hopefully this course will be just the beginning of a lifetime of paddling for these youngsters. At Wet Planet, it is one of our main passions to expose as many people as we can to the fun, beauty, challenge, and fulfillment of whitewater adventures. We wish the best to these guys in their (hopefully) many river trips to come!
Wet Planet is also host to the kids’ paddling progression series, which takes place each winter. We hope to develop a kids’ paddling team in the Columbia River Gorge area to encourage kids to get involved in the sport of whitewater kayaking. For more information on these courses and private instruction classes, contact us at 800-306-1673.