So, you’ve taken a beginner class. Maybe you’ve joined us for the Lower Salmon Multi-day kayak adventure, gotten your own gear, or taken a river rescue class. What an exciting and challenging journey it is been! Finally you have become a solid member of the paddling community. Now it’s time to get out and get more days on the river! Here are a few helpful hints from fellow paddlers to keep you centered as you venture out into the exciting world of kayaking:
“Everyone is between swims” – Swimming out of a kayak can seem embarrassing or like a failure, but that is just not true. Every kayaker swims, even the best ones. Swimming as a beginner kayaker simply shows that you are pushing yourself and learning. Don’t forget to say hi to the salmon for us!
“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” – Kayaking is much more about finesse and technique than it is about muscle and speed. Take a deep breath, smile, and make each paddle stroke count.
“Rolling is not the most important skill to learn”— There are many other basic skills that are more important to learn first. Rolling takes time and patience to master. It can be very frustrating to try to learn before you have those other basics dialed. For now, the ability to wait for a great t-rescue will serve you well. Then, when you are ready, come back for a pool session. These sessions provide a focused learning environment ideal for working towards a solid roll.
“My hips don’t lie”—Shakira may not have been thinking about kayaking when she wrote the song, but it definitely applies. Whether you are keeping your hips loose through rapids or focusing on that hip snap while bracing or doing t-rescues, remember to do your best Shakira impression!
“In every rapid you will always start at the top and finish at the bottom; it’s as simple as that”—When you first start to read whitewater on your own rapids can seem very intimidating. It is important to notice the obstacles and plan your route, to make a decision based on your personal paddling skills, and to not over think it!
“Being nervous is okay. It just means you’re paying attention”—Any time we step out of our comfort zone, we get nervous. Whether running your first class II rapid or your first waterfall, primal survival instincts will kick in. Those instincts will give you the hyper focus to pick the best line and the boost of energy needed to nail it!
“When in doubt, paddle it out!”—Always remember that when kayaking, you are always more stable if you are actively paddling. Just like riding a bike, you are more stable when you have momentum and if you stop peddling or paddling you will be more likely to tip over. So, if you find yourself off line or you get nervous in the middle of a rapid, simply put your blade in the water and keep paddling!
“You can do it!!”—Believe in yourself. You have the skills, you have the knowledge, and you are going to crush it!
Ultimately, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the different things to remember when you are out on the water. No matter which mantra helps prepare you for a new river or a new rapid, figure out what works the best for you and the skills you are developing. If you ever need a confidence boost, a skills refresher, or information about kayaking in Washington and Oregon, let us know! Wet Planet Kayak School has awesome intermediate and private kayak courses as well as creeking and boofing clinics that will both challenge you and advance your kayaking skills.
Author Carson Lyness‘s favorite thing about kayaking is being able to flip over and talk to the Salmon. She is part of the Wet Planet base staff, marketing team, and an all-star kayak instructor.