Why do we kayak? What is it about rivers that draws us to jump into small plastic boats and let ourselves be swept downriver more or less at the mercy of the current? Maybe it is the river, with its churning currents and boils, its splashing waves and holes, its calm pools and breathtaking scenery that captivates and ensnares the mind. Maybe it is the feeling of community found when you have an absolute blast on the river with friends who you know will always have your back. Maybe it is the adrenaline rush and sense of personal accomplishment you feel when you nail a line through a challenging rapid. Whatever keeps us coming back to the river is probably directly related to why we started kayaking in the first place.
When people think about learning to whitewater kayak there seem to be two general groups. On one end there are those who throw themselves into the water and figure it out. On the other end there are those who decide to take a class from a local kayak school or college club. Depending on the person, both can be very successful. Wet Planet raft guide and assistant kayak instructor, Casey, originally threw herself into kayaking. She thought she could rely on her natural ability to pick up new skills and learn on her own. She quickly discovered that kayaking can be very counterintuitive. After a frustrating six months, she decided to take a class. She instantly realized that the class allowed her to progress her skills much more quickly, learning the basics in days instead of working for months. In addition, the class gave her much more confidence in those skills.
Just as Casey discovered, one of the most significant benefits of taking a formal class is that you can really get the basics dialed. This is especially important for kayakers because you are constantly surrounded by the unstoppable, dynamic environment of the river. Once you know how to paddle effectively, brace, t-rescue or roll, and catch an eddy the river seems to slow down a little. With these basic skills you feel much more in control and can begin to truly explore all of the amazing opportunities the river can offer.
Taking a beginner kayak class from a whitewater organization like the Wet Planet Kayak School on the White Salmon River in Washington provides a perfect place to begin the lifelong adventure of kayaking. As a new initiate to this great sport, you may be wondering how our instructors know so much. All of our instructors have an ACA whitewater kayaking instructor certification, or an equivalent. The ACA, or American Canoe Association, is a national nonprofit with the mission to serve “the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddle sport competition, exploration and recreation.”
The instructor certification process includes classroom, flat water, and whitewater portions. The classroom portion is focused on teaching and learning theories, ensuring the instructor can cater their class to any student. The flat water portion is focused on modeling and teaching flat water skills. Finally, the river portion is focused on teaching river skills and solidifying river rescue techniques. Through this certification, Wet Planet ensures that we have well-rounded, knowledgeable beginner kayak instructors that can teach the basic whitewater skills to any student.
Becoming a whitewater kayak instructor is not solely about the certification. Our instructors simply LOVE to kayak and LOVE to share their passion for kayaking with others.
Wet Planet kayak instructor, Dave Wells, loves kayaking because not only is it incredibly fun, but it also provides constant challenges and a tight knit community, a community that transcends cultures. With every class he teaches he aims to draw people out of their comfort zone and share his passion for kayaking. His goal is to bring new people into this amazing community.
If you are excited about joining the incredible whitewater kayaking community, Wet Planet offers a variety of kayaking instructions courses for all skill levels including two and three day beginner kayak classes, skills clinics and the ultimate kayaking trip – our multi-day kayaking trip on the Main Salmon River. Take the first step towards a lifelong journey filled with challenges, amazing adventures, self-confidence, and pure fun!
Author Carson Lyness‘s favorite thing about kayaking is being able to flip over and talk to the Salmon. She is currently on a year-long project called Rivers, People, Dams – traveling the world exploring river conservation with the Watson Year-Abroad Fellowship.