Whitewater kayaking, EXTREME, expert only, waterfalls, adrenaline rush! Often the sport can be intimidating and seemingly unreachable. But in reality, everyone…yes everyone…has to start at the beginning. Even our experienced instructor team and professional kayakers like Rush Sturges and Evan Garcia had to learn how to get into a kayak, how to hold a paddle correctly, how to do forward and sweep strokes. Wet Planet provides an amazing beginner kayak experience in the Washington and Oregon – an area that is filled to the brim with amazing whitewater and superb paddlers. One of the most important aspects of the Wet Planet Kayak School is in its name; it is a school and our goal is not simply to get people out on the water, but to help create competent, river ready paddlers who have the basics dialed.
Our beginner classes offer a great progression for people stoked to learn the rad sport of whitewater kayaking. Interestingly enough, one of the most frustrating skills for new paddlers is paddling in a straight line because, unlike other sea or lake kayaks, the hulls of whitewater kayaks are much more rounded and have more rocker from bow to stern. Therefore, we start our classes on flatwater, working on basic paddle strokes. Then, we take those skills and apply them to slow moving water, where we also introduce students to basic hydrology. Then we move to faster moving water and some simple, yet exciting class II rapids with more challenging hydrology where students get to put their newfound skills to the test.
After their first introduction to kayaking, a beginner paddler can feel a little like they are in limbo because they have the skills and the stoke, but are not quite ready to go out on their own. But don’t worry, there are some simple next steps:
Gear: If you are excited about the sport and ready to buy your own gear there are a few different options. You can buy brand new gear at places like Kayak Shed in Hood River, OR or you can find very affordable, good quality gear on Craig’s List or on online kayaking forums like PDX kayaker or Professor Paddle. Even with the new wave of technology, kayaks haven’t changed very much and some proficient paddlers even prefer older kayak models.
Pool sessions: Find a whitewater club or business that has pool sessions near you to keep working on your basic skills and start learning to roll. Wet Planet also offers pool sessions!
Get more days on the water: Kayaking forums like PDX kayaker, Professor Paddle, and facebook whitewater groups can be a great resource to find either other paddlers at your level or more experienced paddlers who are willing to take new paddlers out. These online resources, along with American Whitewater, also provide great information on local and national river sections including some great beginner level sections. An important note for new kayakers, there are many variables that go into a day on the river, so before every trip make sure you know the following four things:
- Know the section you are going on: there are often good descriptions on American Whitewater or Professor Paddle but often local boater knowledge can be an even better resource, so ask more experienced local paddlers in your group or on online forums.
- Know the people you are paddling with: know their previous experience in general and on the river you are paddling on that day.
- Know the flow: rivers, and their difficulty, change significantly from flood stage to low water.
- Know the weather: a sunny day on the river can be very different from a snowy one, especially when you may be swimming.
More classes: If you are looking for more instructional opportunities Wet Planet also offers great intermediate and private kayak classes. In addition, if you want to combine your new kayak skills with an amazing multiday whitewater adventure, you should check out Wet Planet’s five day Lower Salmon trip, all that is required is one previous beginner class! If you do not live in the area, ask around! There are many great kayak schools around the nation!
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.