advice for beginner

I paddled this weekend (the Hiawasee in Tennessee) for the first time and now I’m in love. I want more. What type of boat is best for the whitewater beginner (a friend recommended a River Runner, but I’m not sure exactly what that is). I am 5’9", 150lbs. What gear do I need? What do I need to know about buying a used boat? And what River Gods to I pray to before launching–and thank at the end of the day?

Amazing sport you have here.

Many thanks,


Here’s one opinion…

All of WW paddling…

est omnis divisa in partes tres, sorry, divided

into three parts.

Creeking: Usually involves careening down very

steep–well, creeks–usually made of snow melt.

the boats are typically high volume, and

frequently bulky.

Play: highly maneuverable boats built for

acrobatics. Can be difficult to control because

they tend to get pushed around by the water.

Generally the smaller the boat, the more playful

it is, and play boats tend to be small. Painfully

small. And a real PITA on flat water, which as

a beginner, you’ll be spending time.

river runners: OK, here is where you get the

most disagreement. to me a river runner is

a combination of creekers and play. Less volume

than creek boats and less likely to be pushed

around unexpectedly.

Some folks think of river runners as longer,

almost slalom boat like.

Obviously, the distinctions are not clear cut.

some boats are mostly river runner, partly play

while some are mostly play and partly riverrunner.

while you might want to spend some time thinking

about the style of boating you want to do, what

type of first boat you buy probably isn’t all

that important. Because you view will change

as you learn, and you’ll almost certainly want

another boat within a year.

The important thing is to get out on the water

with people who will allow you to progress at

your own speed.

PS. buy used.

What class water are you talking about?
A prudent soul might recommend some time with a WW outfitter/school in rented stuff and with a guide to get a sense of things, if you are thinking something that is fairly white.

Here’s a pretty good tutorial:


Andrian Tregoning
Try South African Adrian Tregoning’s introduction for newbie whitewater kayakers, “Whitewater Kayaking – How to Get Started, Choosing a Boat”:

Good photos, too.

Get EJ’s video
It is called “River Running: Basics”. It explains about kinds of boats, equipment, and basic techniques. A very good video. And you can’t go wrong with a used Jackson kayak to start out with.

I’ll second Dr Disco’s comments.

type of boat, type of personality

– Last Updated: May-27-08 10:06 PM EST –

Here's a question: If you were going down the river and the current grabbed your stern and spun you around a couple of times, would you probably think
A) Wow! I hope that doesn't happen again!
B) Cool! How do I make that happen again?

If B, you may want to lean toward the playboat side of river-runner. If A, a bit to the creek side. Would you rather have more stability or more agility?

An imperfect analogy: A pure playboat is a bit like a racecar with a very stiff suspension and quick steering. It responds quickly to every input from the driver, and also to every bump and pothole. You can be in the ditch before you realize what happened.

A creekboat is like a truck with soft, long-travel suspension and a steering damper. It doesn't respond as crisply, but shrugs off a lot of things that would upset a playboat. If you keep it pointed in the right direction it'll mostly keep going.

A river-runner is somewhere in the middle -- anything from a station wagon to a sports sedan.

Paddler skill makes a difference, of course. Expert paddlers can make a playboat dance through water that'd munch beginners in creekboats.

Here's one good collection of videos. What appeals to you?

starting out
I would try to get with a local canoe/kayak club as there is safety in numbers. Take it from me it can be trying learning on your own.

At the Hiawassee you should be able to hook up with others also the Nanty. No reason to buy new boats or gear as your ideas will change much the first year or so. Try to go to GAF this fall for tons of used gear.