-- Last Updated: Apr-27-08 8:43 PM EST --

Ok... so here's my story.

My friends got a handful of Islander "Swifty" 9.5's on sale at Dick's over the holidays. I'd never been in a kayak before but after one trip down the Delaware from the Gap to Belvidere in late March, I was hooked. It is now our favorite thing to do and we spent 4 days last week paddling throughout Northwest NJ. I went to Bel-Haven and after trying out a few boats, got my hands on a used Dagger Element 11.2, which so far I love. I'm 25, 5'9" 155lbs and although I need an extra lumbar pad for my back, I find the boat to be quite comfortable and fun.

This Thursday, three of us took the a pair of Swiftys and my Dagger down the Musconectcong from Bloomsburg to the Delaware, which was an awesome trip. For those of you that haven't been there, its a mix of flatwater and Class 2+ (according to a book I bought), broken up by a handful of weirs and dams (including a 30 foot dam which my friend rode down!). My boat blasts passed the swiftys on the flats, but seems kinda big and doesn't turn as well in the rapids.

As we look for more rivers with the same attributes, is there something I/we should know, do, bring, etc.?

Also... I want to get my girlfriend a boat (5'4" 115, in great shape) so she can come on the same trips, although I think my boat may be too big for her???

Any advice is welcome- I'm totally into this kayaking thing now.


anyone? Maybe i need a catchier Subject phrase?

Fit of a kayak is very subjective.
The best thing you can do is take her to a kayak shop and let her try a few out. What fits you and I may not fit her. As far as the way a kayak handles certain water. That is also subjective. What may feel tippy to you may feel solid to someone else. That is why it is important to test paddle before you buy. The most important thing I think is to have fun with what ever you paddle.


Those boats i mentioned before, the Islander Swifty and the Dagger Element, are they capable of intentionally paddling a class III or IV? We live right down the street from “Black River” in Pottersville, which is listed as a IV. Should we stay away from those more advanced rapids with those boats? Helmets, throw ropes, etc a must?

is there some training we should get before trying that run?

I think you would need real whitewater
kayaks if that river truly has class IV rapids. Recreational boats like the Swifty can be used in class 1 and some class 2 rapids. Anything above that is pushing prudence. And if you do decide to try the more serious whitewater in the area, some instruction and some leaders experienced on the rivers in question would be a help.

big jump from III to IV
If all whitewater could be run by newcomers to the sport, there would be no need for the ratings. Class IV is much harder than III. I suggest you find some local paddlers who have paddled the run you are thinking of, tell them your story, and watch their reaction.

I got training before trying any real class II, and I recommend that. While you would very likely be safe in class II on your own, the training will open your eyes to possibilities for fun that you won’t get by just aiming the boat and paddling hard.

Are you really with the USCG? I have this unpleasant feeling that you’re joking with us, and people will soon be laughing at me for answering you seriously. In case you are serious: take it slow and work your way up the levels of difficulty, with help from people who know what they’re doing.

– Mark

Any advice is welcome?
Well here it is. True class III is for strong intermediate WW paddlers. Those with both training and experience. You are risking a lot doing class III without training and experience. True class IV? Forget it. You are in serious trouble. As an instructor who regularly encounters younger persons with great ambitions I say don’t be in a hurry and don’t paddle beyond your real skills.

Yeah, I’m a crew member or “flight mech” on MH-65C Dolphin helicopters. I’ve been with the USCG for 5 years. I have a VERY CLEAR understanding of how important training and proper equipment are for any type of water related sport, but I figured if I worded my questions in a very inexperienced and naive way, that I’d get more of the information I’m looking for, rather than the common sense type replies that I can figure out on my own.

That being said, and now that it seems I have somewhat of a audience:

The class II’s were fun and a little challenging… we’re still learning how to read the currents. As it was, my friend got pushed into a rock sideways and had to egress the swifty as it sank, and I was later pinned sideways between two rocks (which seemed to be spaced at a perfect 11.2’ apart) and had to bail; my boat sank immediately and was carried about 200 yards to the beginning of the abandoned paper mill.

What specific training should we seek? What gear is essential besides PFD’s and helmets? Anyone recommend any other runs in the NJ area that would be good training runs (II’s).

From the previous posts, it seems that our boats should stay away from anything more than class II’s, (and really, thats fine with me).


If your boats sink when full of water
you should buy some form of “flotation” for them. That probably means float bags (air bags) that you secure in the ends, but it could mean closed-cell foam that you secure in the ends, or even bulkheads that you use to seal off the ends (overly ambitious, that one).

Taking a step back, I’m not sure that I’d spend a lot of money outfitting a boat that really isn’t appropriate for whitewater. If you need to stick with rec boats, stick with easy water; if you want to do harder water, develop your skills in the rec boats (can be done on easy water, if you concentrate on skill development rather than on getting down the river), then buy a real whitewater boat. Having said that, I should also say that I am not familiar with the particular boats you have, so this is just general factors-to-consider advice; other people can probably be more specific.

– Mark


Training needed

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 7:58 AM EST –

Answer isn't that fancy - if whitewater is drawing you, then get whitewater training from a shop or outfitter with predominantly WW background. As to specifics - you could probably take it from soup to nuts so it doesn't have to get any more detailed. A good WW outfit will get you going the right way.

I’m just tickled he’s got enough sense to ask fellow paddlers and not them crazy ass AST’s (rescue swimmers). Mikey, you’ve renewed my hope for you brown shoes yet. Welcome to the boards, shipmate.


Starting in whitewater
You’ll be safer and happier in whitewater with a baot that’s designed for it. Used whitewater boats are relatively cheap. If you’re going to be paddling a mixture of flat and moving water, a longer boat will make the flat sections a bit easier. Something like a Dagger Approach might be a reasonable compromise.

A whitewater boat should fit snugly, because you use your lower body and hips for edge and boat control. A good fit also makes it easier to roll. Rolling is a basic safety skill for any moving water over class II.

As for safety, a big part is recognizing the hazards – strainers, holes, pinning rocks, sieves, low-head dams, etc. Knowing how to safely eddy out of the current is another basic skill.

Here’s one good source of information:

There are lots of good books and videos to learn from. Your best bet is to find some experienced paddlers who can help you get started safely.

helmet, air bags as mentioned,
spray skirt, ability to wet exit a minimum. I canoe only, but have been helping a rec. kayaker get used to running 2+ in his Otter. He got charged up after a couple successful runs and bought himself a ww yak. (inazone?) He found the handling characteristics totally different from his rec. yak and has a whole new learning curve ahead of him. Rec. yaks seem okay if you just want to get down the river, but once you figure out 90% of the fun of WW (2-3) is playing on the way, a ww yak will be on your wish list.

Since the only person calling me a pansey for not wanting to try III+ is my friend with the Swifty… sounds like I’ll avoid anything higher than a II until I recieve the proper training, equipment, and experience needed to negotiate those runs successfully. Thank you all for your advice.

true whitewater folks
don’t call anybody anything degrading. You is what you is, and if you try to be what you ain’t, you can end up a was.Stay in a comfort zone, best place to push things are areas with a pool below the challenging area, or try a park and play spot to get the feel of eddys,holes, and surf waves. Long swims can hurt…

Same one who?
The friend with the Swifty calling you a pansy, he the same one who went down a 30 ft dam - in a Swifty?

I submit that if he keeps taking shots like that, you’ll not be hearing that harassment for very long.

Since you are a water safety professional, I’d encourage you download and watch – and share – the “Binghamton Fire Department Drowning Incident Video” here:

An edited form of this is a standard training film for firefighters and EMTs.

These tame-looking low-head dams are often much more dangerous than the gnarly waterfalls you see in whitewater kayaking videos.

Something like this might be helpful:

anybody who runs a 30 foot dam is taking a very dangerous risk—dams, even small ones, usually have very powerful hydrolics at their base that can suck a boat and paddler under for minutes, sometimes hours at a time. All the whitewater paddlers that I know stay away from them. Like Celia said, if your buddy makes this a habit he won’t be around too much longer to make fun of you.

hook up with experienced ww folk

– Last Updated: Apr-28-08 3:03 PM EST –

You can learn a lot in Class II. Class III can hurt you. Class IV can kill you.


Good ww paddlers are supportive and respect those who know their limitations. I only started ww last year. I've found training to be essential. Paddling with much more skilled and experienced paddlers is not only great fun but excellent learning. When paddling with others, be very honest & clear in conveying your skill and experience level. No one who knows anything will call you a pansey.

Used ww boats are cheap. Inazones and RPMs are good learning tools - as are many others. If you want to run and enjoy Class II and above, get a boat designed for that purpose.