Beginner looking for instruction

I am just getting interested in kayaking and would appreciate advice on, or better yet specific recommendations for, outfitters or schools with solid reputation on instruction. I would like to pursue both ocean and river kayaking and realize I may have to go to different places for those.

I am a total newbie and want to learn the right way to do things.

I am in Pennsylvania, but willing to travel. Also realize I may have to wait until Spring.

Any advice would be appreciated.

which part of PA? NM

One of many…

– Last Updated: Nov-01-06 4:46 PM EST –

Don't know PA, but if you want a trip, here's one for for river paddling:

For sea kayaking:

These folks also have a ton of good information at:

If you want to head for warmer waters:

If web searches or your area stores can't help, check the ads in magazines like Sea Kayaker, Paddler, or Canoe & Kayak.

Given the season, I'd start with looking for a local pool class and/or rolling class.

You should be able to hook up with someone within a rational distance for winter pool sessions in many areas of PA, but a more detail on location would help.

As to doing WW and sea, getting serious in both at the same time presumes a lot of time and a pretty deep pocket. What kind of water would you actually be paddling in - that is within a reasonable distance of where you live or vacation - and how many boats can you afford to buy and/or store right off?

Amwers to some questions
Wow. Thanks already. Good info and questions.

I am in southeastern PA, just outside

Philadelphia. We have some lazy rivers near us (Delaware) but I travel to North Carolina for work and can easily get to other areas in the mid south and mid Atlantic. For ocean, just an hour away from the New Jersey shore, but really would like to do some touring in Maine, which is where I am from.

Budget? I am the type of person that when I get into something, I will find the time and money. It may take me a little while, but the very nature of my posting is my start for information gathering to find out the realities of learning/starting this activity.

This recent thread had some comments on resources in Maine:

And another one for your roadtrip list:

Further Afield; Pacific NW
Depending on how far you are willing to travel, is a great instruction school.

The intro class with George Gronseth is the best class I have taken on anything. Very comprehensive and will help to push your limits in a controlled manner.

So, if you are willing to travel further, could be worth the travel.

I have no affiliation with Kayak Academy, other than taking classes.


– Last Updated: Nov-02-06 1:02 PM EST –

I'm in PA on the other end of the Delaware River.

Lots of class I and II even III in the right season. Be happy to show you around but, only during the week, no weekends.

I'm close enough to the river to go often. I've been paddling about 4 years.

Maybe you could post your profile when you get a chance.

Instruction in Maine
Here area couple of good options for instruction in Maine: Will work with you anywhere. John Carmody has been my mentor since I began 5 years ago.

And some more friends/mentors:

Tom Bergh out of Peaks Island (off Portland)

Mel Rice/Mark Schoon:

Good Luck!


checkout… They are outside of Wrightsville, PA. Great shop!

In North Carolina
It is hard to beat:

for whitewater instruction.

I’d suggest…
That you start by looking around for WW outfits near you, and outfitters or clubs that offer pool sessions in the winter for instruction and practice. Get an basic WW used river runner, something like the Dagger Mamba or older RPM if you are the right size that supports starting out paddlers in WW well, and start getting wet with that for learning strokes and basic edging, rolling etc. They are cheap and you’ll always have something you can take out on the local pond to get wet with, and the skills will transfer to longer boats fine. In fact you’ll be well ahead of many of us who started out in long boats early on.

Re sea kayaks, I’d suggest that you spend a good long time paying to take tours, or to be taken out for lessons or to demo, before you buy. The sea kayaks are where people often buy too short and too wide or big a volume boat for their first one, and very shortly end up looking around for a sleeker more narrow one. It’s an expensive way to get the right boat.

Go for winter pool instruction
The instructional program I am in supplies boats and paddles. What you learn in the pool transfers easily to both whitewater and sea kayaking and your only cost is the tuition (if there is any). We have a river course in the spring and sea kayaking trips as well. We often loan boats for both. So look around. You may be able to get into the sport and learn the basics for almost nothing.

Philadelphia area
is where I also live.

Check out the Philadelphia Canoe Club

They offer excellent year-round training classes.

Also hook up with local paddlers via local paddling groups like the Penn_Kayakers at:


Thank you
Lot’s a great information here. I really appreciate all of the knowledge sharing. Hope to return the favor some day soon.

I’d also recommend
the Penn Kayaking group Elaine mentioned. Great group of folks with lots of pooled knowledge and resources. And what a sense of collective humor they have!

Give yourself a treat
I would give yourself a treat and take the 5 day kayak camp class at Body Boat & Blade on Orcas Island, WA. Get some practice now over the winter and then see if they will take you into their class. My wife and I did it along with two of our friends and it was both great training and an excellent experience spending time in the San Jaun Islands.

You can find pictures from our trip in the Orcas Island folder at

Look at this thread
below right now, in Advice and Suggestions. “What river kayak should I get” or close. As it gets longer it has developed into an interesting discussion about older v newer planing hulls for WW and how each supports learning.