Differences in Rafts and Kayaks.


I’m fifteen, and I’ve only had minimal paddling experience, and most of it was in whitewater rafting. Other than that, I’ve had a small amount of experience in canoeing and kayaking, though I believe the kayaks were made with children in mind and different from traditional kayaks.

Anyway, I’ve been whitewater rafting a few times (3 or 4 times, I believe), and I tend to steer because I enjoy it, and also, I definitely have a knack for it. In fact, I believe it’s the only thing I’ve ever picked up on my very first try.

My talent at it is partially why I’d like to learn how to kayak, but mostly because I had so much fun. I chose kayaking over things like canoeing and rafting because as far as I knew, kayaks were the best suited for one person (and I would be the only one doing this).

The point is, I was wondering if my talent in steering a raft will translate well in steering a kayak. I have been informed they have a tendency to tip, and one must learn how to bring themselves back over to the surface very quickly. Also, I know that I will be the only one paddling, and as such, I don’t have the muscle of the people who would be on the raft to take turns as quickly as I’d like.

But would I still have an advantage?

The physical skills probably won’t transfer. What will tranfer is any ability you’ve gained to read the river and pick a good line. Most importantly, your enjoyment of being on the river and in whitewater is a huge help. One of the most common reasons people flip in kayaks is because they get nervous and tense up instead of staying loose. If you see a good wave and think “Yeehah!” instead of “Oh nooooo…”, you’ll do much better.

About like going from

– Last Updated: Aug-31-09 7:05 PM EST –

a bus to a 'vette. Those Class III rapids that you slide right through on a raft can get you in some serious trouble with a small ww kayak if you don't know what you're doing.

Start in easy Class I and Class II stuff, see if you enjoy that, then move up the ladder, taking WW classes and rescue classes along the way. Lots of folks work up to Class III and Class IV in a couple of years or so.

Find a club or a local group that'll put up with newbies -- they'll lead you along and generally keep you from doing anything too insane as you develop your skills. And they might just save your butt a time or two.


…there are such things as white water canoes which are paddled by one person.

they can be rolled–which is always weird to watch.

Basically, you sit in a kayak with a double bladed paddle and you kneel in a canoe with a single bladed paddle. the kneeling is done on specially modified “outfitting” to partially save the knees. These are called OC1

and now for the great paradox, there are canoes which started out at kayaks, got modified and are paddled as canoes with a single blade. these are called C1.

Kayaks are typically called K1 although there are at least two brands of white water kayaks that are built for two. these are called K2.

The moral: you are just starting out. keep your mind open and maybe you’ll find a canoe you like.

I believe angstrom in right on. Having a knack for, and learning to read the water, is an invaluable asset. And, fun is what it’s all about.

One note on safety. A good PFD is important, and many will tell you wearing it is the most important safety feature there is. However, I believe the biggest safety factor is “knowing your limits”. You’ll have plenty of time to test your limits as your skills grow.

Have fun and keep us posted.

Don’t know where you got your info
but where I come from an OC-1 is a one man out rigger canoe, not a WW canoe with outfitting.

Maybe the term OC1 also describes a one person outrigger canoe, but it also describes a one person whitewater open canoe, or any one person open canoe for that matter.

I immediately noticed the “OC-1” terminology parallel when I went into outriggers after 25 years of running WW in solo open CanAm canoes.

One way to avoid confusion is to use the Hawaiian term “va’a” for an OC-1 outrigger.

Back to the topic, I don’t think there will be much skill to transfer from 2 or 3 group raft runs to solo WW kayaking. However, as noted, there can be a transfer of enthusiasm, interest, willingness to learn, and the ineffable “love of the river” that strikes many paddlers.

Some of it will transfer . . .
What we call gross motor skills in the human development field - and some fine motor skills also - seem to be what you describe. While you will still have to learn paddling skills in a kayak and/or canoe, as others have said here, you may have some genetic “hardwiring” and early skills that translate well onto the water. That’s what people mean when they say you have a knack for something.

The biggest thing is to learn from everybody you can -especially where safety is concerned, and don’t overestimate your abilities - which is something we all are at risk of doing if we are not careful.

Because you are getting into this at an early age, you probably will develop skills to a level that some of us oldtimers never will because we started later.

Welcome to the world of paddling! May it bring you great joy and endless, but safe, adventure!