formal lessons

I am wondering how essential formal lessons really are for my kind of paddling. I do not do long open sea crossings. I go out for 3 to 4 hours, day tripping , I guess they call it.

I may paddle up to 10 miles from the put in and always in relatively good conditions (under 20 MPH winds).

I have read extensively about paddling techniques, how to read the water and other related matters. I also read the forums and talk to other paddlers. It seems to me that one can be self taught to an acceptable level of proficiency for my kind of paddle trips.

Forward strokes, sweep strokes, lean turns. when to use the rudder, how to deal with the wind,…all these things come to you eventually if you do it enough. Not to denigrate the value of formal lessons, but I think kayaking has an intuitive nature to it for many people.

Join a club
… that is, if you have the opportunity. So you have someone to pratice with.

Self teaching has its limitations, namely, learning and re-enforcing bad habits. Unless you video tape yourself paddling, you may think you’re doing what the book said, in reality you maybe doing a very poor approximation of it.

A paddling buddy could at least tell you that you look pretty good compare to the video tape, or you look nothing like it!

I’m not an aggresive paddler. I don’t go out in a storm, nor do I race. Still I found going paddling with more experience paddlers helpful. I’m able to pick up bits and peices on both paddling techniques and good vs. bad judgement. A lession is one of the more “formal” (if more expensive) way to do the same, typically in a condenced format so you actually pick up a lot more in a much shorter time frame.

Pool Skool
I went to classes over the winter to learn to roll the boat. I don’t know if I’ll ever need to roll, but it was a lot of fun and if nothing else a great confidence builder.

If you choose not to take classes, I would recommend taking the time to practice self/assisted rescues out on the lake.

Jim it sounds like you’re enjoying
the new boat!

I just took a class on landing and launching in the surfzone, and I personally feel that safety and rescue classes, and roll classes are invaluable. They provide you with a safe place to practice things that are not always intuitive, where you are able to get helpful feedback, and practice in a more controlled and safe environment. I think the skills learned in these areas in particular, are not always intuitive for paddlers. A lot depends on how much water experience you have in addition to kayaking, and who you kayak with as well. I agree that sometimes paddling with a club can be helpful. It may help you identify which sorts of classes would be helpful to you, and which ones you can pass on.

Also, I am very lucky to have some terrific local paddlers teaching, including Brent Reitz, and Dave Johnston. If you don’t have access to good local instruction, I would save my money for some fun and instructive kayaking tours or clinics to places I would like to visit, and where I could count on the instruction to be top notch:)

It’s part of the fun
In addition to everything mentioned so far. Paddling with good skills makes it all more enjoyable.


I started kayaking…
…in white water, and I considered a roll class necessary, so I took that.

I don’t think a class is necessary for someone like yourself.

When we got our first sea kayaks, we bought a book to learn the self rescue and other fundmentals, and there is no mystery to it. It is just a practice type thing.

After we were sea kayaking for about five years, we bought a technique book and picked up some pointers

I think the more you learn, the more you want to learn.

I am eagerly awaiting a opportunity to attend a racing paddle session, if I can ever find one.

I am a happy self taught paddler without any classes.



starting out
I had started paddling for about a year before I took my first class the first thing that I learned was just how much I did not know, Self rescue and navigation have made paddling much more enjoyable and have given me a huge return on the investment.

I would highly recommend classes to any one just starting out.

Formal lessons
to me would be a personal choice. I’d suggest it for all the reasons given above. Practicing and knowing how to rescue yourself or someone your with is a nesecity no matter were or what you paddle. At least in my book. Kind of like your PFD. Chances are you will not need it. But when you do it will only save you if you have it on.

Just my thoughts Paddle safe have fun and

Good Journey’s


Common sense approach
Sounds like you are applying common sense and becoming self-taught. That’s fine for many. I did note however that you did not list any self-rescue techniques in the category of things you are learning. If it was a simple omission then skip my remarks. If not, you may want to start learning the various essentials for self-rescue and rescue in general. One of my goals this year is to practice rolls until I can do them “naturally”. I am also going to get profecient at wet re-entry. I can do it, but like my rolls, I fail a few times until I remember the steps. This is because I have never really invested water time on multiple practice sessions, so I personally feel uncomfortable with my level of ability. I can do it… but can I do it if I really need to… sort of thing.


will teach you ‘correct’ technique, something the DIY’er sometimes takes much time to figure out. Think STEEP learning curve.

Body parts do much better when used correctly and there are some easy mistakes that can do damage in the DIY program.

Safety concerns are always an issue when the Rescue and Recovery phase of paddlesport education is self taught.

steve - professional kayak EDUcator

I think you’d be surprised by how
much you don’t know.

I know I was shocked at how much I could learn from a good instructor when I had my first lessons in something as simple as forward stroke. And this is to say nothing of self-rescues, rolling, or group rescues.

You may not think you need instruction. That’s entirely up to you. You don’t need an ocean to get in to trouble on the water. Lots and lots of people die on the great lakes every year in kayaks. Lots and lots of people die on the water period.

But it sounds like from the fact that you’re even asking this question that you’re at least considering lessons. What could be the harm in taking a lesson?

You might discover A)you have a lot to learn. you get really interested in learning more and more skills, and want to take more classes. B) You know everything already, [not very likely!] C) you know more than the instructor and are really dissappointed by instruction

I do think USK’s two part

– Last Updated: Apr-08-04 1:10 AM EST –

video/dvd on rescue and safety is excellent , whether or not you take formal classes. It covers a lot of info that's hard to absorb in a class, even a really comprehensive class. It also makes a great review and reference. Our local paddling group is planning a pinic/camping trip at a nearby lake so we can all practice together, and have some fun at the time:)

Surf Lessons
The only formal lessons I have taken were kayak surfing lessons. I have done group lessons, and I have even done a private one on one lesson. They were totally worth it.

Not just for the boating instruction. I learned a lot about local “customs” that has prevented a lot of the confrontations I used to have with boardies. With a little prodding, instructors will also tell about the spots they do not share with most outsiders.

On my first lesson I was taken to a spot I had always wanted to surf, but was afraid to surf alone. Good thing I waited to go with somone who knew that spot well. Tips like “watch out for the barely submerged jagged steel beam buried in the sand over there” are priceless.

I also met at least one guy at my first lesson I have surfed with on several occassions since then.

I really have to recommend kayk surfing lessons to newcomers to the Santa Cruz area.