How does one learn whitewater

I’v been a flatwater paddler since I was way to small to be in a boat. I can read a river like a book.Recently went on a raft trip on the chatooga and I’m hooked!

That being said. I was amazed that the guides could put those rubber rafts into lines that I would have thought impossible.

How does one start learning. Take into account I’ll most likely be alone doing this.

I’ve just picked up a used marivia inflatable kayak and feel I should be comfortable doing class 1 and 2 rapids in it.Guess I’m just asking where the jumping off point is as far as getting into serious whitewater is.

Any ideas would help



First rule
The first rule is DON’T do it alone. Even seemingly innocuous moving water can kill people.

If you can find a club or experienced paddlers to paddle with it will give you a much faster and safer learning curve. If you can’t find anyone then consider paying for a course.

Once you get into whitewater you also have a range of types of paddling you can do eg: river running, freestyle or if you really want to hit those tight lines, slalom.

Firstly though, look for a club or whitewater paddlers in your area.


It’s Worth It…
to spend some time with lessons to learn how to deal with eddylines, ferrying, etc. These become more important as you move up to higher classes. I am not against going out alone in lower class water, provided you really know the river and have a good handle on handling the lines. If you don’t have a good roll, there is a good chance for long swims and possible loss of equipment if you end up in a swim. That said, if you feel comfortable with that, go ahead. Swims in class II and even some IIIs usually don’t end in injuries or something worse.


Locate a WW group of paddlers
Your profile says your from N.Fla. so I would assume you would travel to Georgia for WW. I believe there is a WW group from the Georgia area. Not sure of the club name though. If you just plan on running CL-II in a inflatable then you can get away with doing it with a group from your area. Either way you should be under the wing of experienced paddlers. I learned going out solo but I don’t recommend that way. It sounds like you want to run rapids in a inflatable. Slightly different than a canoe or kayak.

If you can, learn from others
A good teacher will save you a lot of grief and maybe your life. Reading rapids is very different from reading flatwater. Get the new river running videos from Eric Jackson. They will give you a good start in learning what to look for.

The Path
I have learned a huge amount from an old established school of whitewater kayaking that teaches life skills, the balance of zen in the world, patience in understanding, and the value of deep breathing exercises. This of course is all revealed as your getting blasted by a stopper wave and thrown into a recirculating hydraulic finally being popped clear out of your cockpit, discovering that ‘tock’ sound is a new apprecieation for your helmet, flushing down a drop backwards and then spending the next couple of days looking for your playboat (early vintage Pirrouette) which is finally found 5’ up in a tree bent like a pretzl loaded with leaves and clay. Ahhh, yes the time honored lessons of the University of Flub and Glub.

Go to an ACA accredited whitewater school and start from the basics and work yourself up through to the swiftwater rescue skills. It’ll be cheaper in the long run and far more enjoyable of having fun instead of clawing up a cliff angle of a learning curve.

See you on the water, aerated and tidal,


(a bit undercaffinated this AM)

(Oh, the scene of these illuminations are the Rondout Creek - Eyeripper, The Moodna Creek - Pylon & Knox’s HQ & the Sandburg Creek - the bottom hole or at least those are the ones I’m able to remember. Ah, the armor of ignorance)

Alabama Small Boats
Alabama Small Boats in Helena, AL (just south of Birmingham) offers whitewater, touring and canoeing lessons throughout the year. for more info.

Don’t know where you are
But here in western new york there’s a whitewater park (lock32 down near Rochester)and they offer classes in a somewhat controlled (as opposed to the upper Yough etc.)enviornment.

I believe several of these are cropping up around the country.

If there’s one in your neck of the woods it’d be worth a visit.

Thanks folks!
Given me some stuff to think about.Ordered Eric Jackson’s DVD, Got a few feelers out for folks to paddle with up in the SC. NC. North GA. area.Looking into some basic whitewater classes up at NOC. Will definitely be starting out in the inflatable. Dad just bought a retirement place up in Salem SC so I’ve got a good central base of operations up there.

Just didn’t want ya to think I was headed out tommorow to run section 4 :slight_smile:

Thanks again


Georgia Canoeing Assn
I saw your recent post. You can’t go wrong with taking a class with NOC. Also, you might want to consider joining the GA Canoeing Association:

I’ve been a member for about 7 years now, and I wouldn’t have gotten so into paddling if it wasn’t for the club. I took my first ww class with them and have met most of my paddling buddies through the club.

GCA offers a variety of trips each weekend from flatwater, class I/II to class III/IV.

Good luck and have fun learning ww.

I’m a white water inflatable kayaker too
I bought an IK by accident when I sent my delivery guy to the boat store for an inflatable raft for 2 people ,he came back with an inflatable Seyvlor 2 man kayak ,and am I ever glad he did .That was in about 1991.I soon met some guys who had just finished a course in a pool and were new to kayaking in there solid shell kayaks .I soon learned ferrying and scullying ( I think thats the term )and off to the class 2 rivers we went.At first if I got scared I’d just lay flat in the kayak to put the center of cravity low as possible (this worked good in Class 2 water )I had to get lined up first ,but class 2 is pretty forgiving .Pretty soon I was paddling the kayak race course we have up here with class 2 and 3 rapids ,I wasn’t racing just playing along with lots of other people when there were no races .In the 3 years I paddled I only capsized twice ,once on the first day when I got sideways to a 8 inch or so waterfall ( yep eight inches high) I learned into the waterfall and the water flowed in and over and out of my boat I came .If you are on class 1 and 2 rivers I’d say the most important thing is sweepers/stainers you can drown real easy when caught in those .Thats trees that have been erroded and fell accross the river ,when you get caught in one your boat gets stuck upstream on the branches but the water keeps pushing it, you will most likley tip and the water will pull you into the tree and as the water goes through the branches that are below the surface you wont ,you will be pulled into them and as you are now acting as a dam and the branches are under water its only a mater of time till you tire out and are pulled under where you will be stuck and drown .The force of the river NEVER tires .Other than that and what the others advised you I think you will have a world of fun .If you are as interested as you sound ,you are probably reading all you can get your hands on ,thats what I did …if you fall out of your boat be sure to float feet first down stream ,so your feet dont get jammed between 2 rocks and you have the strainer type thing again.Keep your kayak downstream from you when swimming so you dont get logged against a rock with your kayak pushing into you ( sort of like holding a sheet of plywood up in the curent).

I said I fell out of my boat twice in 3 years ,once on the first day and once on the last day.I got siseways once again below a ledge and flipped ,that was ok but I was pulled into an overhanging smooth rock and the water was pulling me under as I tried to hold on to the surface ,I got a grip on the rock but was tired and scared and as my arms got tired I got face fulls of water more often then mouthfulls .Finally I slipped was washed kinda beside and maybe a bit under ,but I think it was just me being tired that made me think I went under.Anyways that was late in the fall and it snowed the next weekend so I didn’t go back that year and next year I was pretty nervous and had bought a motorcycle that I was hooked on so stayed off the river ,and stayed nervous about the water.Three years ago I got gutsy and bought another inflatable kayak ,a Stearns one person whitewater self bailing one ,but didn’t get the urge to use it till this fall ,now I’m hooked again ,even paddled past the 2 places where I got dunked .( but didn’t linger)I still like my old sevylor but being worn out after 3 years of use I had given it away.

I guess 13 years off the river is long enough .I’m going to join a club we have here that goes out a lot .I’m even going to see if the pool guys can teach me to eskino roll in my inflatable .Oh yeah, I’m going to be 60 years old this spring . If your ever up in Alberta or BC we have loads of great rivers .


don’t do it alone
I agree with the one who said don’t do it alone. You can easily flip and get caught under a rock or something like that. I’ve been white water yaking twice now with a group of people and we have used a guide. I’d suggest doing this the first time to learn a few tricks before you try it with a friend (not alone). This past summer we did the Chatooga also that involved the part that Deliverence was filmed, you can’t forget the scene… It is a great river and I can easily understand being hooked. Good luck

Going Alone
Going out alone is a personal choice. If you are a strong swimmer and not subject to panic going alone shouldn’t be a problem. If your not comfortable without a group then use one. Being in your comfort zone is important in whitewater.

You’re using an infatable designed for whitewater. Lessons really aren’t required. A sales person could show you how to paddle in a shop. Guides take people out in the same kayak you’re using all the time with just a few minutes of demonstation. I’ve seen, probably a few thousand, tourists paddle the Salmon River in inflatables without incident. Practice your stroke for a while in a lake or some other benign environment then start small and go for it. I’ve seen beginners take on hydraulic class IV rapids in a boat like you have. They’re pretty stable. Learn to backstroke with your bow facing danger to avoid obstacles. Have fun.

Very bad advice.
If someone followed your advice they would decide to go down the upper Gauley with no experience, guide, or river knowledge. With all the holes, undercuts, and sieves that would be a death sentence, even in an inflatable. The most recent death there was someone who came out of a private raft in the first rapid.

bad advice going at it alone. We spent more than a few minutes with our guides learning techniques. Even they won’t go out alone.

He said “class I or II”. He’s more likely to tear up his boat, lose his hat, and drive home wet & smelling like fish than die a horrible death.

Going alone is both wrong and boring in my opinion, but the fire & brimstone stuff is kinda scary.

pahsimeroi said class IV

I’m guilty of skimming past the crazy stuff.