I used to think I was an intermediate paddler

After reading many accounts of adventures here I have concluded that I am barely a beginner.
I appreciate real paddlers sharing their experiences and what they have learned.
I’ll be happy to just be a flat water explorer.


I have done a lot of kayaking since ~2007 and canoed when young, starting as a teenager in 1956 in what is now called the BWCA. Nowadays I kayak 40 to 60 days a year on lakes and off Vancouver Island, not long distances … by anyone’s measure. I consider myself a permanent beginner and am quite happy with that.


Paddling with talented people is a real eye opener. Do it when ever you can.
Rivers and big lakes have a way of putting people in their place.

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In the immortal words of Dirty Harry, “ A man has to know his limitations.”

I have no idea if I’m beyond a beginner or how close to an intermediate paddler I am. I know what I enjoy doing and I stay within my limitations.

People get in trouble when they bite off more than they can chew. One of my fears on forums such as this one is that newcomers or people with a given level react to what they read here and decide to push on their limitations. Not that they need a push in anyway a lot around where I live do it totally on their own motivations.

One thing I like about getting older is I don’t have anything to prove to myself or anyone else at this point. Not just in paddling ether. If it looks like more than I want to try I’m fine with passing or taking the easy way around.

Just being happy to be just doing something is in itself all the pleasure I need. I wish there was more discussion between all the levels of paddlers here. Getting out on the water and getting to see nature as I slowly float past is pretty awesome too. :canoe:


I just like the rythem and sensation of paddling.

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I’ve always been categorically challenged.

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That’s the best way to be kevburg. It’s just kayaking.

I sure hope that I’m an intermediate because I really don’t think a beginner should have been out in the wind, current and cold water I was in today. :grinning:

For many types of paddling I wouldn’t even qualify as a beginner.


There’s a LOT of pleasure to be had as a flat water explorer.


Flatwater is great until it gets rough.
Rivers are great until they get fast and turbulent.

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A local club used to refer to “Practiced Novices”. I think it’s meant as a step between beginner and intermediate.


This is a place where the systems that offer some amount of certification are helpful. Assuming intermediate is a number or letter rank in the middle of the scale, there are skills associated with each. So beginner, or intermediate etc become about the skills present. Not how long someone has spent in a boat, which seems to be how many people try to rate themselves.

In terms of most of those systems, I have slipped to probably a somewhat advanced beginner for sea/open water kayaking. Despite solidly over 20 years in the saddle and a very well developed ability to find safe conditions to paddle out of where I stay in Maine. Probably would be starting from scratch in whitewater.

This can be a problem when finding people to paddle with, if the criteria include having some skill level in case a problem develops. I have been out with someone who said they were intermediate only to find out halfway thru the paddle that they have never practiced a capsize or any kind of rescue. So if something happened to anyone in the party that took a couple of folks to handle and it was just three of us, that second person would not exist.

Call it what you want, and I have had an occasional person get offended and call me a snob. But I have been in a situation where it took two people to handle a problem, or where the person in the water was a large guy who went into full panic. I am too old to paddle with people who think they can get by on a lick and a prayer.


We are all beginners at something.

Don’t want to get all analytical here, but somewhere along the line someone referred me to a book called Managing the Risks of Outdoor Activities. It is really aimed at folks running outdoor trips as a business, but it had an interesting way of looking at the competency of those who are engaged in an activity by comparing skill level to the difficulty of the activity. If you look at me for example, I would consider myself advanced when it comes to flatwater, maybe more of an intermediate at whitewater, but a rank beginner for sea kayaking.

I should be able to handle just about any flatwater trip, I need to be more careful choosing whitewater trips, and really careful in the rare event that I go sea kayaking.

So we are all beginners at something, and more importantly, no one is an expert at everything.


I thought myself
an intermediate paddler,
till so long this addler,
taken back up my rattler.

And in new beginnings
seeking rapid expertise,
from seated throne I am tossed
and I crawl back on my knees


What separates me from the rank beginners is that I know enough to understand that I’m a beginner.


Au contraire, I sit proudly in my flat water craft at peace with the elements I choose to paddle in.

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No contraire,
for I do declare,
I too am benchwarmer
floating flat with little care,

but seateth me midst tumult,
of frothy cataract,
enter intermediate me
a reassignment in fishy act


Our Sea Kayak paddle clubs had a question on the application something like , "What would others call your skill level. , beginner, intermediate, or expert. "

The prospective beginner often answers that question and the following question…

I’ve been paddling for ten years, intermediate. I paddle a 8ft SunDolphin.


So I rebranded a clinic that I help with. The West Virginia Wildwater Association formerly had a “beginner” and “intermediate clinic”. I’ve rebranded the beginner clinic to a “Fundamentals Clinic”. It is appropriate for anyone who wants to work on fundamentals. The truth is we probably all need to revisit fundamentals regularly. I felt the “beginner” moniker would discourage that.

Many of the skills in the ACA classes are similar. Most significantly the environment changes and becomes more severe as the level of the class increases.

What is most important is to develop a sense of awareness for the environment that you are in. The ability to recognize hazards and avoid them is key to survival.

My experience with flatwater is that it doesn’t always stay flat. I’ve experienced some pretty crazy weather so I’m very much a wear your pfd, dress for the water temp, and stay within your fitness and skill level . Even with all that, sometimes things go wrong. The ability to self rescue is paramount.

I’m not particularly gifted but am well seasoned. I was getting some good feedback from Robin Pope and Scott Fisher. They told me “you brace a lot even when you don’t need to.” I said “guys you’ve given me a ton of stuff to work on and I’ll do it, but the bracing thing has served me pretty well.” That prompted a “fair enough”.

some recent pictures of the kiddy pool, still a lot of fun to be had!


I want to see the adult pool.