Newbie seeks advice, plan of action

-- Last Updated: Sep-24-07 3:50 AM EST --

What plan of action steps would you recommend for someone from N. Central Texas with no kayak experience who has set for themselves the goal of safely and successfully navigating a Class 3 run as efficiently and inexpensively as possible, before deciding how much they like it and whether to continue the sport? I Googled and surfed through some websites that feature local paddling clubs, roll lessons in swimming pools, and also some all-day classes and multi-day excursion companies located nowhere near me. With all the options out there in lesson costs, equipment costs, transportation and lodging costs, and not knowing for sure how far I'll have to drive to achieve my objective, I'm not sure which route to go. One of the few 'paddling' clubs in my area does a lot of calm water canoeing, (based on the pics they took on trips, which I'm not particularly interested in right now). They have a trip planned in Oklahoma that looks a little more lively like I want, (Class 2-3+), but it requires experience I don't have. Ultimately, assuming this is a hobby I want to pursue on a regular basis since I don't know how much I'll like it, I envision always being with more experienced kayakers to have a chance of saving my butt if I get into trouble. I don't really want to invest $2,000 in a multi-day excursion (by the time you figure in transportation and motel), but maybe a one-day deal, with lessons just prior to that if it's the most efficient way to get it down all at once. The most I've done is one group rafting trip near Taos, but want more than what it had to offer. The water was relatively slow compared to prior seasons, and the guide divided the route into 3 parts, classical, easy listening, and rock and roll. Other than the scenery, I really only enjoyed the rock and roll when it came to paddling. I got a taste of the potential danger when it got pretty hairy when a woman fell out of another raft behind us and it was up to us to pull over and grab her when they made it to us, but the guide pretty much handled it and the other boat ended up staying on her and pulling her back in. I've also done some tame canoeing, but nothing with waterfalls of any kind, so I'm ready to start from square one. I don't really want to spend time on Class I cause I don't see how it can help me, unless you recommend it just to get used to a kayak and paddling if I don't take many or any lessons. But then what? Find a group going on a Class 2 trip, and work your way up? Are clubs just as good as paid excursions with instructor/guides around? I can certainly see how following somebody who knows the river and where the rocks are can be an advantage. I'm not sure of the best way to go about gaining experience, again, as cheaply and time efficiently as possible. I'm allergic to expensive mistakes, and doing things the wrong way. Would rather just have someone who has been there tell me what to do. By the way, I haven't yet seen a ranking of Class 2 that isn't also Class 3, i.e. they all say Class 2-3+. Even still, how does one even know when they are ready for the next level if they've never faced the challenge? And if all it takes is one rapid area within a stretch or river to call it Class 3, then how do you choose a river with lots of class 3's? If you want to be where the action is, you want it rock and roll the whole way, with maybe spots to rest, but not just ONE Class 3 spot. Are there maps that point to each spot, with a classification for each? Can you tell I'm new to this? Thanks for any advice. The more answers you can provide to all my many questions, the better.
P.S.- Once you get in your boat and head out, where and when do you use the restroom?
P.P.S. - Does 'rolling' always work? I hate to bring this up if the answer is yes, and excuse my ignorance, but has anyone ever drowned cause they rolled over and their technique didn't get them right side up? I know nothing about rolling. I just visited the thread 'rolling - best method of instruction' on this site and I'm lost in the terminology. It sounds complicated. Maybe I should take that class first if it may scare me out of the sport before I start(?)
P.P.P.S. - What's the oldest age you've seen anyone do this sport? Are there 70 yr olds doing class 4?

Many rivers that are Class II to III have Class III rapids that are easily portaged as long as you know where they are. Some rivers, especially in gorges, however, may have difficult rapids that can’t be easily portaged. As long as you know the difference, you may have rivers nearby that allow you to experience Class I to II whitewater without needing to run Class III rapids.

The idea of taking a one day class that prepares you for Class III whitewater is not too realistic. Outdoor centers like Nantahala Outdoor center in western North Carolina do offer “rapid progression” courses that last 4 to 7 days that are intended to take beginners and get them up to running witewater rivers like the Nantahala, which does have a Class III rapid. The courses are not cheap, which you point out, put you don’t have to own any gear whatsoever, get to try out different boats, and you get quality instruction. Lodging and meals are included in the course cost, and if you have a buddy or buddies who are interested, you may drive together and share transportation expenses. This would probably be the most “time-efficient” way to gain experience responsibly but perhaps not the cheapest. Again, you wouldn’t have to invest in any gear.

The cheapest way would likely be to find a group or club in your locality that paddles whitewater. Most clubs provide some type of instruction, often in the form of a weekend spring paddling school geared to beginners. You may be able to borrow a boat, paddle, spray skirt, helmet and appropriate clothing. You may well not be prepared for Class III water after such a class, but it would give you a feel for the sport. Most clubs then offer some type of follow up instruction on river runs throughout the year and perhaps rolling sessions on a local pond or pool. At some point, you would be expected to buy your own stuff if you continue with the sport.

Try this guy

PS - Rest stops tend to pretty guerilla in WW boating. Get used to being real flexible about that as well as seeing other peoples’ body parts at the take-out.

PPS - Rolls can fail, more often when someone is starting out. Moving water is different and can be confounding even if you have a flat water roll. Wet exit to swimming is a normal part of learning WW, hence it should always be done with a group to have some rescuers around.

You should be trying to learn a roll as early as possible.

PPS - We know of one local avid WW paddler who long since passed his 70th birthday. He went to WW in his later years from sea kayaking and is one of the best around.

Sure, go for it…
and there would likely be one less person on the planet who refuses to use paragraphs… :wink:

Well now…
I understand the concerns and sentiments expressed in the last two posts, and I am sure that nobody wants to see someone get hurt or drown by jumping in over their heads.

I do think that subtle_paddler did show enough sense to post the questions and solicit advice before jumping in over his head and the questions were overall appropriate.

Subtle_paddler, the problem is that you are basically saying that you want to run continuous Class III whitewater in a kayak after investing a minimum of time and money. That is sort of like saying you want to drive in the Indy 500 after watching it on TV and taking a one day driving class at a racetrack, to see if you would like auto racing. It is a certain formula for failure, probable injury, possible death but definitely a bad experience which would turn you off of a sport that you might otherwise enjoy.

If you want to experience “rock and roll” whitewater but don’t want to “pay the dues” either stay in a raft with a responsible company, or, as Eric says, try a Ducky on something like the Nantahala river. Otherwise, make the commitment necessary to keep yourself safe.

raft vs. kayak…
Just a thought…

Class III (and IV and V) is WAY different in a guided raft than being in your own kayak relying on your own skills and ability to read water. I have worked very hard for the past 3 years to learn whitewater and I now consider myself “comfortable and confident” on class III water. However, I know colleagues at work who rafted some class IV river on vacation once and as a result, they aren’t terribly impressed with my accomplishment.

So, maybe part of the problem is not realizing how vastly different riding in a raft on “rock n roll” water is from actually kayaking in a hard shell kayak in that same water.

It also is bad form and bad karma to think more experienced kayakers will be with you and save you. Yeah, we all look out for one another, and I and almost everyone I paddle with are willing to take less experienced paddlers along (within reason) knowing we have to look out for them. But when you step up to Class III, I expect the folks I’m paddling with have a certain amout of skill and ability to self rescue (i.e. combat roll) because it is not fair to others to paddle over your skills and expect others to pick up the pieces.

You can paddle class III, but if that really is your goal, there is a LOT of work to do to get there. It’s an awesome journey, so maybe you’ll undertake it and best of luck if you do. But don’t expect results right away, especially with where you live where there is limited whitewater and you will need to be committed to traveling to where the water is to get enough seat time to progress.

Stay home
Class three can hurt you

Some ideas

– Last Updated: Sep-24-07 7:00 PM EST –

Note that people would find reading your post easier if you broke it up a bit with blank lines. As it is, it is very hard to digest.


1) It takes a bit of time to get the skill to paddle class III rivers, especially if you've never been in a boat.

2) At least the NY/NJ area, WW clubs have boats to borrow and lots of pool sessions for very little money. If possible, you should do a pool session.

3) Rivers are much easier to run in a raft than a kayak. You won't get any useful idea of the skill required for kayaking by being in a raft.

4) Spending some time on flatwater in a WW kayak would be useful (ESPECIALLY if you've never been in a kayak).

5) Learn to roll. It doesn't always "work" but it's the best method when it does. I'd say, if you can't learn how to roll, you should not be paddling a kayak in WW. Rolling is concidered a basic WW kayaking skill.

6) Or use a "Ducky" (as Eric_Nyre said). This is probably the fastest way to get to do rapids and requires less skill to do than a normal WW kayak. (I don't mean ducky paddlers have no skill.)

7) Or stick to guided raft trips.


"cheaply and time efficiently as possible"

This might be not the best attitude to have since it takes time to be able to learn to paddle.


"I envision always being with more experienced kayakers to have a chance of saving my butt if I get into trouble"

You need the skills to rescue yourself. It's a bad plan to rely on other people.


"What's the oldest age you've seen anyone do this sport? Are there 70 yr olds doing class 4?"

There are not many 70 year olds who take up the sport with no kayaking experience. The number of 70 year olds doing class 4 is likely tiny. There is also a wide range of physical conditions for 70 year olds and we have no idea what condition you are in.


Find a group going on a Class 2 trip, and work your way up? ====>>> YES! Start on class I.

What our club does.
We start people with two classroom/pool sessions to learn basic stuff (like edging, catching fake eddys, controlling strokes, safety, etc.) Then we take them on a river trip with three rapids (one easy class I, one harder class I, and one easy class II in order). There are plenty of opportunities to ferry, catch eddys, and leave eddys. For those who want to continue, at a later date we drive an hour away to a river with 5 harder class II rapids that can be run again and again. Next is a trip to Slippery Rock Creek, class II, some easier class III and some harder class III (depending on level). Finally is a trip to the lower Yough, which is class III and IV-. There are very few people who go through this progression rapidly and easily. Most do multiple trips to the second river and then multiple trips to the third before trying the fourth. Nothing worth doing comes easy.

Quit wasting our time

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 9:16 AM EST –

First of all:
You don't have a profile
and secondly
You don't need a ww boat to do a class III

I think you are young. The e-mail doesn't sound like one a 70 year old would type. I think the ppps question at the end was a diversion. A 70 year old wouldn't ask a stupid question like that and yes...that was a stupid question.

The post sounds fishy to me especially the
"with no kayak experience who has set for themselves the goal of safely and successfully navigating a Class 3 run as efficiently and inexpensively as possible". You're still dreaming ...go back to sleep.
I suggest you stay home and watch TV.
Why didn't you ask what color of boat to buy?
Buy pink

Since when do you need a profile?
To post on these boards?

Georgia Kayaker was new to this board just a few months ago, and everyone laughed at him too… He’s got some great BS stories of his own.

Class 3 boat
Um - perhaps certain individuals can run class 3 without a WW boat. But this is one of those areas where people with some experience should step back and think upon when they started. For someone new to the game, class 3 and even class 2 is far too imposing an environment to take a boat that doesn’t give the paddler every advantage possible.

You don’t need a profile

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 11:46 AM EST –

I didn't have one at first. That's not the point as much as the jabbering post.

Read the original post again. Is this a serious paddler? Hell no! Admits "no experience" yet knows the degree of difficulty and wants to safely run a Class III before deciding if they like the sport. Right! and I want to be President.

Read the STUPID ps questions. Does he ask anything about which type of kayak? Yet he's interested in bathrooms and age.

I don't BS, I can and have backed up anything I say.

If you think
that the OP is BSing or pulling your chain, why do you bother to respond?

Maybe a troll

– Last Updated: Sep-25-07 1:27 PM EST –

And maybe someone who is honestly young and competitive (my friends are doing it) and s-fill-in-the-blank. The name suggests a troll, but it's not an exact science.
The problem is when people recommend things that may not translate well for someone new to paddling/the board and who don't know any better.


– Last Updated: Sep-26-07 10:50 AM EST –

Well I started to type a follow up post after the first 2 or 3 people responded, but decided to give it a couple of days to see if there were more comments. Sure enough, there were. I could type volumes on what all has been said about my original post, but I don't have time, so I'll try to summarize a few things.

1. 'Factless opinions?'..'Attitude?'

I think some people read some things into my words that aren't there, or certainly not intended. The word 'assume' comes to mind. Some were especially bent out of shape by my words 'as efficiently and inexpensively as possible,' seemingly ignoring the words, 'as possible.' If you don't think my stated goal could possibly be done MORE efficiently or MORE inexpensively one way vs. the other, that all possible plan of action routes to take in my endeavor are equally inefficient and expensive, all you had to do was say so, and not offered any specific suggestions since all routes would be the same to you.

2. I'm fully aware just from watching film that a guided raft is much different than a solo kayak. I only mentioned the rafting trip details to help describe the three portions of the Red River(?) and how just floating down a stream (part 1, the 'classical music' part) was not what I wanted to do in a kayak. If it's recommended to do it anyway, to gain experience making the boat do what you want with no WW or obstructions, as some have said, fine, all the others of you had to do was say so.

3. I don't know what is meant by 'guerilla' and 'body parts.' Is someone new to the sport suppose to know that? How ridiculous. If it's part of the known lingo within the sport, again, I'm as new as one could get. (I've never even looked at a kayak up close....only seen them on the tops of cars going down the road.) I even mentioned that the thread on roll instruction was full of descriptive terminology I've never heard before. So why use words you should KNOW I won't know? Unless you aren't thinking. By the way, aren't those things uncomfortable to sit in? It doesn't look like there's any back support, and your legs are at 90 degress to your upper body. How awkward.

4. I thought I made it clear that I know nothing about the sport and don't even know if I'd like it or not. Perhaps it was ignorant to say that I would decide if I liked it after doing a Class 3. OK you got me on that one. Sue me.

5. I know nothing about the ranking system other then the accepted written descriptions. Class 1, based on it's decription, sounded to me like floating down a river with no rocks, foam, tree limbs, or anything else in the way. In short, your friendly neighborhood creek where you went as a kid to look for crawdads. I didn't know, and still don't cause no one addressed that particular quesion, what exactly defines a rapid, and how they are ranked. I looked up some terms on Wikipedia, but it didn't help much. I thought it was a way of ranking a river or part of one, not one small segment. Obviously, I should buy a book on kayaking and read it or find a web site that explains it all. I never even surfed the web on kayaking anything til shortly before I started the thread. I saw some expensive excursion companies, groups one could join, (requiring experience for their more demanding trips), knew I wanted advice, and immediately came here after googling 'kayak discussion boards.' I thought that was evident to anyone who read my entire post. Maybe not. Sorry. Have your lawyer call my lawyer.

6. I didn't even know what a duckie was. Thanks. No, I don't just want to brag to friends that I got through a Class 3 run. My intent has always been that if I get into the sport, to set as my objective to have as much control and technique as possible. I'm a pilot, so I know what it means to be the master of your vehicle. I'm also a musician, and I know what it means to be the master of your instrument. It's the challenge, skill, and enjoyment of being closer to the water and not dependant on 5 other peole and a guide who just want to rush through a gate to avoid calamity (or whatever you call the hole you're shooting for) that brought my attention to the sport, nothing else. And I wanted to know the best way to get into it before doing it the wrong way. Again, thought that was clear. Again, sue me if it wasn't.

7. I thought my remark about going with people who were more experienced was a wise thing to say and do, especially encountering tough rivers for the first time. It wasn't intended to convey a sense of over-dependency or refusal to learn what I needed to know, with or without them. And I still believe that if anyone ever gets into trouble and is rescued, their butt was saved. I don't apologize for using that choice of words.

Thanks to all who took the time to post what were obviously sincere responses to a sincerely interested person. That's all I am at this point is interested, and that's all I claimed to be. As for the rest of you who want to point, laugh, and/or tell me to stay home, that's exactly what I would do before ever going kayaking with you....stay home. So thanks for the non-invite. You saved me from pointing and laughing at the mere notion that I'd be caught dead in the river with you, pardon the expression.

I think the responses to this thread have been sufficient. And I can count the ones that helped on one hand. I would say 'sorry I bothered the rest of you' but I'm not. No one made you read my post or respond. You remind me of some mountain climbers I know. I was hoping this sport was made up of better people, but I guess every sport that involves risk has it's share of flaming malcontents with too much time on their hands who would just as soon die as to offer any valuable advice to anyone who should be so ignorant and despicable as I. It's always intriguing to see how people who can't type anything constructive still choose to waste time faulting others.

P.S. - I almost forgot to apologize for picking the wrong screen name as well. (I'm not a paddler yet, and may never be.) Now pay your toll to the troll and move along.

P.P.S. - I'll go update my profile now. I think I'll call myself an expert Class V whitewater kayaker since no one will know any different. Oh wait, that might be inviting another lawsuit. Never mind. Instead, I'll sign up for a local community college class, "How to write the perfect discussion board posting that everyone will be happy with." Then I'll go take the class titled "How to only visit rivers that are flowing exactly like you want them to."

If if if

– Last Updated: Sep-26-07 9:34 AM EST –

you spent as much time paddling as you did typing researching and then bitching you'd probably be a pretty good paddler by now.

Now are you going to paddle? I doubt it.

ps You fit the pilot mold
pps You remind me of another pain-in-the-ass who wanted to be a good paddler by reading and asking 10,000 guestions.
ppps Use Talks-a-lot as your screen name
pppps You already did the research, obviously by the questions. You didn't want information, you wanted opinions and you got them but didn't like them. I suggest you go paddle and when you get your dumb ass into trouble... decide what kind of people we are after we rescue you.

Guerilla, body parts etc.

– Last Updated: Sep-26-07 9:23 AM EST –

Body parts - I mean arms, legs, arses - suspect you can fill in the rest. Whitewater folks tend to change clothes without cover a lot. I didn't think that this would be a confusing term, especially if someone had read up on whitewater since the lack of facilites starts being apparent. Granted looking at pictures wouldn't fill this in.
Guerilla - No facilities, whatever you can fake on land or in the boat.
Duckies - Inflatable kayaks (that make higher class whitewater a little easier to do than in a plastic kayak). This is a term that a little internet research on WW (whitewater) would turn up.

I understand that you are probably young, but your post created some predictable confusion. The more normal thing to ask if you were still just trying to learn would have been to ask about getting into whitewater paddling in general, instead you did a cursory scan of some info and made class 3 a stated goal right up front.

How would you react to someone asking if they could find a way to fly private jets with a little as possible time spent learning, in order to decide if they liked flying?

There is way too much head and complication going on here. You are looking at a boats that seem to make you uncomfortable before you ever get into one, rolling is a trained skill, and a rapid is moving water that can pin you against a tree limb or bang your head against a rock on the bottom in a capsized boat and drown you.

I think it would be a wonderful thing for you to take this apparent tendency to overwork stuff and bang it out in whitewater. But your post was persumptive, your research before that was cursory - overall you shouldn't be shocked with the replies you got. BTW, I also play (violin), sing and am a techie.

Thanks for the name of the club in Texas
Appreciate it. Will give a look at it. You said you were a pilot and a musician; you might think about what you would tell someone who asks you how they can learn to do acrobatic flying, when they’ve never been in a plane before. I’m not trying to be sarcastic, and it is so hard to tell sometimes on message boards where there is no tone of voice. But really, how would you tell that person to proceed?

Good luck, but mostly, enjoy the journey.