Noob Questions

-- Last Updated: Aug-24-09 3:50 PM EST --

Hi All!

Newbie here. I have some questions that will sound pretty dumb to the experienced paddlers.

I've paddled in a canoe on flatwater, and up to Class III, in a raft on tame whitewater, and am wanting to make the step up to a kayak.

The only rivers I've been on is Saluda/Congaree River, and Chattooga in SC, and the French Broad, and Nantahala River in NC.

I know I need to take some courses in whitewater paddling.

But the main thing I want to know is, how hard is it to get out of your kayak in rapids? Every time I've rafted and canoed, it was just a matter of stepping out. How do you guys get out to portage, etc? Get in calm water downstream from a big rock? What if you can't find calm water?

Sorry, I wish I could phrase my question better.


PS- I have a few more questions, but I'll put them in another post.

getting in and out
If you have canoed on Class III whitewater, which I’m not sure I would necessarily describe as “tame” I don’t know if I would consider getting into a kayak “the next step up”.

However, getting in and out of a whitewater K1 is a little more difficult than getting in and out of a canoe. When you ask about getting out of a kayak in a rapid, I assume you are talking about finding a bank eddy and getting out of the boat in a controlled fashion, as opposed to flipping, pulling the skirt, wet-exiting and swimming.

Sometimes you will need to get out in a pretty small eddy. If the bank is steep, it can be a bit challenging. Often you can use your paddle to brace yourself by holding it crosswise just behing the cockpit coaming. Sometimes you have to just fall out and stand in the eddy, if that is an option.

Getting back in is sometimes trickier, especially if one has to enter directly into a rapid. Many times you can “seal launch” by getting into the boat while it is on top of a dry rock, or on a sloping bank, and then pushing off into the water after you have your skirt on and are settled.

whitewater kayaks
Most whitewater kayak schools (such as NOC, which sounds local to you) are going to work on teaching you a roll up front. The goal is to avoid having to get out.

But, should you not have a roll or otherwise need to get out, it is not hard at all. Pop the skirt and you can slip out. But this can be a big inconvenience to both you and others out there, as you then need to get everything (boat, paddle, you, etc.)together and to the side of the river to drain the boat and get back on the river.

Thanks to both of you for replying. I exaggerated a bit talking about the rapids. I think the roughest I’ve been on would be the Class 3 right above the NOC, in a raft and ducky.

What I’m really wondering is, how does a whitewater kayak paddle on a flat river, or lake? The Congaree, and Savannah, are Class 1, and 2 max, but end up flat. I want something that I can put in above the rapids, and paddle down to the flat part. Is there such a boat? Or should I just pick one or the other? I don’t mind the workout, because I need it.

older whitewater kayaks
Whitewater kayaks generally are not the greatest to paddle long stretches of flatwater, especially if there is not much current. Today’s short whitewater playboats are especially painful in this regard.

One option would be to look at a pumpkin seed-shaped recreational kayak, which would not be too expensive. Although not very efficient on flatwater, it would be better than a short playboat and people paddle these on Class I and Class II whitewater with reasonable success, as long as they don’t have ambitions to carry out too many maneuvers.

In the new boat category, the so-called “cross over” kayaks, such as the Liquid Logic Remix XP10, the Pyranha Fusion, or the Dagger Approach would be much more capable on whitewater and more efficient on flatwater, although more expensive. There is a current thread discussing the LL Remix XP 10 you could check out on this forum.

A third possibility, and possibly the cheapest, would be to look for a used “old school” whitewater kayak in the 10 to 11 foot length range. These have good whitewater capability and are reasonably efficient to paddle on the flatwater stretches.

dogs on flat

– Last Updated: Aug-24-09 7:47 PM EST –

Modern whitewater kayaks -- especially playboats -- are generally slugs on flat water. They're short, wide, and flat-bottomed, which is great for surfing waves but lousy for flatwater efficiency and tracking.

The Jackson Kayak site is a good place to see a typical range of styles.

If you're interested in running rivers, as opposed to park & play, there are some "hybrid" kayaks that might work for you.