Prepping for intro to whitewater class

I just signed up for an intro to whitewater class for this coming weekend. I’m pretty excited about it. All of my kayak experience so far has been flatwater and ocean.

I wasn’t very active physically over the winter, and the few times I’ve been on the water so far this spring showed me just how deconditioned I have become. What can I do over the course of this week to help me limber up, stretch, and otherwise prepare myself physically for this class?

practice your wet exits and upside down hang time. A lot of time is spent on self rescues and bow rescues.


Late start, so limited steps you can take. At most, get out for some sort of exercise today or tomorrow, but go easy Thursday and Friday. You can do stretches or yoga each day.


Lucky you! A buddy 8 hours away had me psyched to go to my first WW training with his paddle club in two weeks, but he cancelled before I signed up. So, I scheduled to teach another Coastal kayaking course. Wish a buddy wanted to go try WW.

So, the thing with WW is that you really don’t have to be in “great shape”. The current is going to carry you down to the takeout no matter what. Your main job is really to stay upright and stay out of trouble. Running WW is really a technical game about edging, ferrying, bracing and rolling. Only time you might get more physically challenged is you if you were interested in doing a lot of upstream attainment (this takes stamina!!!) and/or really want to “play” the heck of a particular feature.

So, relax, do some torso rotation/stretching if you want (doesn’t hurt, won’t help much in such a small window). Take the class and enjoy the introduction to a new venue and to pick up some new skills for moving/rougher water conditions. Being in NH, it’s a good to have a readily available option of paddling play and fun. To take advantage, you need some skills development but also partnership with other ww paddlers.


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Stretch. Focus on shoulders, neck, trunk, and lower back, and hamstrings. Most important, trunk rotation and lateral flexion, back flexion and extension, and neck lateral flexion and rotation. That is about as much as you can hope to do over the course of only a few days but it will be of significant benefit and you will be less likely to strain or tear a muscle.

One of the motions that is critical in whitewater kayaking that is used to a much lesser degree in flat water kayaking is lateral flexion of the trunk and neck.

I never liked kayaks in white water. You fall over and your head is suspended down there with the rocks. There is the awkward period before you have a competent roll that is dangerous and unsettling.

On the other hand I have paddled canoes in fast water for over 60 years.

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if you’re really serious about prepping, here’s what i recommend. Get one of those big inflatable balls and a trecking pole (need something shorter than a paddle). Sit on the ball, use the pole like a paddle with no blades. Practice rotating at the waist, with the far shoulder rotating and facing the side you are “paddling on” but keep the “strokes” short (not going much past your hip). This will help improve your rotation for stern rudder strokes. Many of us on this forum are older and this exercise helps increase core rotation and balance, something that seems to diminish with age. If you find this difficult you can back the ball up against a couch or wall for additional support…

Be sure to drink plenty of water while you are taking the clinic. You’ll recover faster. Also while taking the clinic focus on paddling smarter not harder. Grip the paddle lightly. Think clean quiet strokes- with precise entry and exit points. Then think about precise paddle strokes without looking at your paddle blade but looking where you want to go (focus). I think the biggest transition from flatwater is the ability to edge/tilt/heel the boat in current. For some flatwater paddlers this is a pretty big step. Much easier to accomplish this after developing a roll or a good brace. In many ways ww kayaking is like skiing or skating. The knees are bent, the head is up, shoulders rotate toward the turning side and in ww the inside turn is usually weighted (lean down stream). Those things are true for more than just paddling.


I can edge my WS Tsunami 165, that’s how I turn it, and I’m used to doing it in rolling waves.
I’ve been using a big yoga ball with a 5 foot piece of pvc pipe doing exactly what you describe.
I plan to drink plenty of water, because the weather is calling for temps in the mid 90’s, and the water is still drysuit cold, so I’ll be sweating a ton.

Edging is edging, whether flatwater or whitewater. Primary reasons are different. With a longer seakayak, edging facilitates turning became the water length is shorter when the kayak is on edge. With a much shorter ww boat, turning is easy regardless whether you edge or not. However, edging is what is needed to keep you from tripping/capsizing as you cross opposing current lines. This happens most when peeling out of a resting eddy into the main current, or when exiting the main current into an eddy or a flat spot behind a big boulder. If you don’t edge or edge in the wrong direction, you’ll find yourself upside down lickty-split.

The other main reason for edging is you want to go from side of the river, across the current, to the other side, or a midstream boulder. You will need to have the bow pointed diagonally 60-75 degree upstream with our upstream edge up. As you paddle, the current will help “ferry” you across by going under your elevated edge and pushing against your hull towards the other shoreline. If ferry without the edging you may capsize because the current can catch the upstream chine/edge. If edge the wrong way – towards upstream current – you most definitely will find yourself upside down.

Basically, edging in the white water context is about not getting tripped up by the differential current lines, followed by using edging to facilitate movement across the main current of the river.

And, having written this, I’ll say having a coach on the water talk, demonstrate and coach you through the situations will do more for you then anything you can read.


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Stretch as best you can, and otherwise relax and have fun. It will probably be more time in the boat than you are used to, but take advantage of it. If you are doing the program I think you are doing, you will learn a lot. Two of the coaches were involved in the class III program I did earlier in the spring, and a third is a good friend who is ACA certified. Have fun.

Trip report? How did it go? What did you learn? Something you want to keep at?

Enquiring minds… :thinking:


It was a lot of fun!!! Outdoors New England ran a great class!

Friday evening was a meet and greet at their shop, doing an equipment overview and getting people fitted into gear if they didn’t have their own. We went over the basics of edging and paddle strokes, braces, and how to put on and pop off a spray skirt while sitting in the kayaks in the park.

Saturday, we met at the shop and were on the road by 9 am. We spent the first half of the day at Webster lake in Franklin learning basic skills, wet exit, paddling straight, edging and turns. We briefly attempted rolls, but only the instructor Joe was able to. I found I that keep making my paddle dive, my thigh kept coming out of the brace, and I don’t have a good hip snap, so I have things I need to work on.

After lunch at the cafe next to the shop (f’n good food!) We went to the upper part of the Winnipesaukee river on some class 1 with a few small class 2 sections. We learned and practiced catching and peeling out of eddies, ferrying, surfing in holes, and reading river features. We spent a good amount of time at various spots to work on skills development, Joe was great about answering questions and helping us correct things we were doing wrong. I made it through without swimming, I came very close to it a few times though but managed to brace and recover. We got back to the shop about quarter past 4 in the evening.

I’m looking forward to practicing what I learned, and practice rolling more, and am really looking forward to the next class they have.

My only gripe, the day flew by too quick lol.


Sounds like a good time! I feel your enthusiasm. That’s going to keep you on the progression track. :+1:t4:


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What kayak were you paddling and attempting to roll? Was it your own or a borrowed boat?

Ppine, I agree with you. The reason I gave it up is that I found a boat that can handle the conditions of open water. I also agree with members who feel kayaking should be self sufficient. It was always hard enough finding the time to go put. So I never enjoyed lookimg for an extra person who had to drive to drop off and pick up at the end. Even if you had a partner and could shuttle, it means dropping off a car at the end and driving up river, then back up afyer the trip to get the other vehicle. Then the trip is limited to a set start finish.

On open water, I once started a two hour trip that was so enjoyable, it turned into 8.5 hrs. I felt dead and dehydrated at the end, but it was the the best trip of my life. Never do another like it, I think!

My last ww trips were outfitters, by raft and by canoe. Both were cut short due to low water flow, and there was no chance to explore. I enjoyed ww when I did it, and both canoes eventuall got destroyed

It was my own. It’s a Jackson Super Hero.

The issue of shuttling is why I started out sea kayaking. I still enjoy it immensely, and plan to do a lot of it this year. My venturing into whitewater is just another activity to explore and have fun with, meet new people, and enjoy myself in the outdoors. Plus these rivers are a lot closer to home than the ocean, and I don’t mind carrying my 40 pound boat a mile or so up a trail and paddling down to my car, playing in every feature along the way. Bonus if my girlfriend is willing to drop me off in one spot and pick me up down river. If I’m paddling the Winnipesaukee river, it gives her an excuse to hit up the outlets in the area.

Regarding learning to roll, make sure that your outfitting is tight enough so that the motions of your lower body are transmitted to the boat without a lot of “slop” in your connection to the boat. You might need to adjust the position of your knee hooks or increase the thickness of the hip padding.

I’m not sure what style of roll you are being taught. Usually it is either a C-to-C or a sweep roll for beginning whitewater kayakers. More modern whitewater kayaks like the Jackson Super Hero are often harder to roll using a C-to-C roll because the “knee bumps” create a lot of depth to the front of the boat and the flat bottom and sharp chines make it more difficult to get yourself wrapped around the hull during the set up. That makes it difficult to get and keep your paddle at or near the surface during the set up and sweep. Sometimes a sweep roll works better with that type of boat. Setting up with your paddle a little farther back toward the stern can also be helpful.

I realize that you are going to want to learn to roll your own kayak, but if one is available to borrow you might consider using a more old-school whitewater kayak with a rounded displacement hull to learn the mechanics of the roll. Once you get that down you can transfer the basic motions to your own boat.

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NHTrucker, you’re a good man with a good partner. I never did much serious ww, I enjoyed it when I did it with brothers. They were had the skill, and I provided front power. I tried my brother’s ww kayak and just didn’t care for it. He took classes, but apparently messed up with technique and dislocated his shoulder. WW is like playing in ocean waves - more effort than I want to expend. That’s for the brave, talented souls. To much skill and coordination involved. I’m just a dumb paddler. Straight and as fast as I can manage, in a boat that doesn’t want to tip over. I don’t even count turning radius as a necessary trait of a boat. I want to go further than I’ve been before.

I enjoy studying conditions, estimating the round trip and staying within predicted time, or heading out and paddling until I get tired. That’s the beauty of open water. Ain’t it a grand sport with so many options.

When I bought a plastic 175 Tsunami over twelve years ago, I didn’t anticipate the problems I’d have transporting it. I loved the 140 Duralite Pungo, but its hard to feel connected in the open cockpit, especially when wave get over 18 inches.

Plastic is bulletproof, but you made a smart decision buying the 40 lb 16 footer. Keep at it.