Recreational Kayak

Hello everyone,

My wife and I want to get into white water kayaking. This spring and summer we would like to start out running only class 1 and class 2. The problem is we cannot afford to buy new equipment this year. We have two perception Swifty 9.5 kayaks which are considered recreational. We have been kayaking calmer portions of the Susquehanna river in central Pennsylvania for about five years so we have experience with a decent current but not many rapids. The occasional rapid on the river the swifty seems to do fine. Are class 1 and 2 rapids doable with our equipment and experience? If so, should we find spray skirts that will fit to get through this year?



There is a lot to white water that does’t come to most people naturally. I would strongly recommend taking a class (and in the class, they usually provide kayaks) before hitting the class 2 or above.

On boats, I personally wouldn’t take a rec boat, nor a boat without a good skirt, on class 2 or above. Too much swimming and those boats are very hard to swim to shore and drain.

Yes, they are fine for class I and …
lots of class II.

We have the older model Perception Keowees that are the exact same as yours and use them all the time in in white water, including the Nantahala River.

We have longer yaks, and now the only place we use the little ones are in WW.

We do an eight mile section of the North Tow River in the NC mountains that is continuous I and a couple of II’s and it is a blast

Get a skirt and have fun.

Jack L

Keowee not same as Swifty.
Keowee has slightly a we’d bottom.

Swifty has flatter bottom with two longitudinal channels.

I own one of each.

Having said that, I’ve seen both used in class 1 & 2 both usually su give, but both will hold a lot of water if swamped.

Get a good skirt for them.

Get lessons. I suck at anything above class 1.

I would get an airbag
for them. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but something to displace water in the hull and provide flotation in case you get swamped.

I’ve seen guys run 2 and modest 3 in rec. boats. They can’t play, but they can run the river.

especially if the swiftys
don’t have drain plugs.

Yep, air bags.
Tandem canoe end floats should fit fine in yaks that size. Little Deuce has a Dagger Zydeco 9. She doesn’t paddle it much any more because she’s stepping up to more challenging stuff in a more playable WW boat but she did fine in Class II in the Zydeco. I stuffed NRS 3D tandem canoe end floats in there and they fit perfectly.

open hulls
A reminder of what happens when an open hulled (no bulkheads) rec boat gets swamped:

I can see using your boats on lower volume class 1 and 2 in your area, like some of the feeders of the West Branch Susquehanna or the Red Moshannon. We used to regularly do these in a 14’ canoe and it was a blast. But you really should get flotation bags for the bow and stern compartments of your kayaks. And definitely get manual bilge pumps – Harmony makes both good flotation bags and pumps. (the pumps do dual duty as fun water cannons too.)

Even if you can get sprayskirts for them, the big cockpit openings will tend to collect water and implode. It would be a good idea to do some practice dumps, pump-outs and recoveries in a pond sometime before you take the boats out in a river with higher flow and rapids.

By the way, if you decide to float Sinnamahoning Creek from Keating, be aware that the “Paddling Pennsylvania” guide book has the dificulty ratings of the upper and lower sections switched (i already emailed the author about that). The section from Keating to route 555 is mostly easy class 1 and riffles and can be easily done in a canoe or rec boats. But the one time we attempted the lower route 555 to the Susquehanna River section using touring kayaks with no sprayskirts we regretted it. The rapids in that section are frequent, faster and closer to class 2 in sections. There is one really nasty one at a right hand bend in the creek near the end that has a massive undercut boulder on the left with a high fast standing wave rapid. I got drawn too far towards it as I came around the bend and barely managed to drive the boat aground above the boulder or I could have been swept under it. I had to drag the boat over the back of the boulder to get into the pool below – no way I could have re-entered above without getting pinned against or under that boulder. We were not paddling at particularly high gauge level, but I would have called that rapid a class 3. Both of us were experienced paddlers and my boyfriend used to regularly paddle class 4 and 5 whitewater, but both of us were pretty uncomfortable with some sections of that run. The guide book suggests that the upper run is tougher than the lower and the reverse is true. I would not advise it for your kayaks.

The Red Moshannon is a fun trip that could be done in your boats. It is remote, though, so make sure you are prepared to finish the run on the water. No road along it like on most of the Sinnemahoning.

Harmony small flotation bag
Perfect size for a Swifty or Zydeco. It’s what I use in mine.

2nd the need for flotation and at least

– Last Updated: Feb-05-15 2:59 PM EST –

some basic instruction from someone more experienced. It doesn't have to be a formal class but you do need someone to have your back and explain things. The hard thing about rec boats is that they are hard to drain and swim to shore when swamped- the air bags will help. A good pfd, a sturdy paddle, a throw rope and the knowledge of how to use it will help keep you safe. Learning to cross the current (ferry), and finding, entering, and exiting calm spots (eddy turns, sets, peel-outs) are great things to work on. Ultimately, you'll be safer in a ww boat with their foam walls and bulkheads, more protruded cockpit lip,neoprene skirts, drain plugs, and hip pads.

Can you start in a rec boat? Sure, but once you get bitten by the ww bug it will quickly be time to upgrade for enhanced safety and performance. Until then, lean downstream and if that doesn't work, then keep your feet up!

Another thought, its a bit of a drive for you, but on June the 6th, 7th the wv wildwater association will be hosting a "beginners clinic" on the Greenbrier river near Alderson, WV. Not much info posted on the clinic for this year yet (I need to get on that) but feel free to check out the website: