So, when are you no longer a beginner?

Just curious. I know I’ll be a beginner for at least another year. But when does one cross the bridge to intermediate? What would you consider the skills or experiences to have under your belt before you considered yourself beyond a novice or beginner? (And I would guess that might be different depending on the type of kayaking you are doing, whitewater vs. recreational vs. touring ?)

Another way to look at it

– Last Updated: Jul-25-07 10:29 PM EST –

I had this question when I first joined a club. After asking around, I received some good answers that I will pass on to you.

First of all, no one really can define this question. The questions that really matters are "Am I relatively safe?" and "Will I fit the group intent and the trip?".

If you belong to a club try to find someone cool who can help you read the various trips & water. A trip labeled beginner may be more advanced in high water. So, you want to be safe as possible. If you know it is over your head, skip it. And if you are not sure, tell someone where you are at who knows the water so they can help you decide if the trip is for you.

More importantly is who else is going & the intent of the group. Try to make some friends and find people who don't care if someone goes who is learning new skills. And, if you are trying something new, you want to be with a group who will watch your back and knows how to help you when you are in trouble (like Gremmie, Gene and company)' Little Red, Chuck and Jim in Reno, Bunny, and so many others.

My favorite way to paddle is with just a couple people. If the group gets too big, it seems like you lose something. I have found no shortage of really nice, skilled people who will paddle and/or give advice and critique your paddling. The beginning of July, I could not catch an eddy. The end of July, I can catch one and at least understand the whole process. I credit that to the really nice people who share their time and talents.

So, long answer to basically say, I would not worry about the label, but just keep in mind those two questions. And, happy paddling!!

when you can control the kayak
I figure if you can’t paddle parallel with fellow paddlers without bumping into each other you’re still a beginner.

There Is No “Bridge”, “Line” Or
"endpoint." Just paddle, have fun, be (relatively) safe. If you can do this, then you are successfully enjoying paddling.


When you stop caring
about “labels”.

Depends who’s doing the labeling
Don’t listen to them!

Beginer Again …
I have spent a good deal of time trying to tame a tippy waveski it’s 8’ long, very tippy for my weight. When you drop into a wave at high speed it is so light and fast you feel like you are on a rocket, makes slashing turns by just thinking about it, but paddling out through waves I get tipped over a lot, trying to get my feet in the stirrups for the take off I fall over and get pummeled by the wave. Some of my sit inside kayaking pals said it looked like I was trying to surf a soap bar. I spent about 20 minutes upside down this morning in a two hour session. I’ve been kayaking since about September 2000. Each time you crank up the challenge you are a beginner again.

I see all your points
But I guess I’m confused when I go to the outfitter sites and they rank the courses as beginner, intermediate or advance. I have done flatwater, slow moving water with riffles and maybe class I rapids, and I have done currents on the bay. Nothing has challenged me yet. From the first time I got in, my hubby was joking that he was waiting to laugh when I fell over, and I said “I have no intention of getting wet”. I’ve stuck by that philosophy and haven’t gotten wet yet. I’ve been able to paddle a straight line from my first time in. But I know I’m still a beginner because I still dont’ get what an eddie is, kwim? So how do I know when my search for adventure has out paced my skills or experience if I don’t continue to challenge myself? Yet I have no intention of putting myself in danger as I still have young kids to raise. Does that make any sense?

Levels versus labels.

– Last Updated: Jul-25-07 11:30 PM EST –

I especially appreciated Mystical’s perspective.

As a side note. The subject can understandably raise some angst, as it can (not must, but can) relate to personal ego or the imposition of classifications on others.

For whitewater and sea, I think the concept of levels of conditions, or levels of abilities to safely paddle in those conditions, can be useful. It creates a common (though rough estimate) standard and language. For an example in sea kayaking, here’s what my club has.

In the social/club context, whatever the paddling conditions, here’s another general way to look at it (just my proposal.) I think beginners are those who are mostly looking to others in the group for advice and support. By support, I mean you feel safer when you are paddling with them. When others are starting to look to you for advice and support while you are still looking to those more skilled than you for A&S, I think you start to become an intermediate. When you are not relying much on others but many are looking to you, you are a solid intermediate. Doesn't mean you are not still growing. Advanced are the pros and semi-pros, highly sought after for their advice and support.

Of course for those independents that just get out and paddle, none of this has any meaning.


I think you can safely say
If you have not got wet yet you are still a beginner.

you are no longer a beginner
when you can kick the sea’s butt

Perhaps you are an intermediate when
you have an intermittent bomb proof roll.


(I can never decide whether I want to be serious or silly, so I just flip back and forth.)


being a mom
I understand the conflict between adventure / danger and responsibility.

As I said in another post, I think when you have a roll, you’re an intermediate. But sometimes my challenge is getting the kayak on the truck. Advanced would be paddling 26 miles to Catalina and back in one day.

But then, in the beginning, I couldn’t paddle straight and had to be towed. Eventually, I learned about skegs, leans, and weathercocking.

beginner or intermediate
One factor of maybe having intermediate skills to me was having paddled in a variety of conditions and weather. I was humbled to learn that what I had “mastered” on calm water was sketchy at best on rougher seas. I know why you want to rank or rate yourself as I too needed to know if certain classes or waters were too much for me. My instructor insists on calling himself an “advanced beginner” since he’s always finding skills to learn and former skills that have slipped. Hmmm. So until I can brace, roll, ferry and skull in all kinds of waters I figure I am still a beginner.

That is like messin’ with Momma now!

I like this seadart…
“Each time you crank up the challenge you are a beginner again.”

That would make us all beginners
for life. So be it. I suspect that was your point.


Does it really matter???

– Last Updated: Jul-25-07 11:58 PM EST –

Are you paddling for a classification or for you. I never considered what I was until I joined pnet and I still don't care.
In racing there doesn't seem to be any requirement in some of the races for rec class and open class. I know a person who had never been in a race and wasn't a strong paddler...signed up in the open class and won because there was no competition in the open class yrt the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place rec class kayakers using the same type of kayaks were all faster.
Well sometimes people pay me to take them on the river. Does that make me a pro? In sports when you get paid it makes you a professional. So I am...

Pro Kayaker

Now is that pro beginner, pro intermediate or pro advanced? I'll think about it tomorrow while I'm paddling.

Yes it matters!
You get a free toaster when you hit the intermediate level and a free George Forman grill when you hit advanced!