To train or NOT to train?

That really isn’t a question in my mind as I plan to educate myself but I’m amazed at how many near misses and horrible experiences I read about that many people have while undertaking a new hobby and ultimately quit without experiencing the thrill that can come with knowing what to do and how to do it when subjected to unexpected mishaps.

Many typically jump into a kayak or canoe with no training and ‘wing it’. Most never fully recognizing what they got themselvs into and often regret it.

First, I’ve been taking formal paddling lessons but I plan on doing WW Kayaking up to Class IV so I want to understand the hazards and risks and also how to undertake Whitewater rescue efforts if called upon or find myself in a predicament.

So the next question is; what training and what schools?

I live in the midwest so schools in Ontario/Michigan/Ohio/Pennsylvania/Virginia are probably the ones I’d be interested in.

Does anyone have any experiences with schools in this area and suggest the level of training that should be taken?

From what I’ve read so far with a few schools there seems to be a 2 day entry level to give you the basics plus an additional 2 day course to get a WRT Certification.

Any insight would be appreciated.


Pick a school…
any school. I don’t know that it really matters where.

Most people start with an introductory class on class II water and move up from there. This initial class will be an opportunity to meet people with similar skills, so local is probably better. You’ll need to take a swiftwater rescue class at some point. You’ll also need to take a rolling class and put in some time at the pool. A bomb-proof roll is pretty much a requirement for class IV boaters.

The most important thing you can do is find a good group of paddlers to join in with. Is there a paddling club in your area, or a Facebook or other internet group. WW paddling is not a solo sport. A good group will allow you to build your skills on easier rivers before jumping into the class IV stuff.

Good luck. The spring WW season will be here before you know it.

I’ll pretty much 2nd what eck said

– Last Updated: Nov-29-14 8:13 AM EST –

If your entering the ww realm you would benefit from joining a ww club in your area. If there aren't any then consider joining one located near the place you will paddle.
Logistically, you need to share shuttles, having some paddling buds in your area will allow you to share shuttles and carpool to more distant rivers as well.
Safety wise you need to hook up with some folks. Swift water rescue classes are a great idea and make you more aware of the "what ifs".
A club can help with roll sessions and you should consider enrolling in a beginner and then intermediate clinic.
I'd get some general (club) instruction and some easy trips under my belt before going the private route. When your ready to up your game and lighten your wallet there are a number of ww schools that teach paddling and do a good job of it. Unfortunately they don't go home with you.
Set some goals for yourself. I'm going to paddle x number of times, x number of miles, learn to ???, you get the idea. As important as all this is, you will want to find a local paddling spot that you can visit regularly where you can practice. Seat time is important.
What you want to avoid doing is plunking down a bunch of cash, take some private lessons, only to find that when you get back home that you having no paddler network to go out with. Join the club first then get the private instruction to up your game.
I've got a number of "friends" that are better paddlers than me and give me tips- mostly its "sit up straight, stop slouching, buy a real paddle, get a better boat, put your finger up your butt (rolling), get your weight forward, stroke faster not harder, look where you want to go, increase you paddle range- all for the price of a few beers. I love it when they go to paddling school. They can come back and share new found knowledge with me for free.
So join a club, get some paddling buds, find a place to practice, then get some private instruction. If you want to paddle in wv I can hook ya up. Check out

I think I’m on the right track…
Thanks to the both of you for your responses.

I think I’ve got many of your points covered except the most important one.

Roll, check…have signed up for a number of classes this winter along with pool time every week so I’ll have a reasonable amount of seat time come spring.

Local paddling spot…yep, not the best but it’s at least still moving water.

I think the local club scene has been the most difficult to break into. I’ve yet to find any clubs that respond to Facebook posts and e-mails. There also isn’t any club in my state that belong to the national WW organization.

My hope is that my winter classes will expose me to additional paddlers that share my enthusiasm.

As far as a favorite rivers go, I can’t say that I have one just yet. Our ‘other’ hobby takes us camping to all sorts of destination across the U.S. and Canada. Kayaking is something that I’ve always wanted to do so I decided to jump in before it got too late.

I’ll go visit the WV site and I may take you up on your offer sometime in the future.



While I’m not into WW and not sure where you’re located in Michigan, I empathize about nonresponsive paddling clubs, specifically the Northern Michigan Paddling Club. I’ve sent numerous emails and even attempted to join. No response. While it is affiliated with the ACA, I think that’s solely to get insurance coverage when they do their annual spring Bear River Whitewater Park event.

While there are a lot of kayaks up here, I think most are floaters, not travelers or WW.

A couple that I know of:
Madawaska Kanu Center in Ontario has a strong reputation. I’ve been to Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina & they are good - worth a spring week’s trip.

About clubs … I can’t speak directly to the N. Mi clubs but e-mail & facebook may not be the best way initially to become involved. Our local club (LOAPC - Lansing Oar and Paddle Club) uses meet-up to schedule paddles & other events. With LOAPC, the best way to become involved is to join the meet-up & come out for a paddle or two. You can always post questions about a paddle on the meet-up page.

Around here club trips are

– Last Updated: Nov-30-14 7:04 AM EST –

usually beginner trips. By the time they move on to the bigger stuff, most people want to paddle with folks that they know, and don't want to be responsible for people (of unknown skill) that they don't - at least in the structure of a club-based trip.

It's a little different with internet and Facebook groups since it is more of a common adventure/personal responsibility model, but even there, I'd be surprised if a new paddler to the group didn't get questions from somebody about their skill level. People want to know who they are paddling with.

It may seem difficult to break into at first, but it is actually quite easy once you have those first couple of trips under your belt. It's also a system which encourages you to start out with easier trips to meet fellow paddlers and prove your skills before moving on the the bigger stuff.

Just my observations from the New England area - it may be different elsewhere.

the way many people learn is from a good friend who takes us under his/her wing.

That’s true
And it is great if you have a friend like that. Most people don’t when they start. After a few trips, though, you could end up with many friends like that - at least I have.

I think I’ve tried it all different ways
but it helps to have good mentors.I started with some good instruction from the boyscouts. Roy Hunter (Maine) shared his infectious love for whitewater while working at Maine High Adventure and I became hooked. I joined the OAC (Wright Pat, ohio) and learned a lot from Bernie Farley (whitewater warehouse), Dickie Gowin (worked for Nolin W.), Joe Jackson, and Mike Pilkerton. I started paddling a bit with Jim Dentinger (Stony Creek in Ky). Then video boating in wv with Kent Macracken (Manns Creek), Jeff Findley, Joe Sizemore, and even Clay Wright (jackson kayaks) and Colleen were influences. I did some solo runs as well. Now a days, if I want to push myself, I get Rob Dobson (wv adventures) to keep me straight. Phil Townsend is another guy I could learn a lot from locally. Mostly I’m just out there having a good time with wvwa folks like Harry, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Jim, Brent, Chuck, and Jeff. I can still learn a lot from Freeze, Kim, Don Beyers and Chally. I’m sure I’ve probably paddled with 100 different folks this year. Having lots of folks to paddle with is a good thing. Yet sometimes I still get skunked and can’t find anyone that wants to boat at the same time and place as I want to paddle. Develop a network of boater friends you can call to satisfy your whitewater appetite. Give your friends their due and respect your mentors.


– Last Updated: Nov-30-14 12:16 PM EST –

My vote is for variety:

Classes (I took multiple classes with ACA and NOC)

Clubs (if available)

Mentors (When you think you know it all; you don't)!

Videos (both experts demonstrating, and you being taped & then reviewing the tape is helpful).

Solo practice sessions/park & play (Preferably in a safe location; as opposed to whitewater).

All varieties of training/practice require the ability to accept constructive feedback


P.S. Paddling is like any other skill; if you don't practice/use the skill; your skill level deteriorates.

what counts
is the group. Is the group your group, your skill level and where you want to go ?

Because the group carries you, apparently needing a group, along into the abyss you were avoiding without a group.


I was looking through the Coast Guard’s, a division of Homeland Security, excellent statistics report for 2012: online. required reading.

About 100-115 kayak/canoe maybe rafters drowned or suffered fatal injuries. Is this a dangerous sport fatality level ? I don’t know, did not locate estimates of total participant or frequency of participation.

While there are weak teachers, strong and excellent teachers, I haven’t located one. But if former students report learning, enjoying the experience…good enough.

PFD stats
Did the Coast Guard report state how many of those 115 fatalities were not wearing a PFD? That would be an interesting statistic.

of course
The CG stopped short of listing brands of scotch

a Google
natural language search is best

coast guard yearly recreational boating pdf


– Last Updated: Dec-05-14 8:20 PM EST –

To help your direction…

Buy USK’s Horodowitch Bracing dvd, Ford’s rolling dvd…from paddlenet ?

Try a pilate’s ball with heavy steel pipe or rod for rolling torso/arm exercises.

Get a beat up plastic hull for Wayne’s onshore hip snap exercise.

The hip snap is essential. I praticed the Pilates movements without learning a hip snap. My ‘roll’ unscrewed my body from the hull with a new form of wet exit.

Buy 2 paddle floats, one solid foam, one double chamber inflatable for both paddle ends.

Practice in water my double paddle float hip snap exercise, explained and discussed herein somewhere searchable.

There are videos on utube for this ex as a float but not as a paddle float hip snap exercise.

Study Ford’s rolling animation, apply to your form of pre roll.

I practice the twist you see animated as a karate motion…using toes as a fulcrum point for the other adjoining body parts.
These steps will roll you in 5-8 sessions.
Learning roll type one may lead to learning roll type two. The Pilates exercise would promote this new motion.

White Water
From your initial post, you have an interest in paddling White Water. Consider joining American Whitewater. Charlie Walbridge & the safety committee have been gathering white water fatalities and near misses for many years and do a yearly detailed report.

WW Accidents
Here’s the link to the American Whitewater Accident database

Hopefully you can see it if you are not a member (I am).