Too Old to Start Whitewater?

I have been solo canoeing for a couple years. Mainly flat, class I with a few small class IIs. I want to do paddle some heavier and faster water and was planning on taking a WW course this summer until a shoulder problem sidelined me.

A couple of factors I need to seriously weigh are my age, 53, and my self employment. I need to stay healthy and free of disabling injuries --my business and family rely on my health.

Would I be irresponsible to get more involved in WW?

Another factor is that I do not live very close to any WW rivers and I would probably not have much opportunity to get to those rivers very often when the water is primo. But, I always thought that just having the occassional experience would help me to advance my paddling skills overall.

Any experiences any of you boomers could share with me are welcomed especially if you can keep it both light and serious, i.e. ambivalently confusing.

I started out by
doing a roll in a pool. Then I broke my collarbone. I am just getting back into rolling ith the generous help of some locals and I am taking a 5 day ww course at Madawaska Kanu Centre next month. I’m leary of reinjuring my shoulder but I have an attitude about living life and try to hope for the best when going through this relearning phase- at least I can say that I am giving it a go. I have all the ww stuff-just need to perfect my roll now! BTW, I was seriously eyeballing the upper body armor at the motorcycle dealership yesterday and not for riding but for ww kayaking! HAHA!!

I started WW when I was 55
I am now 65, and have never been seriously injured. Go for it.

Old dude does whitewater…

– Last Updated: Jul-17-05 11:26 AM EST –

A few "off the top of my head" opinions.........

Take an introduction to whitewater canoeing class first, and see if you "really" want to do whitewater. You might save yourself the price of a whitewater canoe, it's outfitting, and the cost of other related whitewater paddling gear.
If nothing else, your skill level will probably improve.

A 3 or 4 day class will "not" replace years of whitewater paddling experience.

Without a doubt, there are inherent risks in paddling whitewater in any type of watercraft.
Make sure you are aware of what those risks are, and be prepared to accept the natural consequences of paddling whitewater. Natural consequences can be "either" positive or negative.
The training I previously suggested will assist you in avoiding some of the "negative" natural consequences.

Don't ever do whitewater without at least one paddling partner with you. I personally won't do whitewater without 2 others with me. They aren't people I just met either; we have been paddling together for many years. Everybody I paddle with has advanced first aid skills & whitewater rescue skills.

Don't let anyone talk you into running any rapid that you don't think you have a very good chance of successfully negotiating. If that "inner voice" is saying don't do it.........I suggest you don't do it.

Do a lot of scouting of rapids "before" you run them; especially on rivers you've never run before.

If you buy thousands of dollars worth of new whitewater gear, use it once or twice, and decide you like flatwater a "lot" better; contact me & I'll help you get "some" of your money back. LOL!!!! Thousand of dollars of high tech gear "won't" improve your skills, or get you down the river safely.

You "aren't" too old.
I've been doing whitewater for 10 years.
I'll be 63 this December.
Will be on the Nantahala the first week in August in a purple Mohawk Probe II(Purple Haze on the bow); if you see me, say HI!


P.S. If my wife & daughter asked me to stop paddling whitewater, I might stop. I don't think they'll ask me. Neither rely on me financially.

sounds to me
like you were answering your own questions. All I can say, which seems to be reinforcement of prior responses is, don’t be “extreme”, like the gen x’ers I see on t.v. going off waterfalls and breaking arms, collarbones etc… Scout the rivers beforehand, and try to find out what the stream flow data is, then compare flowage for future trips. I am 46 and canoe only because I can’t see me and my arthritis staying put in a kayak. My 11 year old son and I do class 2 and 3 primarily, and that occasional flight over dropoffs keep us wound up all year. First time we did our favorite stretch we flipped twice, now 8 times later we haven’t flipped in four trips.

47 just starting, out of shape…
I am just starting myself. All the good white water for me is 4-7 hours away. Find a group of old timers like yourself (even if it is a forum of this nature) and give it a go. You don’t have to go blindfolded, backwards off of a waterfall to get big kicks out of this endeavor. If if jazzes you up. Do it. If it doesn’t find something else that does. Life is short.


Go for it !
You only come this way once.

I am older than any of the previous posters and I do the Nantahala.

I’ll do it in our canoe (OT disco 158 with air bags) or our little rec yaks, and love it every time.

Nothing larger than a III for me though or the Nantahala Falls.



I broke my collarbone in a bike accident, not doing ww just to clarify…

Too Old – I Hope Not
You responders scare me – very little however. I am almost 70 and am starting my career in WW. Yep, I just took my first lesson and have mastered the C to C roll to the point that I have confidence on the water. Later this week, I will pickup a Liquid Logic Lil’Joe and begin to practice all the strokes and continue smoothing out the roll – in flat water.

Sea kayaking has been a part of my life for the last 5 years meaning there is a familiarity with paddling. No, I don’t intend to do IV and V stuff, but I, II and III’s are there to be paddled.

One other thing. I have had a dislocated shoulder from competitive cycling and a hip replacement because of arthritis – too many marathons didn’t help. In the end, if you feel physically strong and can overcome the “fear factor”, go for it.

Everyone tells me to judge your skills properly and only test yourself against runs that match your skills.

Let the fun begin.


Too Old?
One other thing I “forgot” to tell you “old” guys – I unloaded a used Dagger ‘Genesis’ fully equipped for WW off a friend’s car yesterday and am seeing how it “gets along” with my fleet and my wife.

Thanks for all the encouraging words!

You know how to carpe diem!



Take the course, play around in class II and see how you like that and move up if you want.

Obviously, if you’re self employed, you’ll need to be a bit more conservative on how much more you want to take on.


Go for it
Have a ball.

The best way to limit your risk is to take it slow. Don’t rush in over your head. In the words of Kent Ford, look for “hard moves on easy rivers”.


i run classll
with a gentlemen thats 80 an another couple in there 70’s .

No wonder ! );- )>

Have been paddling WW since '73.
I’ve never had an injury which prevented me from staggering in to my job and doing it. Your mileage may vary.

There is no “next”…this is it
I’ve learned the hard way that we only get one day at a time. The future exists only in my inagination-same for the past. I’ve always had balance/coordination problems, so am not interested in WW (yet), but I do think handgliding looks like fun. I got into canoeing solo a few years ago, and am getting back into motorcycling. I also do some volunteer work that has a potential for violence. When I reach 71 this fall I may slow down.

Go for it! I used to fly with a couple of guys who didn’t start until they retired. On a good day it’s like lying in a hammock with the best view in the world.

As with many sports, safety is largely a matter of your attitude. If you’re honest about your abilities, respect the conditions, and are willing to wait for a better day, the odds of a serious accident are drastically reduced.

You’re never too old …
I don’t think physical age in itself is a limiting factor, it’s your condition. What’s the old saw, “It ain’t the years, it’s the mileage.”

I’m only 54 but did my share of crazy stuff as a kid and that led to degenerative disks in my neck. I’ve had one spinal surgery and am trying to delay the next surgery until the Feds okay the new artificial disks for the neck. So while WW kayaking looks so neat and calls to me, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution and put off WW stuff at least until my neck gets repaired. Probably forever but I don’t want to admit that to myself just yet. Ditto with my motorcycle jones - it would be awesome but I don’t want to chance paralysis - so I’m sticking to class I/II for now. I could be wrong, but I think my chances of screwing up my neck worse by kayaking class I/II rivers are about the same as driving to work or stepping off a curb.

So it’s a judgement call, it’s not your age as much as it is your current physical condition … and how many unused wild hairs one has left.

Forgot to mention that…
…Age is a number. Old is an attitude.