What is necessary for Class 2?

Greetings to all. This is my first post here!

I want to ask what I actually need in a kayak for my local Class 2 water.

First, I’m 61 years old and a beginner to kayaks. I’ve paddled rented canoes, but never a kayak. That said, I have no interest in Class 3 or higher whitewater. I’d just like recreational kayaking - that is, quiet time on the local river without the phone ringing!

I live close to a 10 mile stretch of the Middle Youghiogheny river that is 95% Class 1, with only a half dozen short stretches of Class 2. Again, I’m interested in the quiet stretches of water; I just need to get through the couple of Class 2 sections.

All the local outfitters are geared towards training for the Class 3 and 4 sections of the river downstream, but I’m not interested in this. They all want to point me towards the dedicated whitewater kayaks.

So, what do I really need for getting past the few Class 2 sections?

Thanks in advance,

Jerry in PA

The local outfitters.
If they’re pushing you toward dedicated whitewater craft and training, they’re not listening. Though, beginning paddling courses are a good a place to start. Local paddling clubs/groups are, too, and renting or borrowing different boats will give you a better idea of what’s suited to the conditions you’re likely to encounter. No advice or boat recommendations can compare to actual seat time.

Other than that, a willingness to learn by doing is all that’s really needed beyond a good PFD!

Have you tried kayaking at all?
If not, I would try borrowing or demoing a kayak to make sure you don’t find the position uncomfortable. Some folks get back or hip pain sitting in a kayak.

Class II covers a whole lot of ground and can include some very technical stuff, but the middle Youghiogheny rapids are not terribly technical. There are some waves and small hydraulics which could swamp a rec kayak or a sit in kayak paddled without a skirt.

A polyethylene kayak would be preferable for river use. The middle Yough could probably be paddled in a wide variety of kayaks including rather long “sea kayaks” by paddlers with decent boat handling skills and water reading ability. But if you haven’t kayaked or paddled the middle Yough I would not consider yourself a member of that group. I would recommend that any boat you decide to use have either watertight bulkheads or flotation bags in case of a swim.

In all honesty, if you plan to paddle on moving water the basic skills that you would at least be exposed to in a beginning whitewater instructional program would make it worth your while to take one. You don’t have to plan to paddle Class III or more difficult water to benefit from learning the effect of moving water and eddy lines on your boat as well as techniques for maneuvering around obstacles.

I guess it depends on the river
…as noted by others.

We have a class II stretch of the Coosa river (with a wee bit of class III), in Alabama. The local outfitters rent hundreds of SOT kayaks on the summer weekends, and, I’d say a good chunk of those paddlers are first timers. They get set up with paddle and PFD. Some parents rent helmets for their kids, who typically take up one spot on a double SOT.

Just my non-expert 2 cents
First, I would agree that a dedicated at least new style WW boat is not what you want. I took my newer, planing hull WW boat on a trip that had a little class 2 with longer stretches of flat a few years back. While I did appreciate the ease of precision in the class 2 sections, trying to paddle the thing on the flats did a job on one muscle in my upper back that took months to stop bothering me.

I would suggest that, for a boat, you consider one that has some hull speed. That would include a WW creeker, a hybrid or if you can find one that has been stored inside an “old school” WW boat. River runners may still be too much effort for the situation you describe, and playboats sure are not it.

The “old school” boats have the advantage of being dirt cheap, the disadvantage of often being 20 years old.

Any of these boats would leave you less squeezed in than a river runner as well. The point about comfort above is well taken if you are new to kayaking.

I do suggest that you try and get a little time with someone who can run you down a river and give you some tips on how to manage things smaller than a canoe. There can be a big difference in reactions and buoyancy between the two. The smaller boat can be a lot of fun too.

It doesn’t have to be a paid instructor, though if you are near such a place I wouldn’t turn it down. WW folks are usually pretty generous with their time if you can hook up with a local group.

I would just add this -
probably not a great idea to paddle alone in moving water until you have some seat time under your belt and you are feeling comfortable about wet exits and getting to shore etc.

HI, Jerry
I’m in your neck of the woods (and am 62) – I’ve done that section of the Yough and you could do it with just about any medium sized sit-inside plastic kayak, either a “hybrid/crossover”, a creeker or a light touring kayak 10 to even 15 feet long. The river is fairly wide and open there so you really don’t need a short “planing” or play boat. Just need a boat with sealed bulkheads and a regular (not oversized) cockpit so you can use a sprayskirt.

If you are in Pittsburgh area you might want to stop in and see the folks at Exkursion in Monroeville. Though they specialize more in touring yaks they would be able to help you with something like what you are looking for.

I agree that you should be looking for experienced folks to take you out on such an adventure – should not try it alone. There should be guided trips available through the outfitters at Ohiopyle – that would be a good initial option.

You also might want to check out the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh, a venerable local outdoor group with a lot of paddlers who are welcoming to beginners. They meet once a month in Oakland (second Thursday of the month at the Botany lecture hall beside Phipps Conservatory). You need not be a member to join their trips. Check out their website for more info. I’ve been a member for over 40 years but haven’t been very active over the past 4 or 5.

Also, there is a very active paddling group on Meetup.com in Pittsburgh that has several events a month. There are a number of folks on there with extra boats that they will lend to newbies for trips locally. Could be another option.

PS on that section
I have a warning on that middle section of the Yough. While most of it is fairly forgiving, there is a deceptively mild-looking standing wave in the first 1/4 mile of the paddle called “Flipper” that WILL dump you out of your boat. At high water flows it is then really a bitch to recover your boat, empty and relaunch. It is one of many reasons why you don’t paddle the Yough alone.

Lern to wet exit and recover your stuff

– Last Updated: Sep-15-12 9:23 PM EST –

As it might happen that you will flip -;) Kep in mind that even on class 2 you can get in a serious trouble. It is easy to not see a rock and get pinned against it or flip and hit your head in the shallows. I'd suggest, get a helmet. Just the other day I flipped where I should have never flipped, but it somehow happenned - was shallow and rocky and now I got a nice deep scratch on my helmet. Luckily, I generally have a good roll and keep my body tucked-in - if I was open and face down, I would have a bloody nose at the least or worse. It was a very easy section of class 1+, less than knee deep, been there many times, and while I usually don't flip in much worse, that little rock that I did not see got me that day somehow -;)

Then, jut yesterday, someone drowned in class 1 water on the Potomac. Not a kayaker, but the initial report said that person waded in, got caught in a rock and could not recover. Young person at that, late teens or twenties. Don't have full info on the accident, but if that initial report is true, it illustrates how someone trying to walk across "easy" water can get themselves killed. So, rent some WW safety videos to get an idea of what to do and what not to do. And read "Kayak" - a cartoon-like-illustrated book that has tons of good water reading and safety information. Or chack out the path of the paddle and related stuff (canoe) - there are some good examples that apply just as well for a long-ish kayak (which you should be paddling if you primarily intend to do class 1 with a little of class 2).

If you play in safe currents and waves you will develop balance and bracing that will get you through the clas 2 uneventfully even if you do not have a roll. My guess is, that once you develop enough skills, you will want more class 2 than class 1 and you might even go back to the outfitters and get a taste of some class 3 some day in the future -;)

EDIT: as for gear, other than the helmet I mentioned, I think you would be happier with a relatively lightweight 12-15 foot kayak that tracks well enough (e.g., not something you will struggle to keep in a straight line on the flats). Make sure it is spatious enough so you are comfortable. The transitional boats in the 9-10 foot range I feel are geared more towards class 2+ water than to flat water and are slow on flat water, but the angain, if you just want to relax, you can do that in them perfectly as they tend to be big and comfy and very reassuring in the class 2 stuff (more so than the more slender longer kayaks that I would chose for their speed, but you might be intimidated in them in the "rough" and might not need their speed at all).

Not much, just about any boat can handle
Class II. The real change comes when you hit Class III. I have a Class II boat that works great. When I took it through Class III, it began to bend and buckle. A Class III WW boat is hard to paddle on flatwater. The obvious conclusion is that you need to get both.

Class II rapids break over the bow and splash in the cockpit. There’s room to make changes and you never have the sense that you could possibly be out of control or be thrown out of the boat. Class III kicks it up a notch. The bow of the boat may be submirged and out of sight underwater. Water pours into the cockpit. You may have long stretches when you’re not sure you’re in control of your boat. You get a real feeling that you could be thrown out. There’s time to make changes but a wrong change could mean capsize.

Class III water will wreck a Class II boat.

“Class 2” rapids can be under-rated
class 3. Or maybe we always needed another subclass in there. Example. Only one rapid on the standard Nantahala run in NC is rated class 3, but there are several more that probably should be, including Pattons Run.

The paddlers that most need a valid and reliable rapid rating system are the great, unwashed mass of trained beginners and intermediates. But most of the actual rating is done by advanced and “expert” paddlers, and in the case of rivers they have paddled often, familiarity breeds contempt. Rapids they have come to find fairly easy will get downgraded a notch.

It was different when I started paddling whitewater in 1974. Then, many rapids were over-rated, by people who didn’t use the rating standards, but instead based their ratings on how many people were getting flipped. Of course they were getting flipped. Their equipment was primitive, and their technique was too.

The middle Yough is very easy
If you have basic skills you can paddle almost any boat and get down with no problem. But you do need basic skills including how to self rescue. I strongly recommend you take an intro river course, like from NOC. You will be safer and have more fun.

Have you thought about a canoe?

– Last Updated: Sep-16-12 10:30 AM EST –

The middle Yough is very canoe friendly. Can you kneel? If you can I'd get a canoe. You'll probably be a lot more comfortable, it's easier to carry and you can see better.


– Last Updated: Sep-16-12 9:00 PM EST –

I live just a few miles from Ohiopyle and paddle the Middle Yough regularly. In doing so, I see practically every type of canoe and kayak imaginable. If I were shopping for a boat specifically for the Middle Yough, I'd talk to the people at Riversport (in Confluence.) They also rent a variety of kayaks for that particular stretch of river.

Personally, I prefer a solo canoe. I stay drier, and can read the water better because I'm higher. It's also nice to change position now and then. While it does take a bit more skill to use a canoe paddle, it's easy enough to use a kayak paddle in a canoe. In fact, I do just that if I get bored on those long flat stretches or am facing a strong headwind (which happens often on the Middle Yough.)

Shoot me an email if you're looking for a paddling partner or if I can offer more info.

I’ll second the Riversport suggestion
Go talk to the folks at Riversport in Confluence, PA. They rent a lot of recreational kayaks on the Middle and even offer a day class that’s geared towards folks like you who aren’t interested in hard core whitewater.


a third vote for riversport
nice folks, who can do laid back, or they can step it up. Just tellem what you want