ww canoeing

ok… so i list myself as intermediate paddler because the vast majority of my experience is tripping/flatwater/slow rivers… but I would love to do some ww up to maybe class 3 in my boat…ranger otter 16’, but am hesitant as to where to begin, also as a tandem if only using on class 1 or 2 would i need float bags, because with two seats where would i put them? I have kayaked, but not in years, and only a few rivers, and have ww rafted a few times… I live in middle tenn, so any advice and suggestions as to where/how to start would be appreciated…

thans b

Look at a local clubs spring class

– Last Updated: Mar-08-11 10:26 AM EST –

I would strongly suggest taking a look at one of the nearby whitewater paddling clubs spring classes.

Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association (TSRA) is "headquartered" in the Nashville area. Chota is in the Knoxville area, and Tennessee Valley Canoe Club is in the Chattanooga area. Here are the links:


It looks like TSRA and TVCC will both have their school on the weekend of June 3-6 this year and Chota will have theirs 2 weeks later.

All three clubs tend to use the Hiwassee River in Polk County TN because it is relatively safe, beginner-friendly, and has reliable dam-controlled flow. It is also a great introduction to Class II whitewater and it is beautiful.

Both TVCC and Chota tend to hang out at the Hiwassee Outfitters campground in Reliance TN which allows alcohol. TSRA tends to use one of the TN state campgrounds such as Gee Creek, all of which prohibit alcohol. I don't know if that would be a factor for you.

All three are good clubs. All three clubs are dominated by kayakers these days, as are all whitewater clubs, but there are still some open boaters alive down in the southeast. A good example is Gary Kilpatrick, an excellent open boater whose name and email are listed as the contact person for the Chota school. You could contact any or all of the clubs to see if they can provide open boating instruction this year.

Of course, you can learn to paddle whitewater without joining a club or taking a class, but the fees charged by the schools for instruction is modest, and the clubs serve as a convenient way to meet other boaters in your area, and their scheduled trips provide logistic resources like shuttles and finding put-ins and take-outs, and something of a safety net when you are starting out.

It has been my experience that even advanced flat water paddlers need to set their sights a bit lower than they might expect when starting out on whitewater. Having a mastery of flat water strokes certainly helps, but many flat water boaters have not developed any cross strokes, don't necessarily have good form pries, draws and braces, are not experienced in "reading" whitewater, and are not accustomed to anticipating the effect that current differentials and hydraulics will have on their boat. Obviously, there are exceptions.

Good whitewater tandem teams are becoming a rarity in the southeast these days. I think even if your goal is to paddle tandem, it helps for both bow and stern paddlers to start off in solo boats. I think this is the best way to learn reading water and learning the effects of currents on the boat, but also "feeling" the effect of their strokes directly on the canoe. It also helps a lot if stern tandem paddlers have a good understanding of bow corrective strokes, and bow tandem paddlers a good understanding of stern corrective strokes. In a solo boat you will learn both.

If you want to use a tandem canoe for whitewater, you can start off fairly cheap and find a big truck tire inner tube, jam it under the center thwart or yoke, and inflate it as much as the canoe allows. Short tandem end bags and center bags are available if you get into the sport.

Up to class 3 soloing a tandem
You will never be able to do cross strokes which are essential for class 3.

Tandem class 2 and below…yes you do need airbags or an airbag. It goes in the middle. A truck tube will do in a pinch. The object is to displace water so that if you pin the boat its easier to unpin.

You will advance far quicker if you look for a beginner whitewater solo boat. None of us are expert or intermediate in everything. You are beginner at whitewater. (Personally I think the skill level indicator is just insane).

In a solo boat you will master cross strokes, eddy turns, peel outs etc and ferries. With the mass of a 16 foot tandem the job is much harder. You will be kneeling in the center and reach for effective paddle strokes is going to be a problem.

Lenoir City, TN this weekend

Your timing is perfect to show up at the “Ain’t Louie Fest” and see what folks are doing and talk to them about outfitting, etc. Here is a link to a message board containing threads about it:



– Last Updated: Mar-08-11 10:32 AM EST –

Are you venturing south to Ain't Louie Fest this coming weekend or next? If so where will you be?

In good conscience I don't think I could recommend ALF as an introduction to whitewater open boating. Some of those guys are certifiably insane, and many of the others are old and demented like me.

On the other hand, it is a good opportunity to witness first hand exploits of considerable daring and foolishness, overhear outrageous boasts and lies, and see various other forms of deviant behavior up close and personal.

If you are not too far from Tellico Plains, you might want to come watch the race on the upper Tellico this coming Sunday. Parking along the river is very limited and will probably be a bit difficult. If you want more information send me an email.

All very true and another good reason to start off with one of the local clubs.

They have sometimes had boats already outfitted for whitewater, available for rental for the school. It looks like Chota might have and I know TVCC has done this in the past. Not sure about TSRA.

If not, someone in the club might be willing to loan you a boat.

ALF isn’t in the cards for me this year. Maybe next.

I guess I should have been clearer in my ALF suggestion: Go there to look and talk only! Do not paddle under any circumstances (well almost …)

pblanc an clarion
thanks, and appreciated… pblanc i will email you, i may be taking a trip to my parents in nc this weekend, if so i will stop out… thanks for the info… I used to have a good roll in a kayak, but that was back in the day, way back, haven’t been in one since, so all the info etc is appreciated greatly

Soloing a Tandem
Folks soloed class III and even IV in Old Town Trippers, Mad River Explorers and Blue Hole OCAs before all of the cool solo whitewater boats were invented.

Those are all Royalex hulls and the paddlers were either skilled lucky or both.

That said, an 8" to 14’ solo whitewater hull is a LOT more fun in class II-IV whitewater.

Solo Versus Tandem
I don’t have the kind of whitewater experience that a lot of people here do, but I was vaguely aware of all the solo use of those kinds of tandem canoes, long before I ever started doing this stuff. On the other hand, I’ve seen lots of videos of Bill Mason solo paddling a big wood/canvas Prospector through conditions way rougher than anything I’m likely to ever paddle, and he never appeared to be struggling at all, other than when getting flipped by huge waves where getting through cleanly would hardly be likely anyway! I sometimes wonder what canoes Bill Mason would be known for paddling if he were alive today.

big difference in river running and
solo play. I did Big on the St John in an OT Kennebec but I was not trying to hit eddies.

Polers of course run in big tandems. Anything.

running whitewater solo in a tandem
When paddling a big boat solo in whitewater, you are likely to be limited to the “point and shoot” style of running rapids. This works for some rapids, even powerful ones, but doesn’t for more technical rapids in which the ability to catch eddies mid-rapid is mandatory to safely running the rapid.

If you watch Bill Mason in those videos, he is usually riding out big waves, and avoiding some obstacles by side slipping the boat with a sculling draw, but he is not usually catching small eddies and spinning that boat on a dime.


– Last Updated: Mar-09-11 2:00 PM EST –

Hard to eddy out behind a small boulder, scout a section of shut ins(from the canoe); then peel out & run a rock/boulder infested section of fast moving water, when you're paddling a tandem Bluehole. Do remember them being great fun running big, long, wave trains, and good sized rapids on pool/drop sections of rivers; where there were nice runouts below the rapids........ for "recovery/retrieval".

Not saying the big old tandems weren't fun, but that kind of fun got old real quick..........if things don't go well. Swimming a 15 or 16 footer full of water to shore(especially in fast water) ain't no fun at all(even when paddling tandem); whether it's bagged or not.

Been there & done that, on Hailstone on the Buffalo; when I was younger, stronger, and dumber. Ain't gonna do it no more; don't even want to try. Suffering; NOT good.


Not THAT Boat

– Last Updated: Mar-09-11 5:10 PM EST –

I had a Ranger and it was a nice flatwater hull. NOT a boat for whitewater. Very little rocker and with no rocker and relatively low stems you're looking at a boat that will submarine. It's a good boat for it's niche, but you will not be happy trying to turn it. Hitting an eddy, well, only if it's the size of an RV. Find a cheap, used WW boat that's suitable for the novice WW paddler, you'll be much happier. WW