Best Colleges and Universities For Whitewater Paddlers | Rapid Magazine | Rapid Media
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A whitewater kayaker lands at the base of a waterfall as his paddling friends look on Photo: Flickr user Rob Shenk

The top schools where whitewater enthusiasts can work hard and paddle hard

Whether you are a high school senior looking forward to being a freshman or a 45-year-old parent returning to school, if you kayak, academics are not the lone requirement for a good school. Access to excellent nearby rivers and a community of stoked paddlers makes the university or college experience fulfilling both in and out of the classroom. If kayaking gets you as stoked as hitting the books, take note of Rapid’s round-up of the best colleges and universities for whitewater paddlers.

University of Washington

This public university is located in downtown Seattle with striking views of Mount Rainer. It educates 54,000 students each year, and those who are kayakers are in luck. UW is a short drive to amazing Pacific Northwest whitewater like the stunning Class III-IV Skykomish River, the famous Green River and Snoqualmie River, a great beginner spot. Schedule a few evening classes and enjoy weekday trips to the river.

Oregon State University-Cascades Campus

Whitewater kayakers rejoice: this branch campus of Oregon State University was born out of a 30-year grassroots effort to bring a university to Central Oregon. With an average of 16 students per class, you will probably stand out when you are skipping class to paddle the nearby Deschutes River or heading north to boof on the Hood River.

Thompson Rivers University 

Thompson Rivers University is located in Kamloops, British Columbia, with a campus right by the Thompson River and a killer Adventure Studies program. Kamloops is a great base for paddling road trips to epic runs like the Elk River, the Kicking Horse River and St. Leon Creek, and closer to campus you will find amazing whitewater on the Thompson River, the Adams River, the Fraser River and the Clearwater River. For those who want paddling and school to be intertwined, browse the Adventure Studies program course offerings and get stoked. 

READ MORE: 10 things that you will experience when you learn to whitewater kayak

University of North Carolina at Asheville

This dedicated liberal arts institution is situated right in the whitewater mecca of Asheville. Build your schedule around the region’s epic whitewater. Love creeking? Focus your energy on the Green Narrows, a low-volume and boulder-filled run with some epic slides. It runs approximately 300 days per year, allowing you to complete your first year of school as a significantly stronger kayaker than when you arrived.

Quest University

Quest is an independent, non-profit university located in the outdoor sports mecca of Squamish, British Columbia. As well as having experiential learning courses and an elite athlete program, Quest University is also a kayaker’s dream school. Students can enjoy the region’s bountiful whitewater, like the Cheakamus River, the Squamish River, the play wave on the Mamquam River and mellow class II to III on the Green River. With so many outdoor enthusiasts in this community, finding paddling partners will be no problem. Want a real challenge? Take advantage of a school holiday and head to northern British Columbia’s mighty Stikine River.

READ MORE: How kayaking school can teach you everything you need to know about life 

Boise State University

Going to university at Boise State means you will have the Payette River system in your backyard. The 82.7-mile river is a whitewater kayaker’s dream home river, with excellent rapids for learning and challenging sections for pros. Need more convincing? The North Fork of the Payette is such amazing whitewater that professionals from all over the world flock to its banks for the North Fork Championship each summer. Join a local paddling club and revel in your newfound student paddler life.

Algonquin College, Pembroke Campus

Algonquin College’s campus in Pembroke, Ontario, is on the shore of the Ottawa River, where some of the best whitewater in the world lives. A half-hour drive from campus takes you to the main and middle channel put-ins. For students who want to become both proficient play boaters and creek boaters, this is the perfect place. Monster waves like Garburator and Bus Easter will bring you to the top of your freestyle game and big water in down river sections like Coliseum will help you improve technical feature-reading skills. Post-paddling study session? Grab a booth at the cozy Whitewater Brewery. 

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