Learning to whitewater kayak is a huge feat. Maybe you are a new paddler beginning the process this season, or perhaps you are a waterlogged pro with several decades of boofing, creeking and river booties behind you. No matter where you are in the life of your whitewater kayaking pursuits, you will be able to relate to these ten whitewater learning moments.
1. You will get stuck in your drysuit
Drysuits and tops are amazing for cold weather kayaking missions, but they aren’t the most intuitive to wriggle out of. Flush wrist and neck gaskets make removing them an acquired skill, so don’t feel too bad if you spend most of your time at the take-out doubled over with your hands pulling at your collar trying to escape.
2. You will finally understand what boofing is
You hear those cool professional paddlers saying it all the time in kayaking films and spot the word in the pages of Rapid. Maybe you’ve been too nervous to ask your paddling friends for a definition of this kayaker’s verb. Once you launch over a small drop with a perfectly-timed stroke at the feature’s lip with your hips forward and hear the telltale sign of your kayak hitting the water, you’ll get it. Learn how to boof here.
3. You will struggle rolling….until you don’t
Rolling is one of the toughest parts of learning to kayak, and even with great instruction it can be extremely difficult to conceptualize the technique from above the surface of the water. Many people spend days, weeks or even months working towards a solid roll. This can mean a lot of time swimming and chasing your boat, but once it clicks, the roll is hard to lose and will make kayaking incredibly fun.
4. You will learn why scouting is important
Deciding not to scout a new rapid can happen when you get overconfident or are with a group who know the area well. While it can be tempting to just wing it, a big swim or hanging out in a sticky hydraulic can remind you why it’s so important to view river features and plan your line pre-run. Understand how to scout properly.
5. You will get stuck in a hole
Before you start paddling whitewater, rapids all look the same. Once you enter the sport however, you begin to pick out holes dotting the rivers you love and know the best lines to choose to avoid them. Part of learning is making mistakes though, and you will definitely gain first hand insight into the retentive power of holes. Learn how to escape a hydraulic here.
6. You will learn why your team is so important in this “individual” sport
In many ways kayaking is an individual pursuit where your actions and maneuvers just affect you. It is also very much about the group you are with, and there is no quicker way to learn how dependent you can be on your kayaking buddies than by needing a rescue, losing your boat or spending a few minutes being recycled.
7. You will catch your first wave
Maybe it was planned. Or maybe you got spun around backwards on a rapid and ended up inadvertently pulling off a sweet surf. However you got on that wave, the unexpected stasis and floatiness you feel while water flies underneath you is addictive and will have you hitting up park and play spots in no time. Learn how to surf like the pros here.
8. You will have a scary swim
When you begin kayaking and don’t yet have a bomb-proof roll, there is always the chance you will end up swimming the rapids you had hoped to style. Having a scary swim—cold, long, rocky or just full of big water features—can be terrifying, but its also a valuable experience for understanding our vulnerability on rivers and practicing proper swimming in whitewater. Learn expert tips for swimming in whitewater here.
9. You will struggle with your skirt
You stand at the river’s edge feeling prepared to kayak. Your PFD is snug. Your paddle is in hand. Helmet is securely fastened. Drysuit zips are up. As you sit in your resting kayak and get stoked to join your friends, you face the seemingly endless struggle for beginner kayakers: putting on your skirt. It may seem too small for your kayak, or not the right shape, or too slippery. Trust us—your arms will get stronger and it will get easier.
10. You will mess up the shuttle
The concept of a shuttle is simple. Leave one car at the put-in and one at the take-out to bring everyone back. But that simplicity can become muddled with all the gear necessary for kayaking trips. After one too many moments at the take-out realizing you have no shoes, towel or dry clothes, you may start meticulously organizing drybags or backpacks designated for each end of the shuttle.
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