White Water Kayaking

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What is white water kayaking?

Why is this such a popular activity?

What kind of skill level do you need in order to enjoy this hobby?

Whitewater kayaking is any type of kayaking that is done on more intense bodies of water. These are usually whitewater rivers, but they may be any water that moves at the speed and force of a whitewater river, too.

This type of kayaking is popular because it appeals to thrill-seekers. Those who have been kayaking for a while may also be excited to try it, simply because it’s the next step in honing their kayaking skills.

It is important to have some prior experience kayaking before trying to kayak on white water. Brand new beginners should not start out on whitewater, but intermediate kayakers may be able to step up their difficulty level somewhat and enjoy this type of kayaking as long as they have some assistance from a tour guide or more experienced friend or family member.

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about the basics of whitewater kayaking. You’ll learn some safety tips as well as other reminders, and you’ll even find out which areas are best for your whitewater experience, too.

Take your time and read through this article, and don’t forget to make notes of other information you may want to research as you learn.

Find out more about whitewater kayaking below.

Basics of Whitewater Kayaking

Check out the basics below, and learn how to get started on your new whitewater kayaking adventures.

Safety Tips

  • Always wear your personal flotation device! It’s illegal not to in many locations, and it’s always your safest option.
  • Bring along a medical kit, especially on long-term kayaking tours.
  • Take classes and pay close attention to the information given to you by tour guides. They will help you learn how to get out of bad situations when kayaking on whitewater, as well as how to respond if you see someone else in trouble.
  • Make sure you dress appropriately for the temperature, especially if you’re kayaking in very cold waters.
  • Start learning how to roll safely from very early on. The sooner you master this skill, the better off you’ll be, as you can roll without tipping over once you get the hang of it.

Essential Gear

  • Personal flotation device: Everyone on board needs one! You should always double-check your PFD before and after your kayaking experience to make sure it doesn’t have damage and can still keep you afloat if something should go wrong.
  • Helmet: This isn’t required for calm water paddling, but it’s crucial for whitewater paddling. There are many locations where large rocks are present in the rapids, and you don’t want to risk being thrown from your kayak and hitting your head on one of these rocks.
  • Sprayskirt: This item is designed to keep water from pooling inside your kayak. It will keep you from sinking in intense rapids. This isn’t a requirement on calm waters, but it is crucial on rougher ones.
  • Float bags: These bags are stored in your kayak and prevent it from overfilling with water. Some paddlers forego these bags as they become more advanced and capable of handling a safety roll, but when you’re a beginner, you definitely need them.
  • Throwbag: This is important to have on hand for safety, too. Throwbags are tossed to people in the water and used for towing them to safety after flipping. Practice using these bags in the safety of calm waters or in a swimming pool before you go out on white water for the first time.

How to Go

  • Before you get out on whitewater, you should know what you’re doing when it comes to steering and paddling a kayak on calm water. Take time, learn how to maneuver, and understand how to recover after a flip, too.
  • Be sure you are a strong swimmer before going kayaking on whitewater. If you aren’t, then you should not plan to kayak on whitewater.
  • Start with class I or class II rapids; don’t jump right into class IV or V without experience!
  • Always begin by taking guided tours before you go on your own. Whether you pay a tour guide or you follow a more skilled friend or family member, do not go by yourself while you’re still learning.
  • When you’re not out on the water, practice your whitewater skills in swimming pools or other calm bodies of water. The more practice you have, even in less intense situations, the more likely you’ll be to respond appropriately when the time comes.

Tips to Remember

  • Always pack plenty of water to drink as you’re paddling! You’ll be exerting a lot more energy than you may realize, and water is very crucial to a safe and healthy experience.
  • Before you go, practice swimming in whitewater, in case you tip over and are knocked out of your kayak.
  • Many whitewater kayakers recommend stretching with some gentle yoga before and after a run, in order to prevent muscle and tendon injuries along the way.
  • Always dress appropriately for the type of water and temperature of the location where you’ll be paddling.

Best Locations for Whitewater Kayaking

  • Ottawa River, Ontario, Canada – This is a great place to get started, since it’s not as likely you’ll tip over in this water as in some others. However, it’s very cold, so keep this in mind.
  • Colorado River, United States – Whether you tour the Grand Canyon or you stick to the lesser-traveled parts of the river, you can’t go wrong on this iconic whitewater kayaking body of water.
  • Rio Upano, Ecuador – This river is filled with high-intensity rapids and incredible scenery you’ll have to see to believe.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned a few of the basics, it’s time to decide whether or not whitewater kayaking is right for you. It’s not for everybody, but if you’ve already got some kayak experience, it could be an excellent next step in your adventures.

You may still be a little unsure, so here are a few reasons why you should consider trying whitewater kayaking at least once:

  • All kayaking is great for your body, but whitewater kayaking is an intense workout in comparison to calm water kayaking.
  • Whitewater kayaking can be exhilarating mentally.
  • You may be able to see parts of the world you’d never otherwise see if you take a whitewater kayaking tour.
  • Whitewater kayaking tours and locations are easy to find and easy to book, both in the peak season and during the off-season, so you never have to look very far to find a good place to go.
  • If you are already a fan of kayaking, it’s the logical next step to try to challenge yourself and learn how to handle rougher waters.

It’s up to you to decide whether or not you are ready to try whitewater kayaking. Although you don’t have to try it—ever—if you don’t want to or if you feel uncomfortable, it can be a fun way to expand on your kayaking experiences and learn more along the way, too.

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