Why isn’t an inflatable kayak considered a whitewater kayak?
At the whitewater symposium a few years ago, I had this discussion with Bill Parks, founder and brainiac behind NRS. The concept and question of how we define whitewater kayaking has rumbled with me since.
Whitewater sport has a long tradition of specialists raising the bar in fairly narrow segments. I know the appeal of these specialites… as a onetime C-1 paddler, slalom racer, and solo open canoe paddler. Now I row dories, and seek out rarely run Class II sections of river and am fascinated with stand up paddling. But cumulatively, our fascination and enthusiasm with specializing is taking its toll, as we see other aspects of paddlesports flourishing while whitewater is increasingly pigeonholed as extreme. We lose lots of potential paddlers: women, families, older folks, average folks. I hate to see them missing out on the fun.
Perhaps part of the problem is that in our search for specialized boats, we have left out opportunities for “the everyman” to be a whitewater paddler. For a while it was popular to lay the blame on the boat companies, for tailoring their boats to specific playboat moves. But now the companies have provided a wide range of boats… I am thinking the wide array of friendly boats/creekers. Not to mention boats like the Master TG or the Crossover… You haven’t heard of them? Why didn’t they catch on?
So consider this:
Why aren’t there more higher performance Sit on Top kayakers. In warm rivers anyway, the right design would be a hoot. Why aren’t there more high performance IK paddlers? (IK = Inflatable kayakers…, well would you paddle one if everyone called you boat a duckie?) Why not more hydrospeeders? These recreational boogie board craft are very popular in Europe, perhaps providing a stepping stone from the raft experience to a more intimate kayaklike experience.
Do we inadvertently dismiss those boats as not really being for “true” whitewater paddlers? I think we might. I plan to carefully look at every craft with a new welcoming attitude. After all, the common denominator experience about the river is not about each of our narrow specialty and fascination.
Kent Ford www.performancevideo.com