This collection of articles will speed you on your way to having more fun kayaking!
Note to intermediate and advanced whitewater kayak paddlers: Don't miss the sections on Whitewater Safety and Rolling Instruction (see the links at left). Even if you don't need the help, you will find these tips invaluable for teaching your buddy. Also the "Breakthru tips" section is a collection of drills specifically designed to help you make a jump in skills.
Just learning to paddle a whitewater kayak? This book will help you learn, but in addition I highly recommend a few days of lessons to accompany your reading. A few days of lessons will reduce the chance of a bad experience. The first days of trial and error learning can be unnecessarily cold and wet! It's a lot less fun than the sport can be!
Paddling a whitewater kayak is different than other sports because it’s often counter intuitive. To roll you don't pull down on the paddle, and you don't lift your head, and you don't reach way out with the blade. Floating into a rock you lean towards it, not away from it.
Instruction is an Investment!
Three or four days is the ideal length for learning the basics of the sport and making huge progress. In 3 or 4 days, you can develop a solid foundation of skills, far quicker than if you learn piecemeal from friends, or haphazardly by trial and error. Let someone else handle the logistics and pick the river. You just paddle. This book will help you get the most from that instruction if you review it before and after your classes.
As part of the class you get to try different boats, and try different gear, so you will be able to make an educated decision before you spend a thousand dollars on gear. Many schools give you a certificate or discount towards your next purchase. And besides, what use is that thousand dollar surfing machine if you can't get to the wave. A few tips might help!
Best of all, by taking a class you can meet other people from your area who will be about your skill level, so you can continue getting out on the river. Its fun, and you'll probably meet some fascinating, like minded people.
When you are looking for a school, word of mouth rules! The best instructors have glowing reputations, so ask other paddlers, particularly in the local club.
Tempted to try the 'buddy school of instruction?
If you have friends who can be real patient and professional in giving you an introduction to the sport, that might be your best choice. But it can be a gamble. Are they really going to start you with at least half a day of flatwater strokework, then take you on an easy enough section of river, so you can get some comfort with basics before you get gripped?
I have seen too many people get dragged too quickly into whitewater that was not conducive to learning. That bums me out, because some of these people end up quitting the sport.
As for safety instruction, you'll want a set of explanations that are at least more comprehensive than the typical raft trip safety briefing. When was the last time you had this sort of thorough instruction from your friends?
In whitewater there are a lot of hidden hazards that may not be obvious unless pointed out, so you will want to have that instruction given to you methodically. Knowing what is dangerous helps you realize how much is good clean fun. You want someone showing you the difference, so you can really enjoy the fun parts without uncertainty.
On to the collection of articles... Prerequisites, rolling, first strokes, river reading, and whitewater safety are the chapters... pick and choose, or take the tour!