Whitewater Kayaking Is Supposed to be Fun

I love working at a paddlesports shop because I get to “nerd out” all day with other paddlers. I speak with people from all different parts of the sport – sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, canoeing, surf kayaking, rafting, and my favorite: whitewater kayaking. One of the most common things I hear from people who have never whitewater kayaked is that they would never do it because it is too dangerous. I would like to address that sentiment in this blog post.

First off, I must say, yes, whitewater kayaking does pose an increased level of risk in comparison to flat water paddling. Dynamic water moves with incredible force and it must be respected. However, there are ways in which we can minimize exposure to risk, allowing us to experience the fun and beautiful adventures that occur in the wonderful world of whitewater kayaking. Wearing the proper gear (PFD, helmet, drysuit, etc.), paddling a rapid that matches your skill-level, and receiving professional instruction are all keys to safe paddling.

I think one of the reasons that people think whitewater is so dangerous is because they see videos of people running huge Class V rapids or dropping down 100 ft waterfalls. While there is a community of elite kayakers who do those things on a regular basis, this is not the reality of most whitewater kayakers. I mostly paddle Class III rivers and have only just begun paddling a few Class IV rapids. While it certainly is exhilarating to paddle something that is at the upper end of my comfort zone in a Class IV rapid, I have had my favorite paddling experiences on Class II and III runs, where I feel totally in control and comfortable.

For me, whitewater kayaking isn’t about trying to run the biggest and most difficult rapids that I can. It’s about experiencing beautiful and remote natural areas that most people never get to see. It’s about playing around on waves and in holes to improve my skills. It’s about the rush of adrenaline I get from going down a rapid. It’s about spending time with my friends out on the water and sharing a hobby that very few people are fortunate enough to do.

My goal in writing this blog post is to encourage you to give whitewater kayaking a chance. If you’re interested in trying it but are intimidated by the risks of the sport, I hope that I can convince you that there are ways to begin learning the sport safely. Wear the right gear, take a class, and start out on Class I and II rapids. I am sure that if you give it a try, you will quickly realize the fun and beauty of the sport. Always wear your PFD and helmet, and respect the river.

-Harry Stewart
Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe

Not familiar with river classifications?  Check out this great article by Ken Whiting with simple images and descriptions!

Interested in trying out whitewater?  Jump right in with our Full Immersion Whitewater I course or dip your toe into a warm swimming pool with Tipping Without Flipping.  Got questions?  Email programs@aldercreek.com.