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5 Days to Make a Whitewater Kayaker

By Cassie Hayden

Diary of a 5-Day Intensive

Day 1 – We’re on flatwater for much of the day learning how to get out of the boat (phew!), how to move the boat around with the paddle, our hips, our knees and our head (???) and just getting comfortable with this too-easy-to-turn craft. In the afternoon we get a taste of moving water on the river which whets our appetites for tomorrow.

Day 2 – After a bit of flatwater review, we’re on the river again, learning and relearning eddy turns and peel outs (how to stop).  Ferrying, getting from one side of the river to the other, can be challenging, but we’re learning that a ferry gone wrong is really just a peel out, so we keep smiling and pretend we meant to do it all along!

Day 3 – The flatwater review this morning feels easier and we’re getting to know the pre-river safety talk by heart.  Today we’re running rapids with more control, and we’re anticipating more, reacting less.

Day 4 – We’re doing an all-day river run and in scouting the Gap – a class III rapid that looked impossible on Day 1 – I think I see a line that I could make.  

Day 5 – After a warmup in the boat, we’re working on surfing, which is really just ferrying by taking advantage of a wave to keep you in one place.  It’s challenging, but when you get it, even for a moment, the feeling of the tapping into the power of the river is exhilirating.  Eddy turns and peel outs are becoming routine, and we’re starting to look at eddies that seemed out of reach a few days ago as possible destinations.  We finish at Zoar Gap and half our class decides to run it.  A few flip, the others make it.  We all join together for the paddle from the Gap to the takeout.  Our instructors are paddling along with us, not needing to prompt us to catch eddies, miss rocks or follow certain lines.  It feels great to run the river with our newfound skills and we feel like we’ve got a solid foundation.


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