Welcome to Zoar Outdoor!
I walked through the shop doors, and immediately heard, “Welcome to Zoar Outdoor!” A staff member with a beaming smile welcomed me into the cozy Outfitters Shop located in the red building at Zoar Outdoor. I had plenty of time to settle into the day with some coffee, chats with staff, a bathroom break, and browsing in the shop. I saw lots of awesome gear that I made some mental notes about… “If I get hooked on this sport like everyone tells me I will, this purple PFD seems pretty awesome” type of mental notes.
Once the clock struck 9am, Zoar Staff connected me with my Paddlesports Instructor for the day. My instructor’s name was Amanda. The clinic started with some introductions and a conversation about our background on the water along with our goals for the day. Amanda gave a nice overview of the day, explaining the schedule (flat water in the morning and river time in the afternoon), and answering all of my questions. It was a beautiful 70 degree day in late June, so she still encouraged me to wear a wetsuit. This is where I learned that you should always dress for the water, despite the gorgeous sunny day since the Deerfield River water temperature can be quite cold. Once she answered my questions and our plan for the day was set, we set out to the task of gearing up.
Gearing Up – The 5 Essentials for Kayaking
Amanda led me up to Zoar’s wetsuit room to find a wetsuit, splash jacket, and neoprene booties that fit me. After that, we got the five essentials: helmet, PFD, sprayskirt, paddle, and boat. I really enjoyed having the time to learn about each piece of gear and how to effectively fit it to my body. We also learned about and tried out different types of boats. I really enjoyed how the Dagger Code felt and decided to paddle that boat for the day. We gathered up all of our gear and headed on our way.
The First Stop – Flat Water
The first stop of the day was a flat water pond. I was pretty nervous when Amanda told me our first step was learning how to wet exit, but after trying it a few times, it felt easier and less intimidating. My two huge takeaways from a morning on the flat water was how tippy and unstable the boat felt compared to other kayaks I have been in and how hard it was to keep the boat straight! All this boat felt like doing was spinning as soon as I got some speed. Luckily, I got some great pointers on technique, and I was having more luck paddling my boat in the direction I wanted it to go. Amanda said I was ready for our afternoon on the river!
Next Stop – Whitewater!
Our lunch was a delicious picnic at the put-in by the river. I enjoyed watching the rafters laughing and yelling as they went through the first rapid. My heart started to beat faster as we put the lunch away and started to gear up for our river paddling section of the clinic. We started slowly practicing the basic river maneuvering skills like ferries, peel outs, and eddy turns. Getting into the current was exhilarating! I was pretty nervous about flipping over, but as the day progressed, I started to get the feel for the sport and settled into the flow more and more. I had two swims–that eddy line at Freight Train below the train bridge is tricky! Amanda told me I was now part of the famous Deerfield River Swim Team and to wear that with pride.
I had a blast and felt so satisfied and proud of myself after a day on the water. I was thrilled to feel myself start to really relax on the river after my first swim. Once I settled in, paddling downstream shifted from scary and overwhelming to more fun and enjoyable. I can’t wait to get back out on the water again! Now, I need to learn how to roll and check out that purple PFD again.
Are You Ready?
Learn more about whitewater kayak instruction from Zoar Outdoor here.