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Old 11-30-2009   #21
KSC's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,032
The only thing I'd reiterate is if you spend a lot of time in the pool this winter it will pay off when the water starts to run. Especially as a beginner you can learn a lot in the pool and for rolling it's much better than trying to figure it out in shallow ice cold moving water. Learn to roll on both sides, low brace, high brace, hand roll, back deck roll, paddle leaning on either edge, flatwater cartwheel and bow stall. It's unlikely that you'll master all that this winter, but if you master any of it, you'll be a much better position to learn what to do in moving water once the snow starts to melt.

I think that's the way to learn to kayak - warm pool, then icy rivers. I started in the pool in the spring and learned to roll. I was ready to go in the river whereas I saw others who tried to jump right in still trying to figure out their edges, braces, and spending most of their timing collecting their constant yard sales instead of learning moving water skills.

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Old 11-30-2009   #22
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Rocky Mountain Hooliganz, Rocky Mountain High
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 364
We got a book writing marathon going on up in here!!! Ha Haa!!

Originally Posted by deepsouthpaddler View Post
Class III your first season is a reasonable goal. A good progression would be to spend an adequate amount of time at each stage practicing and mastering the skills to move up to the next stage confidently. The first step is learning to roll, learning basic strokes, the ferry and eddy turns, and practicing them on class II.

Once you can do the basics on class II well, you are likely ready to step up to class III. A step up in difficulty is best attempted with a good crew of boaters who are skilled at that level. You are likely to swim and its your buddies who will end up fishing you out safely and chasing down several hundred dollars worth of your gear when you do. In general you always paddle with a group, and never alone, although this rule does have some exceptions.

Speed of progression varies widely and is a function of athletic ability, physical conditioning, motivation, days on the water, age, fear response, mental control, the people you paddle with, and the rivers you run. Its not uncommon for athletic people to master the basics on class II very quickly and move on to class III. Some folks run class III right of the bat, but 10-20 days on class II with some mellow class III would be a good middle of the road recommendation. At each step of the way you need to judge your readiness to move up. Be honest with yourself, and perhaps seek out advice from more experienced boaters. Whitewater has a way of immediately bitch slapping folks who overestimate ability.

Once at class III, plan to spend a considerable amount of time there running lots of different class III runs at different water levels to fully develop class III skills before attempting harder runs. It will pay dividends in the long run. Timing varies as noted before, but 30-50 days on class III might be a good recommendation before moving on to class IV. Some folks never make it to class IV and spend years on class III. Some people run 10-20 days of class III and run class IV.

The hardcore videos online are usually experts running class V/V+ with many years of experience, and hundreds to thousands of days on the water. How did they get there? Lots of time on the water, physical skills, mental toughness, focus, and determination. The majority of people who start kayaking will never boat anything this difficult. I haven't seem firm stats, but my observation is that at each level of increasing difficulty, less and less paddlers make it that far. My guess at some generic numbers might be that of all people attempting kayaking... 50% will quit in the first year. Of the folks that are left, 60% might never paddle harder than class III, 30% might never paddle harder than class IV, and maybe 10% will paddle class V regularly. Source of numbers: my wild ass guess.

There are many different reasons for why people top out at various levels of difficulty. One reason is risk. Some folks have the ability to paddle harder whitewater, but opt not to due to family and kids and simply aren't willing to take the extra risk. Another factor is time. It takes many days on the water to develop the skills to paddle more difficult whitewater. Some people simply don't have the time, or don't live close enough to rivers. 10 days a year on the water might mean a career of class III. It might take 3-5 years of 50+ days on the water to develop the skills for class V.

Gear choice is a factor in progression. Water in the rockies is cold, and learning means swimming. You will want decent gear to keep you warm for comfort and safety. A good drytop with latex gaskets would be a good choice. Wet suit pants and some splash pants for your legs would be a good start as well. The M3 will be a decent boat to start learning in. If you know for sure you will stick with kayaking, it makes sense to get some decent gear new, if you have the cash. If you aren't 100% sure you will stick with kayaking, or if cash is tight, getting used gear is a good bet. Used paddles are a good idea especially as they tend to get lost in the river by first year boaters. No sense buying a $300 paddle only to lose it after 15 days on the river. A couple folks noted that you should buy rescue vests, pin kits, full face helmets etc. None of this is really needed for the first season, and it all costs extra. You can get all the basic gear used for maybe $500 and that will see you through your first season. If you go whole hog and buy all the gear it might cost you $1500-2000. If after your first year, you are hooked and are progressing quickly, I'd say the investment in the extra gear would be worthwhile.

There are things you can do over the winter. Pool sessions are a good way to learn to roll and learn some basic strokes. Its boring compared to whitewater, but it will help once the season hits. There is a lot of information online. You can search mountainbuzz and boatertalk to find old discussions on rolling, bracing, tips, rivers etc. You can also find links to how to videos on manufacturers websites. Liquid logic has some how to videos I think. There are also a large amount of teaching videos. I found some of these useful in my progression.

Finding people to boat with that have the same schedule and the same desired difficulty can make or break your boating progression. Classes, clubs, pool sessions, and online groups can help you meet folks with similar interests.

I'm in bed sick dreaming of kayaking, thus the time to write a novel. Good luck next spring.
WOW!! DeepSouthPaddler, I thought that I only wrote the books!! At least I know I'm not the only "forum journalist"!! Ha Haaaa!!! Definitely ALOT of good advice!! Just to reflect to the "creek gear not needed on 1st season". I say GET IT, that's my opinion!! Ha Haa!! Seriously, I think it's all relative to where you live, your progression, and what runs you plan on getting on your first season AND second season (don't forget about the future!!)!! Oh yeah, and unless you have money to burn (and if you do, give some of that shit to me ); Don't buy unneeded tools twice!!

I purchased all my creek gear right of the bat and ended up using some of it at the end of my first season and definitely throughout my second season (this year). Anyway's, the boss (wife), wouldn't allow me to purchase all this gear twice. I knew I was going to be creekin sooner or later, so I bought the gear initially (and sooner came). I have other 2nd season friends now wishing they would have done the same!! It was also good to have it, because I was able to have knowledgable people show me how to use the equipment, and it gave me a small confidence boost to know I had the proper tools for the job and could somewhat help in a situation if needed!!

Take what you want and leave the rest. A lot of good stuff on here!!!

Oh yeah, what theophilius said, "HAVE FUN & BE SAFE"!!! That's most important!!!



Dream as if you'll live forever; Live as if you'll die today - James Dean
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Old 11-30-2009   #23
fids11's Avatar
Rifle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 111
Originally Posted by raftus View Post
The best thing to do is forget about this silly kayaking thing and become a rafter. The boats are way more comfortable, they don't flip over for no apparent reason nearly as often, they carry beer and chicks, not to mention whiskey and women. And there are tons of companies that will pay you to abuse their raft's and their customers. Sure the pay sucks and you have to pay for training, but you can be on the river everyday.

Haha, what the hell was i thinking???????

Just kidding, kayaking is great. Have fun. Just remember that rafts are like moving undercuts - you don't want to be under one in a kayak, it makes rolling difficult. But if I do run you over, at least I have cold beer to make up for your swim.
Damn, you're my new best friend dude!
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Old 12-01-2009   #24
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Posts: 311
its all about time in the saddle. my first year 75 river days, 2nd year 90 river days. 2nd year boating I ran the Gore Canyon race (finished second to last) and kayaked the grand canyon. You got to really want it.
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Old 12-01-2009   #25
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The Road, Colorado
Paddling Since: '07
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Posts: 612
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I agree with Jeb, take your time and remember to have fun. Also, take the time to meet the REALLY cool people that are on the water, rafters as well as kayakers. In general they will do just about anything for you and you have to remember that they HAVE to have your back and you HAVE to have theirs, at some point it will matter and lives will be on the line. As for what to run I put together this list a while back of stepping stone runs and is focused on the front range but gives you a good idea of whats out there and what you might want to try: Stepping Stones - EddyFlower Forum

Life: Live it!
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Old 12-01-2009   #26
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The High Ground, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,325
Originally Posted by raftus View Post
Just kidding, kayaking is great. Have fun. Just remember that rafts are like moving undercuts - you don't want to be under one in a kayak, it makes rolling difficult. But if I do run you over, at least I have cold beer to make up for your swim.
fids11 this is the reason you don't wear a blunt tip knife on your PFD.

Besides we just board rafts like Somali pirates and take their beer...except the ones carrying 12 gage shotguns.

"Let us cross the river to the other side and rest beneath the shade of the trees." ~ Last words of Thomas Jonathan ''Stonewall' Jackson
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