developing your kayaking skills is a fun time in your life. watching your confidence grow and abilities expand is your ticket to a life time experience you will never regret. experience is only acquired by time in the saddle or time out of the saddle. sooner or later you need to learn how to swim rough water. if your swimming skills are weak and you get hammered, you'll force yourself to perfect your roll, bracing and boat control. you're always safer in your boat than out. having paddled the poudre for 20 years, lower mish @ 4 has some nasty holes I would not want to be in. following somebody to learn the lines is good but don't lose sight of learning how to read water. I'm all for pushing your limits as I certainly did. I paddled the Grand and the Gore race my second year boating. be smart and be safe, learn from your mistakes, keep your cool when you flip, relax, focus and hit your roll.