$$ seeking kayak instruction in South/Central America January/February - Mountain Buzz

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Old 11-24-2017   #1
Austin, Texas
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 2
$$ seeking kayak instruction in South/Central America January/February

Hey everyone,
I'm looking for someone who knows what they're doing to give me a multi-day kayaking lesson somewhere in South/Central America this winter.
I'm a whitewater dabbler trying to gain more experience.. This is the time of year that I can take off, which is why I'm thinking about destinations around or below the equator.

Guided trips and official classes are expensive. I'd prefer to just go with someone who is going 'cause they love it, and who wouldn't mind teaching me and fishing me out of the drink repeatedly.
I can't afford to pay your entire way or anything like that, but I'd definitely chip in for your trouble. Super bonus if you and some friends are already going and I could just meet up with a group.

About me:
*I'm not a pain to be around.
*I'm not a total oaf and liability -- I am a decent swimmer, I have some experience operating rafts, and I regularly canoe flatwater for work. I've rolled a kayak in the past, but not reliably yet. I am comfortable kayaking class II so far, but I haven't had good luck staying upright in class III.
I've been on raft trips with friends on the Colorado, the Owyhee, the Dolores, the Seti, the Klamath, and the Pacuare -- I can row, and I have basic concepts of reading whitewater.
*I also camp often, for work and for fun, and I'm not a worthless lump at camp.
*I'm a 29-year-old botany ranger with the US Forest Service. I am into photography, climbing, and guitar, and I like living outside.

So that's it! I feel like this could be fun for all parties. Email me if you're interested and we can talk about logistics, concerns, compensation, etc.
Or just give me advice if you think I should be trying to do something else, or if you know a better way for me to get mileage in the winter.
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Old 11-27-2017   #2
Pucon Kayak Hostel's Avatar
Pucón, Chile
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 49
Helpful Intermediate Nomad Tips

Hi Becca.
First I want to disclose I'm the owner of Pucon Kayak Hostel and acknowledge your mention of not wanting to pay for expensive trips. I've observed many nomadic travelers such as yourself with same skills and may have helpful advice.

A. Your request is a tough one with few that will reach out to help. Repositioning your request might help. Here's why.
Kayakers whom save up their annual harvests to reap rewards of kayaking in South/Central America are 95%+PLUS here to either go kayaking daily off waterfalls or super fun runs. Or they are like yourself and not good enough to do it themselves. And that puts them in that category of paying for the expensive trips. Basically, most of the kayakers I observe simply do not have the time to be helping likable class III boaters such as yourself.

B. You might be able to show up to a kayaker hot spot town such as Borja, Tena, Pucon, Maipo... and if you are charismatic find a floating guide to pay under the table for guiding. But you get what you pay for and you will discover there is something missing.
A big part of any of these trips is your community and the go kayaking from morning until night. Eg- PKH just finished our annual Claro trip and we were doing 6 am laps until dark at 8 pm. Group camp fires, high fives and Chilean road trips.

Hopping in with just a local guide or a floating kayaker may not provide the same experience for what you are seeking. Which should be to not only experience the local rivers but to vastly improve your kayaking skills, to run the rivers safely, find a community of friends and to explore the local culture.

C. Possible Solution 1: Can you organize 2 to 3 friends at the same level as yourself? There are lots of kayakers at your level. PKH would be happy to offer discounts to a group organizer such as yourself. This would help you earn discounts to the programs that offer the best experiences.
PKH just had a kayaker from Canada write to ask if he got 3 friends to come to our Road to Futaleufu trip, FEB 21 TO MAR 1, could he earn a DISCOUNT. Absolutely. What if you negotiated a group of similar kayakers and negotiated a group discount? Then advertised on the Buzz?

D. Possible Solution 2: Rent a vehicle and arrive to a destination. If you want to attract kayaker friends whom will teach you and take you to the rivers. Show up with a vehicle. Kayakers in these areas all have the same problem. Wheels & transport to the rivers. Show up with their solution and trade them transport in the mornings to the stouts in exchange for taking you kayaking and gas money. But renting a 4 door truck costs money too. Again, can you get friends to help with costs?

E. Possible Solution 3: Ask one of the expensive trip companies if you can pay for a trip and stay on for an additional month and volunteer work for room and kayaking. Winning a coveted job with one of these companies is challenging and the best companies have really great guides. Eg- PKH hires the best instructors from NOC Paddlesports. And I had over 40 applicants this year for instructional jobs. No one got an instructional job. Although, Carson Lyness whom instructs for Wet Planet arrived on an internship and has proven herself to be a world class instructor and asset worth investing.
You might just open the door for yourself by offering to pay for a trip and asking if you can stay on for a month +PLUS to volunteer.

F. Possible Solution 4: Volunteering. These days even getting a position volunteering is Challenging. The benefits go beyond daily kayaking. Purpose, community, shelter, transportation, equipment, and bonding are a few.
Pucon Kayak Hostel Employment Page.

Good luck Becca. Hope this helps.

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Old 11-28-2017   #3
Austin, Texas
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 2
Hey Pucon,
I really appreciate all of this information, as well as the info and offers I've received in personal messages so far. I'm excited to look at all my options. Thank you so much.
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Old 11-29-2017   #4
Steamboat, Colorado
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 609
PKH, your WEP sounds absolutely fantastic.
It's a good day to be a duck....
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Old 12-04-2017   #5
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 244
It sounds like you're really gung-ho about learning to kayak - that's pretty awesome.

Personally I don't travel somewhere to learn anything. Scuba, kiteboarding, mt biking, kayaking, whatever, I'd rather gain the basic skills as inexpensively as possible, and then spend the money to go somewhere cool when I can enjoy it more.

In Austin I guess you'll have to travel somewhere though. This is what I would do:

1. Learn your roll locally, if you don't have it already. You can learn to roll in any pond or pool, and I bet there's a local paddling club where you could connect with people. Practice until you're totally solid on at least your onside roll. Some people learn to roll in half an hour, some people take weeks, which is why I would learn your roll before going anywhere.

2. Go somewhere close and/or inexpensive and get some river miles in. Since you don't mind camping, a road trip can be pretty cheap. I've never been, but supposedly there is (nearly) year round boating in the Appalachians. Charlotte and Asheville, NC are both big boating towns, but I'm sure there are plenty of options. boatertalk.com is a boating forum more focused on east coast boating.

Alternatively, if you can't find people to paddle with, you could go somewhere like the USNWC in Charlotte (U.S. National Whitewater Center) or the whitewater park in Oklahoma City (Riversport Adventures). They both have an artificial river you can do laps on - when you get to the bottom there's a conveyor belt that will carry you back to the top. The USNWC has one channel that's class II-III, and one channel that's class III-IV, so you can pick your difficulty somewhat too. Buy a season pass for ~$200 and go every day for a week or two and I bet you're a solid class III/IV boater by the end of it. Heck, Oklahoma City is close enough to Austin you could make the trip over a long weekend I bet. They might not be open in the winter though.
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Old 12-06-2017   #6
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 418
I totally agree with Jaffy - get comfy in your boat locally and then have fun abroad. Check out: Whitewater Kayaking 101* - Saturday Lessons in San Marcos - Quality Kayak Instruction given by whitewater Olympians, US National Team Members, and certified ACA Instructors in the beautiful Texas Hill Country

The San Marcos is basically in your back yard, spring fed and constant temps all year long, and a great place to learn - that is where I learned to roll before moving to Colorado. I never took lessons through the above group because they did not exist when I was in TX. Also you will learn way faster with a trained instructor vs a "friend" who may be great at rolling but not teaching.
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