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How to begin river-rafting/kayaking?

2600 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  2kanzam

I am new to this forum, actually we are a couple, 36 and 28 years old and we decided that kayaking and river rafting should be our perfect couple outdoor activity. We both like it and have done an easy family trip with a company (you know, 10 people in a boat and a guide)

However: We want to do that alone now in a tandem kayak.
But how do we proceed? How did you learn kayaking?
From a friend
From a company
Or just by yourself?

We are in the state of Washington at the moment, will drive down to Oregon in the next weeks (we live in a motorhome)
Can anyone give us recommendations for newbies how to start? Are there any companies out there which teach you river rafting (alone in your own boat). Or can you recommend a shorter class I or I-II river that is nice for beginners to just learn a little bit by themself? (Sorry if I sound stupid now)

We are happy to hear back from you all.

Bodo and Andrea
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Buy a used boat and used gear. Go to a local pool session and learn to roll. Start boating really easy sections of rivers with other people. Do not start out in a tandem kayak unless its a sit on top.
Buy a used raft and paddles/oar frame and go boat with others on easy stretches of water.
Have fun!
Hi Chepora
Oh we do not want to do the real hard things (rolls and tricks), we have a tandem inflatable sit-on-top now, and want to do some river runs.

I think I have a problem to find other peoples (we are living full-time in a RV and travel over the country, we are from Europe)

If anyone here is from Washington or Oregon and wants to join us on a easy river-kayak run (for beginners) in the next month, you are more than welcome. We can drive wherever it is fine.

I would look for a washington/oregon river runner's guidebook and research some of the class II runs in the area. American Whtewater is also a good place to look for information.

USGS Current Conditions for Washington_ Streamflow

The above website is the USGS National Water Information System. It will allow you to determine if there is enough water in the river (compare to recommended levels for floating at That link is for Washington State-- Oregon and other states are available through USGS as well.

Then I say go for it. Are your boat/paddles/PFDs the kind that are made to stand up to the demands of whitewater? If so locate the put-in and take-out and go for it.

Have Fun,
Mac Cooper
Hi Mac Cooper

Thanks for the info, yeah I checked out some of the Class I-II Rivers on that page, the green ones should have enough water. I was only curious about the length of the runs, some are 30 Miles...can you simply shorten them by yourself?

We have a SeaEagle 380x, that should be good for Class IV whitewater. I thought of buying a whitewater inflatable cause I will take it home to Austria in 2 years or so, where we also have many good whitewater rivers in the mountains.

What we might need are those security-straps (that hold you in your seat a little bit better), but I guess thats nothing you need for class 1-2

In the sping most colorado companys offer a guide school that is open to private boaters. This is a great way to learn.

Highly recommend that you get rid of the tadem kayak.

Get a Hyside Mini max or paddle cat both are AWSOME 2 person rafts. Way more stable than a tandem ducky, and not a lot bigger or heavier when rolled up.

In a mini max you will be able to run class III-IV in a very fun 2 person team boat. You sit side by side, so it is so easy to talk to each other. Because to boat is much wider it is signifcantly more stable, yet due to it's design it still turns very fast.

You might also look at taking swiftwater rescue class, a great way to learn about saftey on the river.

Paddle on:cool:

shreder scott
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Becasue you are so new and because there are so many different ways to enter river rafting/kayaking, you will get all sorts of advice. It may narrow a bit with more back and forth from you.
I will mention one path because you are already sort of on it (own an inflatable kayak). If you have $, you can take a commercial river trip (couple of hours or multi-day) typically in the company's IKs, often double, sometimes single. This will give you a chance to experience say class III whitewater under the protection of professionals. You might then decide that you are safe by yourselves on class I and II water. This may be all you need to have a blast, at least for awhile -- you will see what you crave or don't. You did not say if self-guided multi-day trips are a goal. If you have $, a multi-day commercial trip where they cook for you is a great way to get a lot of experience in a hurry. I'm sure there are opportunities for this in Washington/Oregon.
Of course, some will tell you this is not the right path -- only you can decide.
Personally, I'm amazed at how stable inflatable kayaks are -- "wow, did we really just go through those huge waves?"
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my opinion is skip the commercial outfitters. skip the rescue class for now. find the river and do it.. You will appreciate how much you learn when doing it by yourself...what an adventure.

ANYONE can do it.
A tandem is twice as hard to maneuver as a solo boat. (Two Brain are not better than one.) It may make your wife more confident but she is more likely to swim. Suggest two boats.
If you are going to the Portland area I'd recommend the Clackamas river, from Mciver State park to Barton county park. The distance is about 6-7 miles, and there is camping at both parks. It is a good entry level run with plenty of water, and there are always people boating it.
If you are looking for classes, eNRG kayaking in Oregon City has several types of classes, and Sam Drevo (The owner) is very knowledgable and personable. If you seek more thrills, you can head to the Deschutes river in Central Oregon and either take a guided trip or try it on your own. There is a very popular day trip there, and you can drive along the river to see all of the rapids before trying it. There is a permit fee and now a launch / takeout fee if you use the improved boat ramps. The White Salmon river has a popular day run on it, and has several raft guide companies running it. I'd recommend a guided trip on that river, but is very fun and very worth it.
My Dad got me into whitewater at a very young age, and so I grew up in a group of kayakers and rafters that are now in their 50's. Some of them still go on a regular basis, some have stopped. I am a lifer, I'll go until I cannot. Post up when you are in Oregon, and maybe we can meet up.
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Highly recommend that you get rid of the tadem kayak.

Get a Hyside Mini max or paddle cat both are AWSOME 2 person rafts. Way more stable than a tandem ducky, and not a lot bigger or heavier when rolled up.
Nah-keep the Sea Eagle, it'll fill a good niche in your future boat quiver. That 380x is actually a pretty good tandem IK (I have one) for class II, once you get to class III it's a bit of a pig w/ 2 people though. It's only 12.5 feet long and does really well solo as well (thing will carry a ton of gear)....ultimately the boat does a lot of things well but none of them great. My tandem and solo time is about 50/50 in mine although I'm in my other boats much more often.

I'll never get rid of mine, but would like to add a minimax to my boat collection (I have several other round boats) for some bigger but more technical water than the SE is up me they won't really cover the same duties on the water.

The SE is a good boat to cut your teeth on. Use it for a year or two and get good on some class II floats and then you will probably want to upgrade to either a) another IK (or two) that is a little better in whitewater so you can each solo or b) get a raft/cat
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