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Discussion Starter #1
Hey everyone, I'm new to kayaking (and mountain buzz), am taking a beginning kayaking course thru CMC this spring and am getting super jacked for the spring and summer of 2010 to come (even tho winter is almost here and i'm big into skiing too, mind you)to get on the water!

Just curious, can anyone give me an idea of the natural progression on a beginning kayaker. I see all the sick youtube clips of people running high gradient creeks, dropping waterfalls, etc.. and was wondering, how long does it take to get to that point?

I understand that i'm a beginner and i don't plan on doing any ww that i wouldn't feel completely comfortbale running but at what point do you get the balls to say, 'screw it, i'm running my first III today!'. Like, do get comfortable with rolling and edge control and you're good to go? Do you have to go with someone experienced before you try something like that?

For instance, I see something like Shoshone in the Glenwood Canyon (Class III's in the late summer) and see that as a goal by the end of the summer... Is that insane or is that about right for the progression of someone new to the sport. All of you doing that crazy sh&% make it look so easy (and know it's not that way).

Like I said, I'm taking my FIRST kayaking courses this spring, I consider myself a very good swimmer, not afraid of being in and around water, plan on kayaking as much as possible in the summer (i'm a teacher so i have lots of time to practice in the summer), and would consider myself 'adventurous'.

Any suggestions or comments would be much welcomed.
 

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Welcome to the best sport around!
2010 is going to be a lot of fun for you.
Progression will come through river days, more than it will through years or seasons; If you're on the water 70 times between March and September, you can come a long damn way in one season.
If you get out about twice a month, you may never become a class 3 boater.
But if you have any natural ability and you get after it at least once a week, you could well be running class 4 by late season. If you're a strong swimmer and you go with the right people, I have no qualms about putting beginners on solid class 3 runs.
Learn to roll in the pool, get some good people to take you, and go hit Shoshone. Swim a few times, figure stuff out; it's all good on a class 3 run.
Just make sure you're with solid people who will look after you, and that you have the right gear.
 

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On the flip side of what Id725 said, make sure that you don't scare yourself out of the sport or slow down your progression by biting off more than you can chew and then being a timid boater for the next season. If you can find a really good boater that you absolutely trust sometimes they can be a better gauge of your ability level than you are, knowing when to push you and when to tell you to take it easy. Remember, the goal of the sport is to have fun and not to necessarily become a class V kayaker as quickly as you can. Getting a really bad beatdown before you have the skills and experience to completely understand whats going on will scare the shit out of you and might turn you off to what is a great mental and physical sport.
 

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I would recommend spending as much time as possible in a playpark to dial in your roll. The Glenwood park is not ideal due to the lack of eddies there, but I don't know of any others near you. Avon would probably be the closest? Shoshone will probably be the third river run you do, after Grizzly Creek and Cemetary. It's a super fun and relatively safe section. As long as you get out quite a bit and put in a lot of pool time this winter, you can probably paddle it before runoff.

Have fun learning! It is a life-changing sport. Demo ain't lyin' though. If you try to progress too quickly you can easily scare yourself right out of the sport. Everyone knows someone that's done it. It's not like skiing in that regard; it's much, much more mental. The head games are way more challenging than paddling form.
 

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I totally agree with the play park. get your roll on flat water then hit up a play park. I have a creek boat and i hit up the golden park 2-3 times a week just to get trashed and work on the roll.... then hit the river runs on the weekend. The more comfortable you are with your roll the more confident you will be on the river. Practice on-side rolls then get your off-side.... then get your hand roll....then keep practicing all of them.

Have fun.
 

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The river days thing is super true (and so is losing your mojo on a long swim) since what you are really developing are the ability to see the lines and the body reflexes to stay on them and react to water dynamics without thinking.
 

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Just depends on what you're comfortable with. I mean, if you don't mind taking a swim and bouncing off a few rocks you can run shoshone right away....I don't necessarily believe it has to be an end of the year goal or anything. NOT scaring the shit out of yourself in your first season is important....if you're not totally comfortable with what MIGHT happen....don't push it and scare yourself away from the sport.

I'd never even been in a kayak on water before and my first run was on a class III section of the Poudre (bridges).....I swam my ass off....about 5 times in half a mile. But I wasn't scared of swimming.....and I knew the river well because I raft guided it (which made a HUGE difference). I don't believe you have to have a bomb proof roll before you even hit the river/play park....does it help?? sure...but if you're itching to get on the water, learning your roll while paddling the river and/or play park is the best place anyway. I can tell you this....learning to roll in a pool and learning to roll in the river makes a big difference in your progression.....

The stuff you see in videos????? I'm know everyone has their opinion on stepping it up to that level. Personally I believe you have to have A LOT of experiences under your belt (not necessarily years....depends on how much time you spend on the water each season). I've known guys step it up to V in their second season (did I agree with it??? Not necessarily, but they had the balls to do it). It also comes down to finding the right crew.....those willing to help your progression and save your ass when needed (and vice versa).

My .02
 

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I think all this is the right track. The thing to remember is that there is no ONE way to progress in the sport. I started out not knowing how to roll and swam my ass off on class III for a while. So I learned to work on my edging and braces. Once I did learn to roll I was better at staying upright than my friends.

As people have said, it is 99% mental. Even still I have bad days that I swear I am only a class III boater. The way you train for this is by getting out on the water. Seeing rivers as much as possible and paddling them is the only way to get better. All the youtube in the world can't train you. I will watch way too many vids and then get on the same rivers and wonder why I'm not as good as Jesse Coombs.

I recently took my girlfriend on a class II+ run and had to spend some time on the shore talking her down from crying. I realized then that when I looked at the river and was describing the line, I was seeing only water and good places to be and she was only seeing rocks and bad places to be. Only time spent on the water can teach you how to see the difference.

I have learned a lot about my kayaking by teaching others. For the longest time I was always the rookie of the groups I paddled with and so depended on others. Once I started being the leader I started paddling WAY differently and saw a lot of things about the river and my technique I hadn't noticed before. It is good to get out on the river and share your experience.


Bottom line: put time in on the water. I was paddling IV+ in my first year (I'm not gonna say I styled it....) because I quit my job and kayaked every day for a while.

Also though, something I wish I had done first was buy good gear. Good gear will make you safer and more comfortable and thus get you out more and ultimately make you a better kayaker. I just recently got a drysuit and, like everyone else that has one, am wondering what took me so long! There are some sports where gear is mainly a status symbol. Kayaking is not like that. Good gear keeps you alive.


Have fun, get out there and remember to keep your head down when you roll!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think all this is the right track. The thing to remember is that there is no ONE way to progress in the sport. I started out not knowing how to roll and swam my ass off on class III for a while. So I learned to work on my edging and braces. Once I did learn to roll I was better at staying upright than my friends.

As people have said, it is 99% mental. Even still I have bad days that I swear I am only a class III boater. The way you train for this is by getting out on the water. Seeing rivers as much as possible and paddling them is the only way to get better. All the youtube in the world can't train you. I will watch way too many vids and then get on the same rivers and wonder why I'm not as good as Jesse Coombs.

I recently took my girlfriend on a class II+ run and had to spend some time on the shore talking her down from crying. I realized then that when I looked at the river and was describing the line, I was seeing only water and good places to be and she was only seeing rocks and bad places to be. Only time spent on the water can teach you how to see the difference.

I have learned a lot about my kayaking by teaching others. For the longest time I was always the rookie of the groups I paddled with and so depended on others. Once I started being the leader I started paddling WAY differently and saw a lot of things about the river and my technique I hadn't noticed before. It is good to get out on the river and share your experience.


Bottom line: put time in on the water. I was paddling IV+ in my first year (I'm not gonna say I styled it....) because I quit my job and kayaked every day for a while.

Also though, something I wish I had done first was buy good gear. Good gear will make you safer and more comfortable and thus get you out more and ultimately make you a better kayaker. I just recently got a drysuit and, like everyone else that has one, am wondering what took me so long! There are some sports where gear is mainly a status symbol. Kayaking is not like that. Good gear keeps you alive.


Have fun, get out there and remember to keep your head down when you roll!
Thanks everyone who has replied so far, keep em comin! I think i was a bit misleading with my first post - i don't think i will ever get to the point of doing things that are seen on youtube, i just see them make it look so EASY and was just curious to see HOW they get to that point. I appreciate all of you sharing you personal experiences though, it helps build confidence even though i haven't been on the river at all yet. The main thing i love to see is how everyone is saying that it's 'the best sport' and telling me to 'have fun'. That says alot about how much people think of the sport! I don't suppose there is anything you can do practice in the winter when i'm bored? (my girlfriend bought me a used piranha m3 kayak to get started on as an 'early christmas present'. I know everyone says to demo, demo, demo before you buy but i'm not definitely not returning that christmas present!) - short of having a pool to go paddle around in! Keep the great responses coming! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Also, redpaddle talks of getting great gear.... What all gear should i get? I know i will probably learn this in the class but i think i should be keeping a look out all winter in case i come across some good deals...

So i'll need: spray skirt, helmet, pfd, spray jacket, paddle, .... what else?

Any suggestions and additions would be great help. Also, if you could give names and brands of gear you think is the bomb, that would great too

Thanks!
 

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2009 2nd Season Newbie Vids

First, you'll want to communicate mostly on " Kayaking Information ", since that is the "newbie safe site"!!! You can get eaten alive on the buzz for a stupid newbie question. Progression is different for everyone!! My best advice is to just get that roll dialed in, along with a sick brace, and your confidence will have a major boost, which plays hand-in-hand with your progression. Find some people to boat with!! If you are in Colorado I will take you out on some newbie runs this spring if you are interested. Here are some local front range newbie vids I made at the end of this season. Majority of the people in the videos are 2009 second season newbies, including me. I hope you enjoy some of the Rocky Mountain Hooliganz videos!! Hit me up to boat this spring and become a HOOLIGAN!! :mrgreen:

Cheers!

-Nick


Fossil Creek (11/21/09)
Fossil Creek, Arizona on Vimeo

Rocky Mountain Hooliganz "The Epic Continues - 2009" Disk 1
"The Epic Continues" -2009 Disk 1 of 2 on Vimeo

Rocky Mountain Hooliganz "The Epic Continues - 2009" Disk 2
"The Epic Continues" -2009 Disk 2 of 2 on Vimeo





*
 

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re: gear.....

PFD ...do NOT skimp on this! in my opinion by a rescue type vest it will last a LONG time! Astral makes a cool one that looks comfy and boyunt (I want one but mine works great and they are $$$)
I have the Stohlquist Xtract and have enjoyed it for 7 years now . intro vests are easier to afford but once you start cranking down the river you will want another vest especially once you realize how much you dont float in those low volume cheapos!!!

clothing... dry pants and dry top would have been great while I was learning as I swam alot!!! and skull cap!!! some duschbag(my personal assistant) in my class for the 1st couple of days was telling me the opposite for eddy entrance and exit therefore alot of swimming on the gunny and super cold Taylor. I did get away without both for about 7 years! if you are warm you will enjoy it more..

everything else will be of preference... which usually comes with experience and the amazing advancements in technology! watch craigslist all winter and pick up what you can (for cheap?)

also try/demo/borrow etc. as much as you can.. especially in the pool! paddle blade angles and length can play an important part in your roll and people are more willing to let you try there paddle in the pool than in the river!

re: learning progression
I was kayaking 4-5 days a week and was very confidant class IV boater....got trashed my 2nd year dislocated shoulder and laceration swam 1/2 mile and have not been the same since!
like others have said ......

mental game very important!
I'm back up to IV but also have been going alot more over the last year .... so time on river equals confidence!
 

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re: gear.....

PFD ...do NOT skimp on this! in my opinion by a rescue type vest it will last a LONG time! Astral makes a cool one that looks comfy and boyunt (I want one but mine works great and they are $$$)
I have the Stohlquist Xtract and have enjoyed it for 7 years now . intro vests are easier to afford but once you start cranking down the river you will want another vest especially once you realize how much you dont float in those low volume cheapos!!!

clothing... dry pants and dry top would have been great while I was learning as I swam alot!!! and skull cap!!! some duschbag(my personal assistant) in my class for the 1st couple of days was telling me the opposite for eddy entrance and exit therefore alot of swimming on the gunny and super cold Taylor. I did get away without both for about 7 years! if you are warm you will enjoy it more..

everything else will be of preference... which usually comes with experience and the amazing advancements in technology! watch craigslist all winter and pick up what you can (for cheap?)

also try/demo/borrow etc. as much as you can.. especially in the pool! paddle blade angles and length can play an important part in your roll and people are more willing to let you try there paddle in the pool than in the river!

re: learning progression
I was kayaking 4-5 days a week and was very confidant class IV boater....got trashed my 2nd year dislocated shoulder and laceration swam 1/2 mile and have not been the same since!
like others have said ......

mental game very important!
I'm back up to IV but also have been going alot more over the last year .... so time on river equals confidence!
As a newbie, I agree that the "mental" is a major factor in the way you paddle and what you paddle!!! Plenty of good advice on here!! Just make decisions for yourself, and go with your gut feeling!! KNOW YOUR OWN ABILITIES, but don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone (if that makes any sense)!!! Some boaters will try to push your limits and others will try and hold you back, it's up to you to make the right decision!! It only takes one time to be off-line or in-over-your head, to scare you away from this amazing sport!! It's going to be another great season and many more to come!! I look forward to boating with you!!

Oh yeah, invest in creek gear right off hand, and learn how to use them!!

(swift-water rescue class/training, rescue PFD, full-face helmet, pin kit, waist or PFD throwbag, elbow pads, gloves/poagies, hand paddles :mrgreen: or breakdown paddle, cold weather/waterproof gear for overnighter's and late season releases in fall/winter) YOU'RE ON YOUR WAY!!!

Cheers!!

-Nick
 

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The MOST important thing that anybody can ever tell you about Kayaking is to never be afraid to walk around something you don't feel comfortable with. Feeling obligated to run a rapid because the other people in your group are doing it is a dangerous attitude. Its gotten people killed before. I have infinitely more respect for somebody who decides to walk a rapid than somebody who makes it down something he shouldn't have been on.
 

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The Upper C is a great training ground and you have Gore up the road as a future goal.
State Bridge

Find a pool this winter to practice bracing. I think the Glenwood Rec Center has open kayak in the winter sometime.
 

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Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards has a great two day beginner course! You can also join their paddle club where you can get comfortable in the water with instructors and meet people to go out with in your free time. The club goes out twice a week from late May through Sept. It was a great way for me and several friends to get in the water and reach our goals this past summer. Shoshone was our group's goal it was super attainable...with a good amount of days on the water. Enjoy! Hope to see you at paddle club next year!
 

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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.

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.
 

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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.
 

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Don't be in a hurry. This state has so much good class III/IV water that you can literally paddle a lot and not get bored with what you are doing. Like many of the other people on this post and site kayaking has changed my life for the better, maybe not according to my wife though. The people are awesome, usually supportive, and generally ready to help. As stated earlier, careful on this site as you can get flamed hard, bring a thick skin here. And don't take it too seriously. As for learning progression stay comfortable and consistent with your own skill set. As stated earlier definitely get some time in the pool to get your roll bomber. It definitely benefited me in my early progression. Once you have hit many pool rolls, in the 100's try getting on a lake somewhere. Being in open water and hitting rolls there is a nice way to phase into moving water. On the coloradokayakers.com web site someone has developed a pretty good run progression to maybe assist you in determining the next challenge you might want to take on. Getting together with some people who are at the same level as you, along with some people that are more experienced can help as well. The people like you to enjoy the experience of learning with and people better than you to assist with the learning and safety parts. Communicate with people on this site and others for assistance in this. As well as learn the names of people in your classes to maybe hook up later on. For the beginner runs there are always people running them and most of the time they are willing to pick you up to come along as long as your roll is solid. People swim a ton in the beginning, it is part of the deal. That being said chasing gear is something we have all done and will do again, but if you swim a ton in a certain area, that might be a sign that you have bitten off more than you can chew and getting off the river maybe the safest option. Probably getting more involved here than I needed to be, have fun, get ready for a life changing ride.
SYOTR
 

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#1. Have Fun.

#2. See #1.

Not great advice but important. Like deepsouthpaddler said master the skill level you're at before you step up. Plenty of paddlers took an unnessesary set back by moving up too quickly. Pace yourself.
 
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