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For what it is worth, my take is it does not matter much where you live and your local rivers. When you want to improve your boating skills.

Example is I grew up boating in the south east, moved to OK which made access to rocky mountain waters possible. Then retired and spend most of my time in NM, UT, CO,ID,MT runs. Even here in Eastern OK there is plenty of training runs in NW AR depending on time of year. And, clinics in NOC and Salida area are ways to spend vacations. Durango is great for married couples. One goes to a clinic the other relaxes at a motel. Both enjoy great food at dinner and relax.

One thing for sure is rivers in SE, Rocky Mountain states and Pacific NW all have differences but offer great boating. The bottom line is make use of local runs to gain skill sets then move on to either more challenging water either local or a drive away.

It does not matter that much if you canoe, kayak or raft. (I started in canoes, then kayaks, now rafts with hobie cats along the way).

Do research, watch videos take skill improvement courses where ever.

IMPORTANT: Main thing is to do class 2 moves on class 1 water. Then class 3 moves on class 2 water. Then class 4 moves on class 3 and on up the ladder. Groove those techniques first then challenge yourself on harder runs.

Even lake water can be a great learning venue. Over the years I learned several flat water kayak routines that helped me feel comfortable on more challenging runs.

As a long time kayak ACA instructor, my experience has been folks who learn the basics of any move (for sure the kayak roll comes to mind) need to learn and become competent on water they feel very comfortable swimming. After the moves are automatic on easy water then move up to harder water

There are awesome places to live if you love to run rivers. Salida CO, Bryson City NC, most any where along the Rocky Mountains and Pac NW. But no matter where we live, I think we can find places to practice, learn our sport and prepare for the excitement of vacationing say in BV, Salida, Howard CO and enjoying the Arkansas River. The Ocoee in TN comes to mind as another super area to either take clinics or run rivers and the BBQ is not bad either!
 
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