You Wanna Dance?
Build Your Repertoire of Paddling Skills with Whitewater Kayaking
Running rivers in a kayak is like dancing with Mother Nature. Whether it’s a slow dance, the Tango, or the Cha-Cha – you pick the tempo. AND… your local river is the Dance Floor.
Some of us get pretty good at one particular style of kayaking. While practicing hard at one style is good, cross-training in different disciplines is a spectacular approach to getting better and getting better faster. You can improve your kayaking if you try whitewater kayaking!
Most “flatwater kayaks” – recreational kayaks, sit-on-tops, and coastal kayaks – are designed to travel well in a straight line. The bow-to-stern curvature of the bottom of the kayak is called “rocker”, and most flatwater designs have little rocker, meaning that there isn’t much of a curve. This allows them to “track” well – a fine attribute in a boat designed to travel in a straighter line.
Whitewater kayaks are “Dancing Shoes”. They have lots of “rocker”. This allows them to spin very readily – a necessary attribute when running rapids. These kayaks turn on a dime – it’s a cool feeling to perform a really snappy turn on a river.
If you have paddled a recreational kayak for a couple of years, time in a whitewater kayak will really build your confidence. These kayaks are less stable, and much more maneuverable. After a couple of days in a whitewater boat, you’ll think life is easy in your flatwater boat! You’ll be able to keep your boat going exactly where you want it to go – with a much-improved sense of balance. It’s all about how you move. In a class, you learn about proper posture, safe shoulder position, and the simple physics of balance. Necessary strokes and maneuvers give you the tools to put that kayak where you want it.
One of the things we spend a lot of time on in whitewater kayaking is building our composure. The first thing people learn in a well-designed kayaking class is how to maintain composure when underwater. If you’re fearful, no worries – instructors can help you learn to stay cool. Once anyone is relaxed in a kayak – the learning just takes off! The first part of any good kayak class is filled with methods to build confidence. Ask your instructor to literally hold your hands through this process. Once relaxed a bit, you’ll start hearing the music.
Next is the Wet Exit – that means getting out of a flipped kayak. It is quite easy after you spend time on composure. We all have to know how to get out of the boat, and this Wet Exit thingie is easier than you think! This is always taught in the controlled setting of a pool or lake.
The fabled Eskimo Roll has a mystique about it. It is simpler than it seems! A good kayak instructor will “demystify” the Eskimo Roll for sure. There is an undeniable feeling of personal achievement when you do your first roll and that satisfaction never goes away. It is truly one of the cooler maneuvers in all of sports. You CAN learn to do it and do it well.
Check out paddlesport shows throughout the country. They give you the opportunity to sit in many different kayak designs as you search for your new dance partner. Kayaking can be enjoyed by anyone because YOU pick the place, and the pace, of where you paddle. Whether you’re a little bit country, or a little bit rocker, you’ll learn faster by cross-training between kayak disciplines.
So get out there, mix up your training and learn to dance on rivers –they’re playing your song…