How to Progress Your Kayaking

I think one of the most common questions my friends and I get from other people is how to progress their kayaking. Everyone wants to get better at boating and progress their skills to be able to boat bigger and different rivers. There are at least a hundred different articles on the same subject, but I think it’s still a good conversation to have. I do think one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject is called Style by Louis Geltman on Site Zed.

I think the best advice I can give someone looking to progress their kayaking is to stay on the easy runs and make them as challenging as possible. I grew up learning how to boat on the South Fork American and I know that river like the back of my hand. Even though it’s a class III run, there are still moves on that river that are incredibly challenging for me and I can’t do them every time. Finding attainments, eddies to catch, challenging ferries, cool boofs, or trying new lines in old rapids can all be great ways to practice the basic skills on easy, less consequential whitewater. I call it “class V moves in a class III rapid.”

The next is to get out of your creek boat and in to something that’s not nearly as stable. People get really comfortable in their creek boats, which are incredibly confidence inspiring, but don’t spend enough time actually getting pushed around by the water. I think that by getting in a boat like the Antix or a playboat forces you to be more conscious about your edging and body position as well as practice rolling more often. Just make sure that you’re still paddling these boats with good form!

To go along with the last paragraph, get in your playboat and go get surfed! Find all the waves and holes on your local run and try to surf them all. This will have the huge benefits of helping you feel more comfortable if you go for an unintended surf when you’re running harder whitewater. Also, by being in your playboat you will begin to develop your underwater stability and upside down awareness to make your roll faster and have a better idea of where you are when you flip over.

There is always so much to learn in this sport, and the learning and pushing your limits doesn’t have to happen on class V. It’s so much safer and easier to build your skills on easier rapids. So get out there on your local run and try all of the hardest moves you can find! I think you’ll be impressed once you open your eyes and try to see how many eddies you can catch and how many ferries you can do in a rapid you’ve run hundreds of times.

– Carson Lindsay

Comments on “How to Progress Your Kayaking”

  1. DAVID HEILESEN
    February 1, 2019 at 10:12 am

    I’m just learning whitewater & I bought a used playboat( zg54) i have been kayak fishing in a 13 ft sot yak & this is a totally new experience. Love it. Any more tips for a newbie like me

    1. February 2, 2019 at 11:34 am

      Hey David – join a club or check into a paddling school – you can google them for your area. Often there are rolling classes in winter and you can meet avid kayakers there even if you already have a roll. Good Luck! Clay

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