Whitewater Kayaking Class: Level 1

This past weekend Jeb and I took our first whitewater kayaking class. We have been whitewater kayaking in inflatable kayaks, sea kayaking, and recreational kayaking, but we have never truly been whitewater kayaking. We want to learn well enough to be able to go on our own, so we signed up for Level 1 classes through the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center.


They have a beautiful private lake in Buena Vista! It seems kind of ironic to be whitewater kayaking in a lake, but you have to learn the techniques and the fundamentals first!


I never realized that the spray skirts on whitewater kayaks are actually something you “wear” that are attached to your body, that you then attach to the kayak once you get into it. Look how silly Jeb looks with his skirt on!


It kind of looks like some weird sort of tongue that is attached to you lol.


The first thing we had to learn how to do is a “wet exit”. In case you flip you need to know how to safely get out of the kayak. Since you are attached to it via the spray skirt it isn’t as easy as just “falling out”. You have to first unhook the spray skirt from the kayak and then work your body out of it. Both Jeb and I were fit very snugly in our kayaks, so it wasn’t super easy to get out. Especially when you are wet, cold, upside down, and trying not to panic!

So prior to learning anything else we had to prove that we could successfully do a wet exit, This is Jeb being dunked first by the kayaking instructor to get him used to the feeling of flipping and getting wet in the cold water.


Jeb flipped back up, also the camera is all wet and covered with water spots because I had already done my wet exit at this point, and didn’t have enough time to get the camera properly dried off before it was Jeb’s turn.


Jeb upside down working on unattaching himself and getting out.


He made it out! Maybe it is irrational but I was very nervous to do this! I was like if I can’t get out, at what point will they realized I’m stuck drowning and needing to be flipped back up?! We really want to practice this in a pool and get much more comfortable with it, because it is a really strange feeling.


Passed my wet exit test, and now ready to get out on the water and learn some whitewater kayaking basics!


It was such a nice day, and pretty place to learn. Mt. Princeton is the 14er behind the lake in these pictures.


These kayaks are so much more tippy than the ones we had been in before. They really do not want to go straight at all. You will just be paddling along trying to go straight and next thing you know you are spinning in circles… I got so nauseous from all the spinning and tipping even though we were on flatwater!


In our class we learned paddling techniques and different types of strokes.


I attempted to take a selfie but the camera was attached to my life jacket in case we flipped, so it is super close to our faces! Also the camera is covered in water lol.


Much easier to take a selfie from on land! We also really enjoyed that they gave us burritos for lunch instead of your typical classic cold sandwich. When you’ve done as many guided trips and classes as we have, you learn to really appreciate a good meal!


Back out on the water after lunch. The mountains look so awesome behind Jeb! Also you probably have no idea how hard it is to take pictures of each other in these kayaks. If you stop paddling you start spinning, so you are battling the spinning of the person taking the picture as well as the person in the picture!


After lunch we learned more advance techniques, we learned bracing, edging and carving. Bracing is a way to basically slap the water with your paddle and jerk your body back the opposite direction if you are starting to flip over. When you carve you literally learn onto just one edge of your kayak and paddle while you are tipped like that. This was definitely scary because it is like why would I intentionally want to lean onto the edge of my kayak?! But these techniques are necessary to maneuver in current.


Despite the fact that Jeb and I were initially very bummed about having to take a class on flatwater, we learned a lot and were glad we did.


I don’t think Jeb realized I was taking this picture because he is not smiling!


Next year we will be back for Level 2, where we will get to put our (limited) skills to the test on an actual river! Can’t wait!


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