by Nik White, CW Instructor
As one of the CW instructors, people often ask me what they should work on to become better kayakers. What skills are the most important to learn? Should they take a particular lesson? What do they need to do to be ready for Class III/IV/V whitewater? Unfortunately, most people who ask are disappointed with my answer because it is so simple. Nine times out of ten, the way to get better at kayaking is just to go kayaking more.
Once you've had your first "on river lesson" where you learn the basics of communication, swimming, and basic safety, there is no secret skill that you need to learn in a lesson. Having a solid combat roll is not a requirement for anything. And, you don't need a professional instructor to go down the river with you every time in case you swim. Most of what you need to get better at (especially going from class I to II or II to III) you'll pick up with just more time on the water.
More time practicing tying boats to your car. More time figuring out how to run shuttle effectively. More time remembering to bring all of your gear. More time in your gear so you know how to adjust it and how to get comfortable in it. More time looking at moving water and feeling how different features affect your boat. More time practicing swimming and self rescuing (and hanging on to your paddle when you swim). More time rescuing your friends. More time paddling in a straight line to quiet your edges. More time stopping after a rapid to make sure everyone is still together and okay. More time bracing. More time practicing catching eddies. More time being calm when you flip upside down so you can relax enough to nail your roll. More time on the water.
Unfortunately, for someone just getting into the sport, this can be pretty intimidating. You might not know anyone. You aren't familiar with the rivers or where the put-in and take-out are. You don't have a roll, so you don't want to be embarrassed by swimming and making a stranger pick up your pieces. And after all that, every time you swim you seem to hurt some new part of yourself!
Fortunately, CW has a number of opportunities to go out on the river. We've always had cruises where a club member opens up their trip to the club and river weekends where the whole club gets together and camps at a river for the weekend.
This year we're also expanding something we piloted last year, the weeknight meet-up. Starting the first Monday in April, there will be an open invitation for anyone of any ability level to come out to Reynolds Landing Park in Littleton on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. There are three class II drops in about a quarter mile that are extremely beginner friendly with a nice trail for walking back up and doing laps. We'll play around until dark, and then those who want to can walk over to the new Breckenridge Brewery, located 200 yards away, for some post boating refreshment.
The goal is to give people an opportunity to get more time on the water and maybe even found some new boating crews for this season. I hope to see you there in April!
Nik White started kayaking in 2008 while working as a raft guide on the Youghiogheny ("Yok") River near Pittsburgh, PA. Nik moved to Colorado in 2011 and never looked back. His current favorite run in Colorado is the Poudre Narrows but low water days on the Numbers and the Boulder Garden of Foxton are close behind.
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