by Jeff Moag
GETTING STARTED in whitewater paddling is surprisingly easy, and the Northeast has fabulous rivers for beginners as well as expert creekboaters. An introductory course will equip you with the skills you need to tackle Class II whitewater, including all the basic strokes and the Eskimo roll. Classes are also an excellent place to meet other kayakers.
LEARNING TO ROLL isn’t essential for beginning paddlers, but it’s easier than it looks and is a great confidence booster. Zoar Outdoor Center and several New England paddling clubs offer kayak rolling classes in indoor pools during the winter. A list of Northeast paddling clubs is available on the American Whitewater website, which also sports an excellent guide to rivers around the country (www.americanwhitewater.org).
IF YOU DECIDE WHITEWATER IS FOR YOU, a new boat and equipment will set you back about $1,500. (In addition to a kayak or canoe, you’ll need a paddle, PFD, helmet, sprayskirt, and dry-top.) There also is a thriving market in used boats and gear. A state-of-the-art setup from two years ago typically costs about $800.
CREEKBOATING IS AN EXPERTS-ONLY ACTIVITY. Most paddlers hone their skills on more forgiving whitewater for two or more years before paddling on steep creeks. There’s no substitute for experience, but New England kayak schools also offer courses for advanced boaters, including river-running, playboating, and river-rescue skills.