Whitewater Paddling – AMC Outdoors

February 28, 2006

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.

  • Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Mass., offers 2-, 3- and 5-day clinics for new kayakers and canoeists on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts ($245-$560). Offered from May through October, these classes include special sections for women only, older paddlers, and parents with their children.
  • The New England Outdoor Center offers similar courses on the Penobscot River in central Maine, and Northern Waters Outfitters teaches on the Androscoggin River near the Umbagog Lake Wildlife Refuge in northern New Hampshire.
  • AMC Chapters also offer multiple-day courses for whitewater paddlers of all levels. At the New Hampshire AMC Paddlers’ Spring Whitewater Canoe and Kayak School, April 6-7, paddlers will receive whitewater Class II instruction in both solo and tandem canoe and kayaks. AMC’s New York-North Jersey Paddling Committee offers whitewater intstruction for beginners as well as advanced Class II paddlers.

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.

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