Kayak River Rapids Technique

Kayak River Rapids Technique
Whitewater kayaking can be an exhilarating and enjoyable summer sport. It is also a sport in which a beginner can quickly find himself in over his head, with potentially disastrous consequences. A lot of skill is needed to successfully and safely navigate a whitewater river. Before tackling Grade IV rapids, it is best to practice on still water in a lake or pool and become grounded in the fundamentals. With repetition and practice, soon you can try those jaw-dropping rapids as well.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Whitewater kayak
  • Paddle
  • PFD (personal flotation device)
  • Wetsuit
  • Helmet
Step 1
You will need to practice getting out of the kayak while it is flipped upside down in the water--a very real possibility in whitewater rapids. Since this will have to be done in an emergency when you have lost your paddle, practice without the paddle. Brace your hands against the cockpit and slide your legs and body out and hold onto your boat as your break the surface of the water. Do this while wearing your wetsuit, helmet and PFD.
Step 2
Learn and master the Eskimo roll before heading into a river rapid. There are two different types of rolls: the sweep roll and the brace roll, and you should be versed in both.
Step 3
Keep your body relaxed as you paddle. Tensing up as you enter a rapid will make it harder to negotiate the rapid without flipping. Paddling will also be more difficult.
Step 4
Work the boat with your hips and legs, especially to steer it. Too many paddlers concentrate on the upper body and the paddle stroke. The lower body is just as important. Practice rolling the boat up on one edge and keeping it there by rotating your hip into the boat.
Step 5
Practice your upper body paddle stroke. Kayaks are made to turn easily, and you will need to be able to work your stroke smoothly and efficiently to keep the boat going straight as it heads down the rapid.
Step 6
Keep your eyes on the river, looking for potential dangers as you negotiate the rapids. Logs, boulders and holes are all potential dangers you should be able to navigate around.

Article Written By Candace Horgan

Candace Horgan has worked as a freelance journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Denver Post" and "Mix." Horgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and history.

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