White Water Kayaking
Kayaking is a sport that can be both recreational and fully committed pro-style, and that’s what White Water Kayaking is all about! Perhaps you prefer to hang out in flat water and admire the scenery or venture out to the open sea to get a closer look at the sea wildlife.
White Water Kayaking is an intense and fun sport that many people consider in a league of its own. You can practise it on river rapids, but you would need to have previous training to start.
There are different levels that you can achieve through kayaking courses in controlled environments. You must receive this training before you can touch a real whitewater river.
There is no need to say that white water kayaking is not for the faint of heart. However, if you are an adrenaline junkie, you are sure to enjoy it.
White Water Class System
Every river fit for kayaking is ranked under the International Scale of River Difficulty.
First, you need to research the site that you are going to visit. This way, you are fully aware of the skills required and the difficulties that may come your way.
You have to bear in mind that there is a fine line between kayaking for fun and kayaking for survival. So, let us do our best to help you stay on the fun side of things.
Whitewater river classification for kayaking
- Class 1. Easy: Fast moving water with small waves. Few obstacles and obstructions. This is a tourist level. Most white water kayaking tourist activities are done in Class 1 Rivers. The age range can be from 7 to 60 with some swimming skills.
- Class 2. Novice: Moderate intensity. Rock and ledges can be found but with vast spaces that allow easy manoeuvring. Elementary water reading abilities. From this class forward, it is recommended to be at least 16 years old and have a moderate fitness level.
- Class 3. Intermediate: Rapids with irregular and unpredictable wave patterns. Fast thinking and quick complex manoeuvring skills are needed.
- Class 4. Advanced: Very turbulent and intense water rapids. Predictable – but often unavoidable – water waves due to speed. Fast and skilled manoeuvring is necessary. The injury risk can be moderate to high, so you have to make sure you are well trained before entering Class 4 Rivers.
- Class 5. Expert: This is a pro-level at its finest. The water speed is intense and violent with many obstructions, so they tend to belong and meagre rides. A high fitness level and experience are required. Injury risk is very high and, bear in mind that even expert rescue teams can find it hard to work in these conditions.
- Class 6. Extreme and Exploratory Rapids: These rivers are rarely attempted. The combination of speed, obstacles, and unpredictability is on the red numbers of danger level. A minimum error might be fatal, and rescues may be impossible to achieve.
With this list, you are set to go and be able to recognise which river runs fit to your abilities. If you also need a little help with that, we have also provided you with an excellent list of places to go to White Water Kayaking.
Best places to do White Water Kayaking
You can visit many places around the world suitable for White water kayaking. Nevertheless, in this article, we are going to talk to you about the top five fan favourites. These are not only challenging but are surrounded by beautiful natural scenery that will surely astound you. This kind of risky activity pays off in many ways!
Rio Alseseca Watershed – Veracruz, Mexico: A Class III-IV River. For the more experienced crowd, but with a small waterfall and gorgeous landscape. A bonus feature is its easy accessibility, with just a car drive.
Saint Charles River – Quebec, Canada: There is a well-known course in Saint Charles River. It was redesigned around 2002 to have a 300-metre length of Class I and III. It is a perfect place for beginners and intermediate paddlers due to its controlled water levels.
Nile and Zambezi Rivers – Zambia and Uganda: Could there be anything more exciting than travelling through the famous and historic Nile River? Of course not! Nevertheless, as prestigious as its reputation precedes it, beware! Because it is not for everyone! With an astonishing Class of IV and V, the Nile River is kept for the pros. Therefore, if you want to hop on this adventure, you better work and train hard for it.
The Doura Baltea River – Piedmont, Italy: This beautiful Class II to III River gives us the enchantment of adventure and iconic scenery. Have you heard of the Montblanc brand? Yes, the one with those fancy pens with a mountain logo. Well, you can travel down the mountain through the river and cross the Aosta Valley. That would be something to brag about! Don’t you think?
The Lee Valley White Water Centre-Hertfordshire, UK: This is one of the favourite intermediate sites because it is just outside the city of London. This centre has Class II-III rapids that are suited for beginners and intermediate paddlers and can go up to Olympic levels. A versatile spot where you can practise at every paddler level. It is a great place to train yourself and level up in a known environment.
Dangers and Pro-Tips for White Water Kayaking
As we have said before, the dangers of white water kayaking rely on two components: the unpredictability of the water runs and your preparation as a paddler.
Some things can be out of our control, like the water currents, the weather, or even the temperature. Therefore, it falls only as our duty to be prepared for the worst every time.
To have the most optimal and fun experience, we share with you some pro-tips to have in mind the next time you go white water kayaking – and if this is your first time, too! -. This is a guide on how to proceed:
You are doing it right now, and we congratulate you on doing so. But we must mention that nothing compares to direct practices on the water. However, it can really be useful to read as much on the subject as possible beforehand. You may find that something you have read can come in handy in a moment that requires acting quickly.
Make sure your instructor is certified; those are the only instructors that can prepare you, as you need. Remember that this is a demanding sport; it can become dangerous if not prepared properly. And when we say dangerous, we mean DEADLY dangerous!
The good news is that you can start your lessons in an indoor and controlled environment. So, why not know the basics of kayaking first? You should work on your confidence and then work your way up from there.
Read the water
Once you are out in the wild, it could be helpful to study the water movements. This way, you can learn to identify the signs the water is giving you.
This skill is sometimes underestimated. However, it can make a difference by allowing you to avoid or prepare yourself for sticky situations.
Start slow, do not rush, and be honest with your capabilities. There is no need to want to start on a Class IV river. Ego is not your friend when it comes to white water kayaking! Respect your level and enjoy every ride.
Do not think about what you are going to achieve in a couple of years. Worry about being prepared for the present and having fun with it.
Once you arrive at the river of your choosing, try to scout the perimeter. That way, you can prepare in advance for some of the obstacles that are going to meet your way, so they do not catch you by surprise.
Remember that White Water Kayaking tends to be a fast sport, so you will need to think quickly and manoeuvrer even quicker. It really can help to have some information on the river beforehand.
Never travel alone:
We do not recommend going on kayaking expeditions by yourself. Try to build a team or a community of people with the same interests as you. There are also professional guided tours you can join.
But never alone! Something may happen in those unpredictable waters that may require a rescue.
In your training, you might learn about self-rescue, but sometimes this is not enough, and you will need extra help.
Think about the higher the class, the harder it is for rescue teams to work. Imagine how it could be if you are by yourself.
Therefore, now that we have guided you through the basics of White Water Kayaking, we hope that you are one step closer to some watery adventures.
Everything may seem overwhelming at first glance, and that is not our goal whatsoever. Our goal is that you make informed decisions and encourage you to be safe and well prepared!
After doing that work, the best time of your lives awaits you. You can take our word for it.