If you’ve ever wanted to learn to kayak, 2013 is shaping up to be a prime year. A good winter of skiing like this is sure to bring a decent spring runoff for paddling. And fortunately for you, there are plenty of opportunities in Utah to learn the ins and outs of whitewater kayaking.
Rapid Progression Kayak School
Rapid Progression Kayak School is Utah’s only remaining paddling school, lead by Andy Thunell. The classes cover everything you need to learn to get started: how to paddle efficiently, roll a kayak, and maneuver down a river. Throw in the occasional field trip to some of the Wasatch’s finest rivers, and you have yourself a great all-around paddling school sure to jumpstart your transformation into a river rat. Classes are currently offered every other week at the Weber State University pool (more info here) for $20 per session (that includes the price of equipment rental). Additional classes are set to start later this spring in Salt Lake and Provo. Rapid Progression will also resume teaching the kayaking class at USU in Logan this coming fall, open to both students and non-students. For more information contact Andy Thunell or check out the Rapid Progression website here.
Wasatch Touring in Salt Lake City teaches a great introductory kayaking class that will start up again this spring. They’ll cover the basics of how to roll your kayak and get around, and also provide ample opportunity to meet paddling buddies in Salt Lake. Classes are held at Cottonwood Heights Rec Center at a cost of $200 for 5 weeks of instructions. That includes gear rental if you don’t have your own. For more information contact Robert Machol or check out the class website.
Gear:30, the new gear shop in Ogden, is offering a basic kayaking course starting January 12. The course will cover all the fundamentals of kayaking, including rolling, paddling, river reading, river terminology, safety & rescue, and even how to select your next boat. Classroom sessions will be held at the gear shop on Washington Blvd with pool sessions held at the Marshall White Center. Cost is $150 per person for all three sessions, plus equipment rental if you don’t have the gear. For more info contact Jeff Young and check out Gear:30’s blog post about it here.
The University of Utah
The best teacher in the state is arguably the University of Utah’s Gary Nichols. Gary literally wrote the book on kayaking in the State of Utah and is considered by most (myself included) to be the God of Utah Paddlesports. Check out the link to his classes here. Gary also teaches an excellent river safety and rescue course which I have taken several times as a refresher at the start of the season.
Clubs and Open Pool Sessions
If you’re looking for something a bit less structured, there are a few clubs and ad-hoc groups that meet for pick-up games of kayak polo and open “roll sessions.” This is also a great option for folks who have taken a kayaking class before and just need some additional time in a boat to polish up their skills. Here are a few of these options:
• Ogden Kayak Polo: Every Wednesday night from 6:30-8:30 at the Marshall White Center
• Weber State University: Kayak pool sessions held every other week
• UTrivers.com: This is a great online discussion forum for connecting with other paddlers, planning trips, and finding pool sessions in your area.
• Utah Whitewater Club
• BYU Kayaking Club
Do It Yourself
If you’d rather learn things at your own pace, here are a few helpful resources:
• Whitewater Kayaking: The Ultimate Guide, by Ken Whiting. Consider this book your bible for learning to paddle. It has a lot of great instruction on the basics as well as solid information on more advanced topics.
• Eric Jackson’s Rolling and Bracing DVD. Eric Jackson is arguably one of the world’s most prolific paddlers and owns one of the most successful kayaking companies in the industry. He does not disappoint in this tutorial. I use this DVD in all the classes I teach and have even had students roll a kayak on their first try after watching it.
• There’s also no shortage of tutorial videos on YouTube. I’m not even going to dive into that mess, but I suggest you check out the videos from WhitewaterTV as a starting point.
If you know of any other classes or pool sessions in the state that aren’t mentioned here, let us know about them in the comments. Hope to see you all on the water!