Originally developed by Eskimos, Whitewater Kayaking and canoeing was used as a practical form of transportation. Whitewater rapid would pose a logistical problem for them when negotiating their way down the rivers and although they may have been entertained to a degree, the motivation was a totally practical one.
Many years later people discovered the thrill of kayaking in surging rivers around the world. The raw power of nature, tackling waterfalls and challenging big surging water became the attraction of thrill seekers and so whitewater kayaking was born.
Whitewater is created in a river’s rapids, this is where a river’s gradient increases and disturbs its flow to create turbulence. The resulting white frothy water being the result of these converging currents – it’s almost like a continuous explosion of water energy.
Whitewater kayaking and canoeing have fast become a fearsome extreme sport which suits hardcore adrenaline junkies from all walks of life. The evolution of equipment is constantly being driven by the demands of the users as they negotiate more extreme conditions.
Extreme conditions create big adrenaline surges during whitewater kayaking. These can include falling down waterfall free drops as well as the aggressive conditions of a full-on raging river. Despite the raw power of nature with its furious water, extremists are able to contriol otheir kayaks through the gnarliest water and just managing to survive down 100 foot drops over waterfalls – the buzz can be highly addictive.
Whitewater kayaking has subcategories from River Running which is surviving a rapidly flowing river to slalom which requires negotiating a series of gates whilst racing against the clock.
Playboating requires performing various flips and tricks in one spot called a “playspot”.
Whitewater streams and rivers are graded on a scale of 1 to 6. 1 being calm easy and slow and 6 being dangerous, furious and fast and virtually impossible to negotiate, even by a hardened expert.
The final and most extreme category is known as “Creeking” and involves 4 – 6 grade routes. These are technical and can be very technical and difficult with raging rapids, big falls and any other challenge that falls under the heading of “extreme”.
Canoeing is similar to kayaking in many ways. The obvious difference being the paddle which for a canoe is single bladed as opposed to the much more usable double bladed paddle of the kayak.
Why do adrenaline junkies choose kayaking?
As with every type of extreme sport, that brief moment of losing control will give you what is known as “negative adrenaline”. Basically this is also known as being scared to the degree that it gives you the high not found in one’s daily life!
Being pushed along by a massively strong rushing current, hitting rocks and rolling through rapids keeps you hugely focused because you never know what the next big push will bring.
Is white water kayaking dangerous?
Yes, it can be but thanks to the International Scale of River Difficulty grading system, people are able to risk assess better than ever before. There is always advice on hand so that you can assess whether you are competant enough to survive a run. This enables individuals to mitigate the risk of injury, most of which are caused by hitting unavoidable rocks or bottoming out over drops.
Strong converging water vortexes colliding in massive water flows can lead to capsizing. If your boat capsises and your arm or leg gets stuck between rocks, you would be in serious danger of drowning. These are avoidable risks if they’er backed up by experience and common sense.
It was only in the final years of the 1990s that safety gear became mainstream with whitewater kayaking, before which it was performed with flimsy kayaks and no helmets! Today, there’s an abundance of safety gear and protective bags to keep your kit warm and dry. Also, people have a more calculated risk-averse mindset.
How do you start white water kayaking?
Whitewater kayaking requires strength and fitness. More importantly though, start at a basic level and work up. Taking lessons comes highly recommended and finding a local club to tap into peoples’ experience is priceless. As with all new persuits, especially extreme sports like whitewater kayaking, consistent practice and strength building are crucial. Getting out of sticky situations comes with experience and these strategies are part and parcel of the learning process – the more experience and knowledge you gain, the better the experience.
As far as equipment goes, we recommend starting with a basic kayak or canoe to learn to balance and paddle in calm water and to learn safety techniques like brake rolling and Eskimo rolling. Getting upright after a capsize is a required skill and you will learn this early on.
We highly recommend that you use high-quality kit including a dry bag or two to keep your clothing and food dry during your adventures. If you need to know more about this exciting pastime or about any kit you need, give us a call or go over to our well-stocked shop.
Stay safe out there on the water
The Team 🙂