Everywhere Edge

Ask the Expert: Trying kayaks before you buy

December 19, 2007

Q: I've seen white water kayaking and am interested in learning how to play in the rapids. Before investing in a paddle and a boat, are there places to give them a test run? Catherine, K., Arlington, VA

Anna: The best thing to do if you want to try whitewater kayaking is to sign up for a beginner course. Most kayak schools offer 2-day, 4-day or 5-day beginner courses. When you sign up for a course all of your equipment is included and you'll have the opportunity to try out different boats, paddles and gear. It's very important that you invest in instruction for whitewater kayaking before venturing out on your own. Many outfitters won't let you rent or demo a whitewater kayak unless you have your own gear (ex. helmet, personal flotation device) and/or can prove that you have the necessary handling skills and will not put yourself in a dangerous situation. There are some good schools in the DC area and you call also check out nationally reputable companies like the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. And as a part of my personal mission to get more women kayaking, I run a program called Girls at Play Summer Tour,  traveling to different cities across North America to conduct fun and affordable introductory clinics just for women.