Learning to kayak: Surviving the confluence pool class at DU

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Confluence Kayaks in Denver and the various classes in kayaking the store offers. When I interviewed Jonathan Kahn, the owner and founder, I'd mentioned that I had tried kayaking several times, but could never really get comfortable with the roll and flipping upside down in the water. I'd even sold my boat a couple of years ago. Jonathan assured me that they could get my roll dialed in and probably get me more comfortable with the roll, so on Tuesday, I headed to the pool class that is taught at DU in the Ritchie Center.

The class is taught over three two-hour sessions. Though I have some experience, I felt it best to start at the beginning again. Three others were with me taking their first class. After a few salient basics from our instructor about the need to start slowly and not get in over your head on the river, we each got into a boat and the instructor got into the pool, then dragged each boat into the water and had us practice wet exits.

A wet exit is what you do if you can't roll the boat. While upside down in the water, you reach forward, pull the kayak skirt off the boat, grasp the sides of the cockpit and get out of the boat, holding onto it as you break the surface of the water. Wet exits are the most important survival skill, because if you can't roll, you need to get out of the boat and go for a swim. However, they aren't too difficult, and I remember doing several on Clear Creek at the Clear Creek Whitewater Park in Golden.

After wet exits, the rest of the class was spent working on basic paddle strokes, including the forward and backward sweep and the brace, which can be used to prevent flipping upside down. I found myself smiling as we worked on getting the boat on edge and balancing before doing brace strokes.

While we were learning the basics, it was pretty cool to see other paddlers in the pool working on advanced rodeo tricks like getting the boat on both both and stern vertical in the water.

The next two-hour class will work on the beginnings of the roll, including the hip snap. Look for a report on that in two weeks. If you are interested in signing up for a class, you can do so online or by calling the store at 303-433-3676. You can also sign up for open pool, where, if you have your own boat and just want to practice, you can dial things in on your own.


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Candace Horgan