Whitewater Kayaking - questions Answered

Receiving good instruction right from the start enables you to avoid forming a lot of bad habits. Don't forget in kayaking, more than other sports, some bad habits can be very dangerous. Especially when you move from a lake onto a whitewater river things can very quickly go from bad to worse if you don't know what the dangers are.

Staying in Control

The idea on whitewater is, like in most sports, to be in control. Especially at the start, a lot of kayakers like to think that just getting from the put in to the get out in one piece is a successful run. However if you are not in control, not able to stop where you want to in order to: look at rapids / wait for or help your friends, then you are a liability on the river.

Know your Limits

Knowing your personal limits and when you can push them is a big part of kayaking. Whitewater kayaking is somewhat unique in that getting on the river is generally not the hard part but getting off again can be. So choosing the right time to go hard is important. Generally you should only step up a grade when you have complete control at the grade you are at.


There have been a lot of safety guidelines created over the years for whitewater kayaking to try and reduce the risk to participants. For all guidelines you should remember the old saying "Guidelines are for the guidance of the wise and the strict adherence of fools".

Beginners should at the very least make sure that:

River Grades

River grades for kayaking are a bit different than for other sports as they are not lineal but exponential. This means that a grade 3 is twice as hard to paddle as a grade 2. A grade 5 rapid is twice as hard as a grade 4. There are also harder and easier examples at every grade so just because you have survived a grade 4 run would not make it certain that you would survive a run on a different grade 4. These are sometimes given a + or - so that you know. Different water levels can also change the grading by a whole number, generally more water is harder but not always. What to do? Read and learn the grade descriptions and then decide for yourself what the grade is and more importantly whether you want to paddle it or not.

River Grades overview...