WTC Kayak

Wilmington Trail Club
Lehigh River - Inactive Lock

Are you new to the idea of kayaking and have questions? Below are answers to many questions common to those interested in kayaking.

Training Registration

What is Kayaking?

Kayaking is a water sport in which the paddler sits inside the boat and uses a paddle with a blade on both ends for propulsion and maneuvering. The paddler frequently wears a spray-skirt around their torso that attaches to the combing of the kayak. The spray skirt prevents water from splashing into the boat and keeps the interior dry when the boat rolls upside down. If the boat does flip, an experienced paddler can simply roll the boat upright with no need to bail water.

Where are the courses taught ?

Whitewater classes are taught on various sections of the Lehigh River.

What is the difference between whitewater and touring kayaking and how do I know which training is right for me ?

Touring kayaking is usually performed on still or slower moving water such as lakes, slower moving rivers, or the ocean. Some of these opportunities can require a touring paddler to handle moving water, such as navigating waves or entering or exiting a beach at the ocean. The touring courses are for flat bottom recreational boats or touring kayaks. The boats are designed to move quickly in a straight line. These boats are for slow moving water where you are not required to quickly maneuver around obstacles. The goal for the touring kayaker is to be comfortable maneuvering their boat, while enjoying the outdoors.

Whitewater kayaking is performed on moving water ranging from a calm moving stream to Class V rapids. The whitewater courses progress from flat to gentle moving water to moving water with obstacles. The courses build on skills learned in the previous course(s). The goal is for the whitewater paddler is to comfortably maneuver on rivers of their choice.

The whitewater training schedule is arranged such that you may take the touring training and, if you want to learn on faster-moving water, you can then take the whitewater training. However, touring training is not a substitute for Curriculum I of the whitewater training. You must begin whitewater training with Curriculum I, even if you have completed touring training.

How do I decide if I want to take all the whitewater kayak training courses that are offered?

The American Whitewater Association ranks water from Class I to Class VI.  The WTC training program paddles ONLY on Class I, Class II and/or easy Class III water.  A student may choose to take 1, 2, or all 3 classes based on the difficulty of whitewater they would like to be able to kayak.

      • Class I (Easy): Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
      • Class II (Novice): Straight forward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.
      • Class III (Intermediate): Rapids with moderate and irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid.  Complete maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims
      • Curriculum I is taught on flat and Class I water.  Curriculum II is taught on flat and Class I/II water.  Curriculum III is taught on Class II/III water.
Can I do one day of a two day whitewater program weekend then advance to the next course?

Each curriculum builds on the previous curriculum.

If I take Curriculum I, must I take Curriculum II?

No. There is no requirement that you take Curriculum II. If Curriculum I is the only course you complete, you will be able to kayak on slow moving water up to class  I or perhaps easy Class II. After training, instructors will paddle with you on class I/II, to develop your skill and comfort level. You will not be able to progress to Curriculum III until you complete Curriculum II and an instructor approves you for progression.

How do I know if I am ready for Curriculum II after completing Curriculum I?

Once you have completed Curriculum I, the instructors will determine if you have the necessary skills to continue to the next level, Curriculum II. If you feel you are comfortable on moving water and the instructors determine you have the skills, then you can participate in Curriculum II.

How do I know if I am ready for Curriculum III after completing the other two courses?

If you feel comfortable on Class I/II water and the instructors determine you have the skills, you can participate in Curriculum III!

Do I need to complete all three curricula?

No. If you complete both Curriculum I and Curriculum II, you can paddle with the club up to Class I/II waters. If you complete all three courses, you can paddle with the club on Class I, II or easy III water. Be realistic about your comfort level and boating ability. Most good kayakers develop their skills gradually, so relax and enjoy the experience.

Must I be able to breathe?

Yes. Breathing is a prerequisite for all three courses. OK, this is really in here just to see if you are still awake and paying attention. 

What if I have prior kayak training with another club or outfitter?

If you have participated in another club’s or outfitter’s program and it is equivalent to the WTC courses, then it is up to the discretion of the WTC Whitewater Training Lead Instructor to make the decision on what, if any, courses you need to complete.

Is kayaking safe?

There are inherent risks in whitewater kayaking and they increase as you progress to more difficult and faster moving water; therefore, it is critical to ensure your skills are developed to support the level of kayaking you wish to enjoy.  Training and trip safety are always first with the WTC.  The training is planned to develop your skills and allow you to progress to more challenging water only when you are ready and can manage it safely.

What equipment will I need?

The five absolutely required items are a whitewater kayak (with airbags), paddle, personal flotation device (PFD), spray-skirt and whitewater kayaking helmet (a bicycle helmet will not do).  You likely do not have this equipment; WTC will provide rental options at minimal cost. Other less-expensive items will also be needed:  water footwear, swimsuit, dry bag, sunglasses, nose clip, sunscreen.

Note: Listed equipment is for reference purposes ONLY.  WTC does not endorse or promote any specific equipment or supplier.

Lehigh River - Whitewater Kayaking Launch

What if I don’t want to get equipment until I learn if I like the sport ?

WTC has rental equipment that is offered each year to new students at minimal cost.  Once enrolled in the courses, we will find the best fit for you among the available equipment.  We will need your height, weight and shoe size to match you to the proper boat.

It will be your responsibility to coordinate the equipment pick-up.  Usually, you will take possession of the equipment and keep it until training has completed (several weeks).

How will my equipment be transported?

It is your responsibility to store and transport (or coordinate transportation for) all your equipment.  The equipment will fit inside some SUVs or can be transported on top of your vehicle using racks and straps.  You may also choose to have WTC transport your boat for $5.

Are there special personal flotation devices (PFDs) for women?

All PFDs can be worn by either sex; however, there are PFDs designed specifically for women that can be more comfortable.

What are the costs?

Training costs are detailed on the training registration page.  

Is this sport right for me?

The scale of opportunities varies from casual and relaxing touring paddling to fast moving whitewater.  Generally, you will enjoy some form of kayaking along that continuum if you enjoy physical outdoor activities that involve boating.

Will I be placed in a class with aggressive students?

Only if that is your desire.  During the registration process, you will be asked for your attitude toward training.  Do you prefer a more timid approach, a more aggressive approach, or something in between?  You will be placed in a class with students of similar attitude toward their training.

Should I be able to swim?

Absolutely.  For your safety and the safety of all those paddling with you, you must be able to swim.  Demonstration of this skill is one of the primary purposes of the Required Safety Session.

I am not in great shape, can I still kayak?

As with any physical activity, conditioning will influence your advancement in the sport; however, you do not need to be in outstanding shape to kayak.  Kayakers of all ages and sizes enjoy the sport and many find it a valuable addition to their overall health and exercise program.

Lehigh River - Seal Launch

Are the instructors certified?

Yes, all instructors are registered and certified by the American Canoe Association (ACA), and provide instruction in accordance with ACA standards.

Will I have fun?

We think you will have a great time.  This is a superb opportunity to make new friends who share your desire to get out and enjoy the outdoors in a beautiful location.  You will find that the WTC encourages you to discover your desire for kayaking and to pursue it in the way that you want.  There will be opportunities to move to big and challenging water, but there will be absolutely no pressure to do so if you prefer to simply enjoy a great day on an easier section of the Lehigh or other comparable rivers. The progressive training we offer will help you to discover your comfort level and interest in the wonderful sport of kayaking.

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