Confessions of a first time kayaker


I’m a little nervous.

I’ve never kayaked before and believe the other folks around me surely have some sort of hidden water superpowers that I was born without. After meeting my instructors and the other members of our group lesson at the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center, however, I find out most of them are from my city and have no river experience whatsoever! The instructors seem really experienced and friendly and assure us today’s class will be at the lake, on non-moving water only.

Now I’m scared.

We’ve just spent an hour and half outfitting everyone in the proper kayaks and gear, and are now standing by the water’s edge, sweating and itchy in our wetsuits, lifejackets, and helmets. But the last thing I want to do is go in the water to perform what is called the “wet exit,” flipping over in your kayak and swimming out of the boat. Underwater. Where there is no air to breathe. What kind of sadists are these instructors that keep joking about guppies and joining the swim team?

One instructor stands in the water next to me, and in a reassuring voice asks me to review the steps to the wet exit above water. Flip over, tuck forward, pull the neoprene skirt off the kayak, and — I’m out! Breathing air! It’s never been so great to be alive! I can do anything in this kayak! The mountains around this stunning lake are shimmering with morning sunshine!

For the rest of the morning we learn more than we ever thought possible about whitewater kayaking on flatwater. We can (sort of) keep the boat straight, stay balanced, turn, and even try rolling the kayak back over once it’s upside down (still working on this one). We race around and try to tag each other’s boats in a game called “sharks and minnows,” giggling like kids on a playground at recess. I’m secretly happy when someone else has to use their wet exit skills impromptu before me!

At night, I camp with a few other students in the group at a remote site recommended by the instructors. There is riverside camping available at the RMOC, but this feels more peaceful and tucked away. Tomorrow we will go to the river and learn how to paddle in the current.

I’m stoked.

Join me this summer for the ride of a lifetime in a kayak on the Arkansas River (or the lake) with RMOC. Beginner lessons meet almost every weekend from now until Labor Day, with private lessons and private groups (3 or more people) available anytime.

Visit the Arkansas River over the Labor Day weekend for a paddle celebration. Sign up for Epic Days at RMOC! Reserve your spot by booking with RMOC. Call 719.395.3335