White Water Kayaking
Whitewater canoeing and kayaking is the sport of taking a craft or 'boat' on moving water, usually rivers, and through fast moving rapids.
The water itself varies hugely in difficulty and type. 'Grade' or 'class' is the term most often used to describe the severity of the whitewater in a given location and it ranges from I to VI. Grade I is mild, where the tips of the water is just turning white and there should be no difficulties navigating through; Symonds Yat on the river Wye has some good Grade I. Grade VI is considered almost unrunnable, where death is likely; and example being Niagra Falls. Britain has a fantastic range of whitewater at all grades and you are probably closer to good whitewater than you think!
Whitewater should only be tackled in boats that have been designed to do so! For example, paddling whitewater in a sit-on-top will hurt and is not advised. Wavesport, LiquidLogic, Dagger, ZET and Nova Craft all design kayaks and canoes to take on whitewater at various grades. There are also kayaks which can handle low-grade whitewater as well as touring.
Whitewater kayaks and canoes are designed to have very strong hulls and decks to deal with collision and the weight of water flowing onto the boat. They also have extensive outfitting to give the paddler excellent control.
Whitewater boats are just part of the story however. Paddles, bouyancy aids, spray decks, cags and helmets are all essential and should be designed for whitewater use. Whitewater paddles are generally stronger, lighter and have an adapted blade shape to handle airated water. Bouyancy aids are cut to allow unrestricted movement and can also have built in safety features such as whistles, knives and rescue loops. Spraydecks designed for whitewater are stiffer, harder to put on and off and are far less likely to come off. Cags and other clothing is generally warmer and more waterproof to deal with immersion. Helmets are essential for whitewater and are designed from tough materials to keep you safe.
All of our Stores can provide advice regarding whitewater paddling and have a great selection of products available.
Although care should always be taken when paddling whitewater, it is one of the most diverse and fun segments of paddling! You dont have to be a top athlete to enjoy the adrenaline rush of a grade III rapid. There are clubs and centres all over Britain that can guide paddling-virgins down whitewater with just a few weeks training; check out the clubs and centres through your local shop for facilities close to you.
These are some photos of our top WW Kayakers paddling on rivers around the world:
White Water in an Open Canoe
River Running isn't just limited to kayaks! Modern White Water Canoes can handle river running conditions just as well, as demostrated below.