Getting StartedA look at some of the country’s top paddling schools
Sea Kayak Specialists,
Based on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sea Kayak Specialists teaches sea kayaking with a variety of classes from beginner to expert level. They aim to increase your paddling skills so you can enjoy your time on the water. (906) 250-4238, seakayakspecialists.com
Old Forge, New York
Adirondack Exposure paddling school runs on high octane from May through October and offers both paddling courses (whitewater and flatwater/sea kayak, and canoe instruction) as well as wilderness skills courses (including wilderness first aid and leave-no-trace training).
(315) 335-1681, adirondackexposure.com
San Diego, California
Aqua Adventures Kayak Center offers comprehensive kayaking lessons and instruction. Led by Jen Kleck, one of the top sea kayaking instructors in the country, all AA’s instructors are certified by both the American Canoe Association (ACA) and the British Canoe Union (BCU). Disciplines include sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, kayak surfing and rock gardening. Rental is included in the price of the class. (800) 269-7792, aqua-adventures.com
Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort
White Lake, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Wild and Scenic Wolf River is one of the Midwest’s best playgrounds and Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort has it dialed, combining whitewater kayak and canoe touring instruction with rustic lodging and fantastic food. (715) 882-3502, bearpawoutdoors.com
Zoar Outdoor has a strong history in paddle instruction based on Massachusetts’ Deerfield River. Zoar’s riverside base features camping, hot showers, and meals prepared in an on-site kitchen. Whitewater canoeing or kayaking clinics are available in two-, three- and five-day sets.
(800) 532-7483, zoaroutdoor.com
White Water Learning Center of Georgia
Get out on the water, Atlanta. White Water Learning Center’s mission is to provide opportunities for water-curious enthusiasts to learn river paddling skills in a safe and structured environment with A-list instructors at a reasonable cost. The Center’s dedicated to meeting the individual needs of students, promoting river safety, and increasing environmental awareness. (404) 231-0042, whitewatergeorgia.com
Camp Mondamin and Camp Green Cove
Zirconia, North Carolina
In 1922, legendary North Carolina canoeist Frank Bell Sr. established Camp Mondamin for boys and Camp Green Cove for girls. His son, Frank Jr., is now the director, and his grandson, Andrew, is a paddling coach. Here, students start the old fashioned way: on the lake. They then move methodically into rivers and whitewater via canoe or kayak. A variety of other outdoor pursuits are offered as well. (800) 688-5789, mondamin.com, greencove.com
The Jersey Paddler and Sea Ya Kayaking
Brick, New Jersey
Jersey loves its sea kayakers. Sea Ya Kayaking boasts small classes based out of The Jersey Paddler shop in Brick, New Jersey, aka Garden State Parkway Exit 91. Instructor Keith Trautvetter’s goal is to develop confidence and strong paddling skills in his students. (732) 491-7262, seayakayaking.com
The Klamath is one of California’s best rivers for beginner and intermediate canoeists, and Canoe West loves to show beginners down it. All clinic prices include canoe, paddle, life vest, and instruction. Canoe West offers classes for both tandem and solo paddlers, using fully-oufitted Royalex whitewater canoes.
(530) 842-7805, snowcrest.net/canoewest
Canoe, Kayak and Paddle
Mike Aronoff is the fire behind the instruction program at Virginia’s Canoe, Kayak and Paddle, an ACA Pro School. So get ready to get stoked as CKP is 20 minutes from both whitewater and flatwater sections of the Potomac River. For open-water sea kayaking, CKP’s paddling-obsessed staff teaches out of the Annapolis, Md., area.
(703) 264-8911, ckapco.com
Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School
Forks of Salmon, California
Based on Northern California’s Salmon River, Otter Bar has offered whitewater kayak instruction for all skill levels since 1981, combining renowned kayak classes with a river lodge vacation, boasting some of the most exquisite cuisine in paddling history. (530) 462-4772, otterbar.com
For more paddling tips, check out C&K’s 2010 Beginners Guide, on newsstands now.