The best advice any beginning paddler should take is to learn the skills before going for the thrills. This applies to all branches of the paddlesports tree. The best way to learn the basics is to attend a paddling school, but choosing the best school for you can seem like a daunting task.
The first step is deciding what kind of paddler you want to be. Deciding on one specific type of paddling doesn’t mean you are limiting yourself. Any place is a good place to start, and many of the skills you learn with one style of paddling transfers to other styles. Just making the commitment to get out on the water is the first step. If specialization is what you are looking for, most paddling schools offer basic instruction and a good venture into more specialized areas.
Factor in where you live. If you live in a state with lots of water and a buzzing paddling community, there are likely to be many types of paddling schools to chose from, while on the other hand, if you live in a state with little water or interest in paddling, you might have to travel to attend a paddling school. Inquire at your local paddlesports shop, outdoor store, or paddling club if there is a school near you.
Decide how much time you are willing to commit. Most schools have single-day introductory courses in addition to more intensive multi-day programs. Often, half a day of introduction sets the stage for a lifetime. of enjoyment. The cost of attending a paddling school varies, and is generally proportional to the amount of time you are going to be spending there. The important thing is to look at what you get for the price.
Ask around about the reputations of the paddling schools you are considering. Go to your local paddlesports shop, paddlesport Web site forums, and paddling friends to ask for their recommendations. Find out how long they have been around. Newer schools might offer new techniques, whereas schools that have been around a while usually have it nailed. Ask if the equipment you will be using is current and cutting edge. Boat designs and techniques have changed drastically in the last decade. Most of the basics of paddling are timeless, but some have been redefined to correspond with newer and more efficient equipment. The instructors should be furthering their own skills through paddling and training. Some form of structure and a guideline for training techniques are a good basis for any school.
Find out what kind of water you will encounter during training. Think about where you will want to paddle when you are on your own, and choose a school that will introduce you to your future paddling environment.
Attending a paddling school will put you on course for an exciting future in paddlesports.