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Learning to float

Tom Boyd

When the snow melts and the river waters rise a community rises up with it. Every year it seems there are more cars parked on the side of the road or under bridges as the wet world of kayaking comes to life each springtime.Kayaking can seem intimidating to those who have an interest in joining the sport. Rushing water, cold weather, and the thought of being underwater can seem scary to the uninitiated, but Sean Glackin of Alpine Kayak in Avon says getting into the sport in the right way can take the fear out of the sport and introduce beginners to a lifelong love of paddling whitewater.”The key is learning the right way the first time, not just going out there with your buddies and getting in over your head,” he says. “It’s like skiing you don’t want to hop on a pair of skis and hit Highline on your first run. You’ll never want to ski again.”So Glackin offers a series of beginner classes for those who want to learn the sport right from the start. Glackin will start most of his students out on a lake-to-river class, which involves an introductory evening on a lake and then a full day on a class I or II stretch of river.A roll class in a heated pool is available as well, or, for those who aren’t ready to go underwater with a spray skirt on, there is the option of heading out on a sit-on-top kayak.”Sit-on-tops are for folks that want to get on the river but maybe aren’t looking to start rolling right away, or want to see if the sport is right for them,” Glackin says. “They’re wider, much more stable, there’s no spray skirt involved anybody can get on the river right away.”Or, for those who have some experience and are looking to get more heavily involved in the sport, Alpine Kayak has equipment package deals that can set a paddler up with everything he or she needs: a boat, spray skirt, helmet, paddle, lifejacket and dry top for a little over $1,000.Crag Russom of Mountian Quest Sports in Edwards says that there’s a lot of enthusiasm about this year’s water season because of increased snowpack in the high country over last year.”This is a great time for beginners to get into the river, and we’re excited about that and about a longer season this year,” he says.Like Alpine, Mountain Quest offers beginner roll classes and river classes for beginners and intermediates. A pool facility on-site at Rancho del Rio (right next to their Colorado River Center headquarters) allows Russom to offer a two-day, pool-to-river class in the serene setting of the calm upper Colorado River.Both companies include gear with their classes, and both companies also offer paddle clubs, where old students can get together, learn more, and enjoy the sport along with experts from the shop.”It’s something to give back to the students,” Glackin says. “We don’t want to just teach them, we want to go back out with them, give back to them and stay involved hopefully throughout their whole kayaking life.”And, like Glackin says, once you begin to learn kayaking, you never stop it’s a healthy addiction that can last an entire lifetime.Where to goThe area has three different river-oriented retail shops and kayak schools, all of which can provide you with the gear and instruction you’ll need to get out on the river:Alpine Kayak in Avon (970) 949-3350 or http://www.alpinekayak.comMountain Quest Sports in Edwards (970) 926-3867Colorado River Center at Rancho del Rio (970) 653-0263Degree of difficultyHere’s the basic description of the six different levels of river difficulty:Class I: Easy. Wide open water with riffles and small waves (all ages).Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels. (all ages).Class III: Intermediate. Larger waves, twists and turns in the river, some obstructive material.Class IV: Advanced. Powerful water requiring precise boat maneuvering.Class V: Expert. Tumbling, violent, and unpredictable water with multiple obstructive materials.Class VI: Extreme. The most difficult, unpredictable, and violent water available.Safety: A mandatory safety talk beforehand gives passengers the heads up on boating common sense.Headline: Learning to floatSub: The buzz is back and the water’s good, so here’s some guidance for those looking to learn how to roll and join the kayaking community


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