What can adults learn from teaching kids to white water kayak? 

Adult Lessons from Teaching Kids to White Water Kayak

This past week I was lucky enough to teach beginner white water kayaking with the NOC Paddlesports Kids Kayak Camp. With a goal to do a great job teaching it was soon learnt that I was learning more from the kids than the other way. Reflecting on the week here are a few lessons kids taught me.

Lesson 1 – Have plan for every kid.

Making wet exits a game makes being in kayaks fun. These guys worked on swimming while more advanced kids worked on running rapids.

The first lesson I learnt on the Cherokee’s Oconaluftee was that kid’s groups can be super diverse in skills. Trip Leaders Andrew Koch and Rachel Dean had divided the kids camp into two van groups based on skills. Even within our development group there was a big difference between gung ho 16-year-old Hugh and timid 11-year-old Reese. Rachel further individualized the instruction assigning instructors to work with the most timid kids, most aggressive, and a group right in the middle. This kept kids in mindsets of both confidence building and being challenged.

Lesson 2 – Are you having fun?

Instructors Mark Taylor and Eli Castleberry play the paddle pass game during a Nantahala shuttle.

It seems obvious to have fun with kids but there are plenty of stressors related to leading kids down white water. And just keeping up with their 16 hours/day of nonstop energy can be a challenge. And short attention spans get bored. Games and having fun were the solution. Even just participating in a splash war kept the days exciting and gave breaks from strokes and lessons. Some of our favorites were splash wars, swimming rapids, rock skipping contests, paddle circle game, sharks and minnows, and kayak ultimate.

Lesson 3 – Recognition is King.

Everyone loves to be recognized. Rachel Dean bought the group ice cream as a recognition reward.

Teaching a group of kids ages 11 to 16 often has an attention limit. I noted that each time the instructors called the group together for kayak lessons we’d see them go out and try the new skills for a limited time. Skills like holding ferry angles, edging, strokes and turning were progressing. But higher levels of excitement were engaged when Eli pulled gummy worms from his jacket and offered rewards. Now, the kids were charging and competing for the penny value candy. Later, Rachel gave points for the kids whom helped load boats most. She even bought 15-year-old Daniel a burger and fries and the group ice cream. And at the banquet every kid was recognized with noted accomplishments and prizes.

Simple Recognitions: candy, create a point system for skills, define a skill then recognize it with a pat on the back and a verbal “good job,” publicly group recognize desired behaviors by individuals.

Lesson 4 – Are the kids prepared? And what about your own preparedness?

Brother and sister, Tucker and Reese, team carry their kayaks to the Tuckaseegee “Dip” rapid.

It’s no surprise that kids forget things. So, Rachel made certain to teach kids the 5 essentials. Taking from that lesson each day the instructors would have the kids go get their 5 essentials and carry them to the trailer as a ticket to get in the van. Just in case boss man Tosh Arwood asked, “Can you load an extra set of gear, somebody’s going to forget something.” That would be me forgetting my river shorts in the drier. Thanks Mark Taylor for the shorts.

Lesson 5 – Being Present

Tough girls make the best kayakers.
Annabell Plush at the Chattooga Section 3 putin shooting rock skipping conest.
Did you know you can surf a kayak on a river? It’s fun and easy to learn.
It’s hard to be more present than running your first big rapid on the Chattooga’s Section 3. High Five!
Blog author David Hughes towing one to shore after splash war turns to fun swim.

Are kids resisting activity based on a lifetime of couch and cyber surfing? I can’t quite place my finger on it but it appeared that some kids did not know how to be adventure active. Inviting inclusion of achievable skills, games, and recognition were the best solutions observed. Instructor Mark Taylor kept the most-timid kayaker in the group super engaged on the last two days by inviting Reese to paddle the Dynamic Duo. Reese went from being scared of rapids to surfing and spinning her paddle as Mark called out, “Paddle Twirl.”

Engaging Solutions: invitations to activities, recognitions and rewards, inclusive games, and keeping the event fun.

Thanks NOC Paddle Sports for the learning opportunity.

Interested in NOC Kids White Water Kayak Camp. CLICKITY CLICK here. 

Keep Kayaking.

Dental +PLUS Whitewater Kayak Vacation?

Have you had your teeth knocked on the river? Or maybe you just want a checkup or a cavity filled at affordable rates. In Pucon we recommend our favorite local dentist / kayaker Anita Diaz for professional dental services.

It was the summer of 2003 when I knocked out two front teeth. Numbers 9 and 10 I would soon learn were worth more than a good used SUV at around $US12,000. Ouch! As a nomadic toothless kayaker that desired to have a full smile I soon began asking about international dental pricing. The discoveries were perspective changing. 

Here are a few international dental practices that many kayakers may not know.

  • IMPLANTS – are one of the worst to experience and expensive dental eprocedures you never want to have. I was more scared getting my second one than my first. 
  • “I’ve got dental insurance. I’m covered.” WRONG. I discovered, “Implants are a cosmetic surgery under the same category as a face lift, boob job, tummy tuck…” WHAT? I was toothless and not covered.
  • Practically, every country in the world has cheaper dental services than the US. But is the quality as good? Please. Don’t ask a Chilean that.My US dentist let me in on a little secret and shared some Chile dental websites.
  • Simple dental improvements and applications like whitening, crowns, and cavity services are a fraction of the cost of US services.
  • US implant services come with a menu of ways you can get your implant. Basically, you have 3 pain options ranging in menu of price points: laughing gas, local anesthetic, and “don’t be stupid… we’re drilling into your face.”
  • Chile does not offer laughing gas but does naturally include local anesthetic. Which is all you need. “Is this real life?” 

Dental Services Price Comparison – Chile v. USA

With 20 +PLUS years of leading international kayak trips just in Chile I’ve seen a few broken teeth get crown work, cavities filled, caps replaced, teeth whitening and a personal implant based on demand. I’ve personally been impressed with how quickly Chilean dentists will open their offices and complete work. Here are a few price comparisons based on my experience and according to https://memberbenefits.com/dental-costs-with-and-without-insurance/.

Service                        Chile                                                    USA

Fillings                        $50 – $75                                             $50 – $250

Implants                    Less than half US Rate                  My first implant was $6,000+

Whitening                 $100 – $250                                      $650*

*According to www.yourdentistryguide.com. 

Take Away Points

  • Are you covered? Check to make certain big cost procedures like implants are not categorized as “cosmetic surgery.”
  • What health care procedures could you save your budget and put back into your kayaking trip?
  • Even if you are covered you may want to research purchasing a traveler’s insurance plan for your kayaking trips. 
  • In Pucon we recommend our local resident dentist kayaker Anita Diaz seen in photo. 

Blog written by David Hughes.
Owner Pucon Kayak Hostel
Director Patagonia Study Abroad
Instructor NOC Paddlesports 

Recommended Chile Kayaking Trips

Chile’s Teacups offer 70 +PLUS clean cascades in a 57 million year old polished basalt canyon.

Teacups +PLUS, For (IV & IV+) Kayakers / November Trips Available

Pucon Classics, For (II, III, III+ and IV) Kayakers / January to February

Vacation Certification +PLUS Kayaking (All Skills) AWFA, SRT 3, & ACA Kayak Instructor Certs +PLUS daily kayaking. 

River Progressions – 5 Ways to Get More River Time

Before we discuss how to get more river time let’s identify some factors that prohibit river time. 

  • You’re working too much. Or maybe you could balance work with kayaking better. 
  • Is your significant other prohibitive of river time? Your relationship could range from an understanding of your paddling to a person whom resents your paddling time.
  • You are fixated on your couch.
  • Great river and features are too far away.
  • Lack of folks to go kayaking with you.

 #5 Plan Your Work Time More Efficiently with River Time –

Skipping work to go kayaking makes the experience even sweeter. Sick days are for boofing. (c)Casey Jones

Twenty +PLUS years ago I received the best advice to progress my pro kayaking. Pro Wave Sport kayaker Billy Craig shockingly said, “You’ve got to quit that job.” Most people won’t quit their job. And it’s likely you shouldn’t unless you realize it’s a dead end. But I had a burning desire to kayak all the time. Work Oof to River Boof Tips:

  • Use accumulated sick or leave days for boof days. Save your off work days for sunny days or better yet rainy high water days for kayaking. And for goodness sake go to work when you are sick. 
  • Pre-plan your long weekends and take an extra day off for extended +PLUS paddling weekends. Or how about taking a mini kayaking vacation over holidays?
  • Can you squeeze in kayaking before or after work? Heck. If you are like most of us then you are likely wasting time on Facebook when you could be getting in flat water drills or 20+ boofs on your local run.
  • What about making your job river related? That’s what I did. For 20+ years rivers have been my passion and today I own a world class kayakers hostel on the Rio Trancura. Winning.

#4 Relationship Time Balanced with River Time –

Can you plan your family and relationship time with your river time? Winning.

This may be your most challenging time frame to convert. In an ideal world, you would patiently illustrate to your significant other the benefits of your passion for the river. But we’ve seen some pretty dysfunctional relationships. Funny thing is it seems to us the more troubled the relationship the more river time can help. Let’s see what our creative minds can develop.

  • Admit that you have some sort of addictive personality disorder. Luckily, your addiction can be remedied with hiking in the woods for hours with a kayak on your shoulder and plopping your way down rivers. Of course, you need help from a support group. That’d be your kayaker friends honking in your drive way and loading your 9R. You could debate that your relationship benefits via improving quality relationship time and presence. Good luck. If you come up with a winner hit us with a Facebook message. 
  • Include your significant other in cool river trips, festivals, and camping – Rivers should be awesome for everyone as we all enjoy the natural therapeutic benefits of rivers. If your significant other enjoys the outdoors with you then “Boof on.” If they don’t enjoy river life with you then you may need to call Dr. Phil. Or at least get creative with your communication to balance your relationship with your river time.
    • Great Family River Time Example – At Pucon Kayak Hostel we watched pro kayakers Ron Fischer and Marianne Saether take runs watching their new baby while the other got to run Nevados and Trancura laps. Now, that’s a cool river family and we imagine in short time they’ll all be paddling together.

#3 Your River Time is Affected Because You Can’t Get Off the Couch –

Are your river boofs too far away? How can you gain more river time by pre-planning your schedule?

Major oof. It happens and surprisingly it’s not always easy to get out of that couch rut. Here are a few tips to help you motivate to get more river time.

  • Identify your preferred group medium to go kayaking. Do you like paddling with a specific group of friends? Or do you need your local club to plan trips? Maybe you feel most comfortable with professional instruction. Make contact with your kayak people and that may be the catalyst to get you off the couch. Get proactive.
  • Make a commitment to self that you are going to accept river invitations. Or you will organize river trips for your paddling friends. 

#2 Rivers and Features Are Too Far Away –

Another oof. The distance hurdle is a tough one that lends itself to planning.

  • What nearby lakes and pools do you have to help you develop fundamental skills? Whether you are developing your combat roll or class V flat water development progressions can help core strength and confidence. This will help build your confidence for when you are on the river. For example, if you master your roll in the pool then you’ll be able to spend more time carving, catching eddies, and boofing. 
  • Make a point to plan weekend river trips. Better yet plan a river vacation.

#1 Lack of Kayaking Friends –

Rivers provide the best bonding experiences. Above the Chicago Whitewater Association celebrate a kayaking adventure vacation to Chile’s Rio Truful Truful.

Kayaking friendships and bonding for many is the best reason they go kayaking. Think about it. How many people do you know that prefer to kayak solo? And with today’s resources you have many options for cultivating those relationships.

  • Kayak Schools and Instruction – The majority of kayakers get into kayaking via a kayak school or camp. Your instructors and the school are a resource broader than just instructional skills. As you develop you’ll progress from student to developing river bonds to peer being invited on river trips. 
  • Whitewater Clubs and Schools – Whitewater clubs and schools are excellent for developing pool sessions and river trips. Get proactive and show up for the river and all it has to offer.
  • Kayaking Friends and Groups – Okay. Your kayaking has progressed to the point that you are good enough to go on private river trips. Watch the flows and make the calls to your group for your river time.

Now when the river flows peak your river time priorities are ready to skip work, tell your significant other you’ll be home late, and boof the day away. 

River trips and kayak schools, we endorse.

Just a reminder that kayaking is fun for everyone.

NOC Paddlesports – This is the world’s largest whitewater kayak school and for good reason. Located in the heart of Western North Carolina’s whitewater mecca the rivers are as great as the instruction. The rivers attract beginners and intermediates seeking instruction, world class freestylers and slalom racers, and boaters charging stouts and spouts. No matter your skill folks love to drop in at NOC for a lap or a beer by the river. 

Pucon Kayak Hostel – This is my place developed just for folks that love the river. When you are ready to travel and kayak rivers then you are invited to come to Pucon Chile. Now, with our NOC partnership we offer beginner and intermediate Pucon Classics Trips on our backyard rivers. And Teacups +PLUS Trips and Vacation Certification +PLUS Kayaking is available for the expert kayakers ready to go to the next level or work in the industry. 

If you enjoyed this blog then we’d be grateful for sharing, liking and commenting. 

Keep Kayaking. 

By David Hughes
Owner, Pucon Kayak Hostel
Director, Patagonia Study Abroad
Instructor, NOC Paddle Sports