Freshwater Kayaking and Canoeing in British Columbia






British Columbia Freshwater Kayaking & Canoeing

The Sport of Freshwater and Whitewater Canoeing & Kayaking in BC

Kayaks & Canoes Explained | River Classifications | Skill Levels
Water Safety | Equipment | Wilderness Camping

The People Who Canoe and/or Kayak:

This sport takes in a whole gauntlet of different people from many professions. There are bank managers, truck drivers, teachers, sawmill workers, doctors, secretaries, lawyers and even hackers out enjoying this fast growing pass time. Canoeing and kayaking is an excellent recreational family sport with children accompanying parents on all but the really challenging trips. Like other recreational sports, it is best to learn as much as possible about canoeing and kayaking. Taking a course from a qualified instructor is step number one. Practising what you have been taught is step number two, and joining a local canoe or kayak club is step number three. All three steps add to your safety on the water.

About Canoeing and Kayaking:

A K-1 is a kayak, C-1 and C-2 are canoes, all are narrow closed boats that are easily maneuverable and do not require much water in order to float. The covered spray deck means they can handle wild and unruly waters. The open canoe is more difficult to handle, needs more water to float and best handled in waves that are approximately one metre (about three feet) high. Rafts, whether the rowing or paddle type, are used by groups running whitewater rivers.

International River Classifications:

1.Class or Grade 1: easy moving water with small waves, little or no obstacles.
2. Class or Grade 2: easy rapids with waves up to 1 metre high (3 feet) with obstructions, some manoeuvring skills are needed.
3. Class or Grade 3: Scouting maybe necessary, manoeuvring skills are a must, you will encounter rapids with high and sometimes irregular waves. This is a moderately difficult class or grade.
4. Class or Grade 4: This is difficult with long rapids and irregular waves. Your manoeuvring skills must be precise, advanced scouting is mandatory. Only advanced paddlers in closed boats should tackle these waters as rescue could be difficult.
5. Class or Grade 5: This is very difficult going with long demanding rapids, narrow passages, long drops, steep banks, precise manoeuvring is necessary and advanced scouting again mandatory. When swamped, rescues could be difficult, is definitely for expert paddlers and not for open boats.
6. Class or Grade 6: Extreme waters that are very dangerous. These waters must be studied and are recommended for only expert teams in closed boats. Not for open boats.

Make sure you know and pay heed to these International River Classifications.

The Classification of Skill Levels are:

Beginner or Novice: Has basic knowledge of how to handle and paddle a kayak or canoe. Some rolling skills in closed boats are necessary. This person is ready for waters that are class or grade 1.

Intermediate: This paddler has moving water skills, can line a boat around obstacles including rapids and should be able to help swamped paddlers. Can run class or grade 2 waters.

Advanced: If in an open boat, must be able to make it through fast, rough paddling and is ready for grade or class 3 water. In a closed boat, this kayaker or canoer is able to handle grade or class 4 expertly and able to roll at all times.

Expert: Can handle grade or class 3 easily in an open boat and a grade or class 4 with attached spray decks. In a closed boat, the expert can lead in grade or class 4 and can paddle grade or class 5 waters.

It is essential that you learn from a qualified person how to properly paddle and to manoeuvre a kayak or canoe. Then practice what you have been taught on easy water. Advance to more difficult water as your skills improve. Canoes, kayaks and rafts are not the same, each handling technique is different. Learn them all to fully enjoy the waters of B.C.

Water Safety:

When canoeing or kayaking always practice water safety. Never boat alone, the recommended number is three boats and always keep them insight. Learn how to swim well and do so fully clothed. Always wear an approved life jacket (PFD) and the wearing of a wet suit is a good idea. Check weather conditions before you head out, take into account the coldness of the water and paddle close to the shoreline as winds can come up suddenly. Know rescue techniques and practice them. Learn all you can about the river, lake and inlet you wish to canoe or kayak, a better plan is to paddle with someone skilled who knows the water hazards and conditions.

Safety equipment:

1.Everyone in the boat must have their own PFD (personal floating device).
2.One paddle per person, or two for each boat.
3.Bailer, which is a container for baling out water from the boat.
4.A whistle or horn
5.Painters (ropes) attached to the bow and stern.
5.A light for the nighttime.
It is also a good idea to carry a change of clothing and matches in a waterproof container.

Buying Equipment:

Purchasing a canoe or kayak can be a baffling procedure because there are so many different designs and materials. If you are a beginner, a boat that tracks well should be your first concern. The hull depth, the boat length and weight should all be taken into consideration. Buying the right paddle can be confusing, should you buy a one that's made of plastic, aluminum or laminated wood. The length of your paddle depends on your torso and how high the seats are from the water. The PFD (personal flotation device) you buy must fit you comfortably so that it does not bind when paddling. A proper fit should be the only concern when shopping for a PFD.

Wilderness Camping:

This is where common sense is a necessity. You must be self reliant when camping in the wilderness and everything you pack in, must be packed out. Canoe camping is not quite like camping when on a back country hiking excursion, as you can pack more of your own comforts. Consider your canoe size and weight and pack accordingly. Always take a spare paddle and carry the necessary by law safety equipment. Maps and charters are very important, so get the official government maps for the area you will be travelling, and have a compass. The type of tent, sleeping bag and mattress you use is a personal preference, just remember they should be light and able to dry quickly. Proper rain gear and footwear is very important. When packing, separate your food items from the rest of your gear and make sure all foods are in airtight containers, this is a precaution from bear attacks. In camp, store foods away from the sleeping area. Practice no-trace camping, garbage in - garbage out. Precautions should be the norm, not the exception. Be safe, have fun!

BC Canoe & Kayak Adventures & Suppliers


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Freshwater Kayaking and Canoeing in British Columbia