Hi, I’m Lindsey. I’m a skier with a healthy fear of swift water, but a solid appreciation for adrenaline. I’d been curious about whitewater kayaking for years, but learning this new sport always seemed out of reach with all the gear and skill required to paddle even the mellowest water.
When I had the opportunity to learn to kayak in a structured course from a team of professional female instructors alongside a crew of other ladies, I jumped at the chance! Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe in Bend makes it incredibly easy to get started with their 2 ½ day intro to whitewater kayaking course for women. All gear and river shuttles are included in the course, and they start with the most basic skills and build on them throughout the weekend until you are paddling a stretch of class 2 rapids!
Our three instructors Mo Bergmann, Lauren Mork and Jordan Slaughter were incredibly impressive. They all paddled effortlessly, were excellent (and highly entertaining!) instructors, and handled loading boats and backing up a trailer like it was no big deal. We also had the treat of a slideshow presentation from local kayaker and SheJumper Cait Towse who showed us her personal progression from childhood rafting trips to kayaking the gnarly whitewater she does today.
Friday night was spent learning the basics like boat fit and wet exits. It was with more than a bit of trepidation that I purposely flipped over in my boat in the pool for the first time to practice my wet exit. I was out of the boat before it was even flipped all the way over! I sure was glad to have had the opportunity to practice before getting on the river the next day, as I was the first of our crew to “swim” while crossing an eddy line for the first time.
We learned a ton: choosing and fitting gear; proper paddling form and shoulder awareness; wet exits; boat-maneuvering paddle strokes; basics of fluid dynamics; identifying and avoiding dangerous obstacles; hugging rocks; farting upriver; impersonating spawning salmon; peel outs… all to prepare us for the big day Sunday: doing a run on the gorgeous, turquoise McKenzie river!
Our trip to the McKenzie was a classic. In the van on the way, the jokes and banter grew increasingly rowdy as the caffeine kicked in. Zinc oxide war paint was applied. There was a roadside pit stop. We were amped and ready for a day on the river!
The weather was perfect. Warm and sunny, perfectly complimenting the frosty McKenzie. We geared up with seemingly endless items: bathing suits, wet suits, dry tops, sandals, spray skirts, helmets, sunglasses, PFDs… it is incredible how much you wear for a summer activity! But when you have it all on… you feel strong, tough and invincible!
Once on the water, I was gripped as we approached the first frothy bits of the river. Literally every muscle in my body was tense. When my instructor reminded me to keep my “loose grip / loose hips”, I settled into my boat a little. Looking around, all I saw were smiles and all I heard was giggling! I needed to remember that this was supposed to be fun!
So, back to my healthy fear of swift water: I had mostly-positive experiences on rivers up until a few summers ago, when I (purposely) swam a wave train and messed up the rhythm of my breaths, deeply inhaling water over and over. It was terrifying. So imagine my reaction when I found out that our big accomplishment of the day would be paddling a wave train! What?!?!?! Oh man. Deep breaths!
I had a little “get your head in the game, Lindsey!” talk with myself before approaching the rapid. Out of my mouth ran a string of high-pitched, ridiculous-sounding nervous giggles. Here we go! I paddled as hard as I could in as athletic of a position I could manage in my boat. Dropped over the first wave, stayed upright, success! Looked to my right, where my instructor yelled to me to “keep paddling!” Oh yeah! In my relief, I had completely stopped moving my arms. Looking ahead, I had many more waves to go. Bounce, bounce, bounce, made it! Yeah!
At the takeout, the boat ramp was filled with the buzz of 17 ladies fresh off the river. Excited reliving of the day’s action, things learned, things not quite yet figured out, that was so rad, where should we paddle next, let’s exchange phone numbers!
The dance party in the van on the way home was inevitable.
A huge thank you goes out to Picky Bars and Fearless Baking for keeping us fed, and Atlas Cider for quenching our thirst! Thank you to Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe and SheJumps for a weekend to remember!
You can follow Lindsey’s on-snow adventures at lindseyclark.com.