A group of students in whitewater kayaks learning how to paddle them.
Location: Grahams Grove Park, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Photo credit: Matt DeLong

Beginner River Kayak Skills

Discipline: River Kayaking Stream: Skills Development

The Beginner River Kayak Skills course is designed to teach participants to paddle on Class I Rivers. Emphasis is placed on understanding the principles of moving water and kayaking safety.


Participants should be encouraged to take a Basic First Aid Course and a Swift Water Rescue Course if they wish to continue towards the intermediate level.

Upon completion of the course, participants should be able to confidently navigate Class I Rivers in a group setting.

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Course Overview

Typical Course Length

16 hours of instruction or approximately 2 days.

Course Water Class

This course runs in Class-1 conditions which are described as:

Non-challenging waters with mild wind effect (0-20 km/h or 0–11 knots), little or no current (0-1 km/h or 0–0.5 knots), uninterrupted easy landing options, and ready access to land-based assistance. Sea state is calm to light chop.

Learn more about our water classification system.

Course Topics

Safety Skills
  • Wet exit
  • Rafting
  • Self-rescue
  • Bow rescue
  • Assisted rescue
  • Throw-bag rescue
  • River signals
Paddling Skills
  • Edging
  • Balance and posture
  • Forward and reverse strokes
  • Sweep stroke
  • Draw stroke
  • Stern draw and stern pry
  • Low and high braces
  • Forward ferry
  • Eddy turn
  • Introduction to forward surf
Safety Skills
  • River hazards and river reading
  • Boat design and outfitting and equipment
  • Clothing
  • Safety equipment
  • Paddling and surfing etiquette
  • Trip planning
Course Prerequisites
  • Skills Certification
    • None
  • Paddling Experience
    • Minimal exposure to kayaks is expected for this course, it is intended as an introduction to moving water, participants who have never been in a kayak would likely find value in taking a Flatwater River Kayak Skills course.
  • Paddling Gear
    • The kayak must have sufficient buoyancy, float bag/bulkhead, to float after a wet exit.
    • A helmet approved for use in moving water.
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