Two guys gather up to talk while in their whitewater kayaks on a river.
Location: Medway River, Nova Scotia. Photo credit: Karl Vollmer

Recreational River Kayak Skills

Discipline: River Kayaking Stream: Skills Development

The Recreational Kayak Skills level is designed to introduce the novice or relatively inexperienced kayaker to paddling moving water and class I rivers in an open cockpit or sit-on-top, non-river kayak.


The emphasis is on mastering the fundamentals of river kayaking, along with a strong grounding in water safety and safe kayaking practices.

Find a School  Search for a River Kayaking Course  Find a River Kayaking Instructor

Course Overview

Typical Course Length

4 hours of instruction on flat water, 8 hours in current for a total of 12 hours 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
  • Lifting and carrying a kayak
  • Self-rescue
  • Assisted rescue
  • Throw-bag rescue
Paddling Skills
  • Balance and posture
  • Forward and reverse strokes
  • Sweep stroke
  • Draw stroke
  • Edging
  • Low brace
  • Forward ferry
  • Eddy turn
  • Introduction to forward surf
Theory and Knowledge
  • River hazards and river reading
  • Boat design and outfitting and equipment
  • Clothing
  • Safety equipment
  • Trip planning
Course Prerequisites
  • Skills Certification
    • None
  • Paddling Equipment
    • 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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