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So I have this son (10 years old) and daughter (12 years old).  They are both into paddling, mostly flat water till now, but both are starting to get that ‘bug’ to try whitewater.  Cool!  Though I do have some years experience in teaching the whitewater progression, I have often dreaded teaching my own kids.  Just one of those things: you can teach a stranger’s kids, but your own, hmmm.  The good news is that they have a lot of paddling experience behind them, they’re both strong paddlers.  That lets me get right to the self rescue and the moving water skills part of the program.

Teaching self rescue skills is fun.  Flipping the kayak over, having them wet exit, body surfing, rope throwing, t-rescues and more are fun if you make it fun.  The hard part sometimes is the understanding the flow, the moving water familiarization that helps kids learn how a kayak behaves in moving water.  The good news is that the Dynamic Duo is perfect for that!  What I consider successful in teaching kids, is getting them to a point where “muscle memory” kicks in and it all becomes a natural reaction.  Head out into current, they look where they’re turning, have active blade in the water, lean in the proper direction and have the momentum to carry them out into the current.

Its these types of skills that are telling in how effective you’ve taught and how quickly they are adapting to moving water.  For most instructors, teaching this skill set is typically by demonstration and individual practice.  Quite often leading to that yard sale equipment chase down rivers on every flip as students make their first attempts.  The Duo helps you do the demonstration AND allows the student to try their first attempts solo, but with you ready for that potential flip; all the while chatting them through the progress.  Indeed most instructors can shout out instruction in the eddy before the student goes into the current, but once in, many times the student leaves the zone where communications is possible.

Sam’s first time out this year, all be it not his first time in whitewater, allowed me to sit in the eddy with him, chat him through the visualization process and watching his every stroke.  I caught him not leaning, not being aggressive enough going across the eddy lines and not placing the paddle quite right to accomplish stability.  After three or four attempts at the eddy line, we were off down the river.  I chatted him through planting an active blade through breaking waves, the aggressive lean as we eddied’ out in a fast current, talked him through the river features he needs recognize and avoid and event taught him the basics of play.

We side surfed, front surfed and peeled in and out all afternoon.  By the end of the afternoon, quite often I just let him do all the paddle work.  In a single afternoon Sambo was able to eddy out, get back in, drive through 5 foot standing waves and front surf.  I’ll be doing a couple more weekend trips with Sam in the Duo until the water gets a bit warmer for that potential wet exit and swim then he’s on his own.  Taking my weight out of the equation will be the next step as I will be putting him into a Sidekick, pretty much the equivalent of the bow of the Duo.

Two big thumbs up for our Kokatat dry suits!  Both Sam and I have suits that kept us dry through the day as ice still passes us by occasionally!

Check out a video of the day with Sambo!