Did you come to the Introduction to Paddling at Riley’s Lock? Now what? Where can you learn more and gain more skills? One hundred and sixty-five people signed waivers for the July 10 Family paddle and there were more who showed up with their own boats or borrowed boats.
Calleva offers kayak lessons for children and adults right at Riley’s Lock. Both Calleva and Valley Mill Camp offer paddling during summer camps for children. If you google “kayak lessons on the Potomac River” or “canoe lessons on the Potomac River“, you will get other companies who can teach you some skills. Some are local and some are up near Harper’s Ferry, WV. I’ve seen Prince Georges County Recreation offer canoe and kayak lessons on Lake Artemesia in the Spring.
Some of the companies are just whitewater, so if you are just interested in flat water paddling, make sure you select the right company.
On July 30th, the Canoe Cruisers Association is offering a class “Canoeing Basics for Rivers and Lakes“. This is a very affordable one-day class at Riley’s Lock taught by an ACA (American Canoe Association) instructor. This class is for adults and possibly teens who are especially interested in taking this 6 hour class.
If you are already a skilled flat water canoeist, the CCA is offering Whitewater Canoeing on August 21, 2016.
I did meet many people on Sunday who didn’t want any tips or instruction in paddling, but just by looking at them, it was clear they didn’t know what they were doing. Taking lessons not only helps you enjoy the sport more, but lessons always have a safety component that will help you be a safer paddler. And especially if you are paddling with children, then you really want to be a safe paddler and not depend on things always going right.
One thing that I haven’t mentioned but is a no brainer. You need to be a good swimmer to be a safe paddler. So make sure your swimming skills are good as well as your children’s.
Once you own a boat, joining a club, like the Canoe Cruisers Association is a good way to meet other paddlers and learn more from other members.
Even before I bought a boat, the first thing I bought was my own life vest, so I didn’t have to depend on the horse collar life vest that my friend was lending me. You want to buy something that is Coast Guard approved and comfortable, since if you are paddling, you will always be wearing a life vest. I bought my own life vest new, but I bought a bunch of Coast Guard approved children’s life vests at Value Village thrift store. (Children’s vests are sized by the child’s weight, so make sure you know how much your child weighs.)
The second thing I bought was racks for my car, so I could carry a boat. Many cars come with racks so you might already have some or you might have to buy a whole new set. I was lucky in that I started paddling when cars had gutters on them, and everyone had Quick and Easy roof racks that you bought and screwed into 2 x 4 pieces of lumber. Now buying a roof rack is pretty expensive. Thule and Yakima make good options.
If you are interested in Canoeing or Kayaking, then buying life vests and roof racks is a start. There are places to rent canoes and kayaks around the DC area, or further outside of the immediate area, but after a while you will want to get your own boat (or boats) and go to more interesting places which don’t have rental boats.
Here are links to help you buy used canoes.