Interested in Learning to Paddle, But Don't Know Where to Start?

The single most frequent inquiry we get is from people looking to get started paddling, but they aren't sure where to begin - "I'm totally new at this. What's the best lesson for a total beginner?"

The purpose of this blog post is to suggest a "program of study" to help you match the lessons to your needs, and to help you get the most out of the various paddling lessons we offer here at Grand River Kayak.

We teach two basic disciplines : kayaking lessons or stand up paddling lessons

With-in the kayaking category, you can choose between beginner-level recreational kayaking, or more intermediate-to-advanced sea (touring) kayaking skills.

With-in the stand-up paddling category, we offer basic beginner-level Intro to SUP Lessons if you are looking to learn to paddle, and a SUP Yoga program for those looking for a program to provide challenge, balance and midlfullness while at the same time escaping to the outdoors and connecting with the water that surrounds us!

Beyond these lessons, we are happy to make recommendations of other paddling schools where you might find whitewater or river kayaking or SUP lessons, or canoe lessons.

Your first decision is whether or not some form of formal certification is important to you.
If it is, we offer the first two levels of Paddle Canada "Sea Kayak" Skills certification; Paddle Canada Introduction to Sea Kayak Skills, and then Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Skills Level 1. One of the biggest advantages of taking the Paddle Canada certification route is that you get a nationally recognized certification that can then be taken to ANY Paddle Canada designated school or instructor in the country. Paddle Canada ensures that their program is delivered in a competent and consistent fashion.

If not, then you have several "non-certification" lessons you can take with us.
Never fear, the lessons are designed and taught by certified instructors. We incorporate skills from the Paddle Canada curriculum, the nationally recognized PaddleSmart program, and our own experiences as instructors, guides and paddlers for nearly 20 years. Rest assured, you're in good hands!

Here's where we would recommend you start:

1) Intro to Kayak - everything really begins here! If you are new to the sport, just considering whether to pursue kayaking, or have been paddling on your own for a little bit but want some structured learning, Intro to Kayak is the place to start!! We offer Intro to Kayak in two formats - you can come out and take a single 2.5 hour lesson on a Saturday morning (almost EVERY Saturday all summer long) OR you can choose our Intro to Kayak 4-Week Lessons, which happen on weeknights for 4 consecutive weeks. I don't know about you, folks, but I learn best from repetition and feedback - the BIG advantage of the 4-week lesson is that we cover the same basic material as the Saturday morning Intro to Kayak, but we have SIX hours of total time, as opposed to 2.5 hours. More time in the kayak = more time paddling = more time learning & practicing!!

2) Intro to Rescue - In my PERSONAL opinion, THIS is the most IMPORTANT kayak lesson you can take for yourself and for those around you! Period.
In recent years, we've noticed a real reluctance from *new* paddlers to get in the water
and get WET!!! If you have a real aversion to being IN the water, kayaking is probably not the activity for you. In Intro to Rescue we teach the wet exit, the single most essential skill for EVERY kayaker out there. Understanding how to exit the kayak into the water in a calm, controlled fashion in the event of a capsize will save a life!
Understanding what's involved in getting out of the safely, and getting back in again, cannot be stressed enough.
In Intro to Rescue, you will learn not just the "wet exit" but several techniques to get you back in your kayak, both on your own and with the help of a partner.
We also cover basic towing skills and dealing with a sick or injured paddler.
This is the one and only lesson we recommend EVERYONE take, for their own sake.

Don't be THIS guy:


3) Once you have completed Intro to Kayak and Intro to Rescue, the world is your oyster...we have a selection of "Intermediate Skills" workshops like "Improve Your Forward Stroke", "Edging and Bracing", "Directional Control" and "Rolling Primer" as well as "Rough Water for Beginners" (one of MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES)
OR you might choose Private Instruction to focus on specific skills one-on-one with an instructor.
Either way, we are more than happy to help you get the most out of your paddling experience!

By the time you have completed the lessons we have to offer, you may be looking for more intermediate/advanced skills that include overnight camping, dealing with coastal conditions/tides, advanced rescue or recovery techniques....if we can't help you directly, we can help find you a qualified instructor who can!

If you have ANY questions about the lessons above, or any other paddling-related question you'd like to ask, feel free to contact us!

Ed & Tanya Sullivan

Ed Sullivan
Ed Sullivan


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