Too often people stop into Ten Mile Creek Kayak in Frisco thinking they can just rent a kayak or paddleboard and hop into a river or creek and start paddling.
“That’s crazy,” said store owner Matti Wade. He goes through a series of questions to assess skills any time someone comes in his store thinking about paddling Ten Mile Creek.
“I’m adamant about safety,” said Wade.
People often think that if they have kayaked on a lake they are ready for a river, not realizing the skills involved in the sport.
It starts with an ability to read the water and knowing how a kayak will respond to current and river features. Certain features are more prone to grab a boat and flip it, and a less knowledgeable kayaker can easily get themselves in trouble.
Before even considering getting into a river, any aspiring kayaker should first learn some essential skills on flatwater, like a pool or pond. There are a number of ways to avoid flipping in the first place.
“You definitely want to get some instruction first,” said Wade, who also teaches lessons.
Wade believes that learning how to roll is the most important part of kayaking.
In terms of safety, “it’s no different from learning how to break in a car,” he said.
But rolling is not a skill that can easily be self-taught. It involves a series of precise movements, and most importantly, being comfortable upside down.
One way to get started is with a pool session. Silverthorne Recreation Center offers open pool hours for kayakers every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. through July. Breckenridge Recreation Center offers a similar program earlier in the year.
Wade often takes students on area flatwater ponds to start, and Colorado Mountain College also offers beginner whitewater courses. The next one starts on June 19.
“It’s a lot harder than I thought,” said Stephan Nicolas of Breckenridge about his first pool session. After the hour-and-a-half session he felt a little more comfortable with the concepts, but still didn’t quite have his roll down. Nicholas, a triathlete, wanted to learn how to kayak to compete in the GoPro Mountain Games.
“I always try for the hardest thing out there,” said Nicholas. But after talking to Wade, he’s decided to do the paddle portion of the mountain games in a sit-on-top kayak, rather than being inclosed in a hardshell.
Nicholas said the pool session really helped him get comfortable being upside down in a kayak. Using goggles allowed him to see the moves and set up properly.
Wade pointed out that being able to do it in a pool is one thing, but being out in moving water is something else entirely. He cautions that getting comfortable takes practice and patients.
To check out some pros doing it right, consider catching some of the GoPro Mountain Games kayak and stand-up paddleboard races in Vail this weekend. Also, Ten Mile Creek Kayaks is hosting its annual Ten Mile One Mile fest Saturday and Sunday. Events include a Saturday night rodeo in the play hole off of Frisco Main Street and a race on lower Ten Mile Creek on Sunday.