Not so gently down the stream

Tanika Snyder

Center teaches kayaking basics

Valerie Hugebeck and Sue Dahl practice rolling their kayaks in the rec center lap pool.

Credit: Andrew popik

Ever heard of a spray skirt?

You would if you kayak or if you’ve taken Beginning Kayaking through the Adventure Center at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

The Adventure Center offers Beginning Kayaking as an instructional two-day clinic, which began Feb. 15.

A spray skirt is used to keep the inside of the kayak dry, said senior trip leader Chris Wing. A person places his or her body through the hole in the spray skirt and attaches the skirt to the kayak.

“Kayaking is great,” Wing said. “Once I’m in the river, I don’t think of anything else. It’s what I love.”

However, for beginners, there’s an awful lot to think about before standing up to mother nature in a single-seated, 9-foot boat with one paddle.

“The most important thing is that participants learn from a qualified instructor,” Wing said. “We are certified, and safety is a must.”

The clinic introduces participants to many kayaking techniques including braces, proper boat fit and adjustment, forward and backward strokes, safe and effective wet-exit technique, T-rescues and the Eskimo roll.

“Some things we’ll do in the first class are naming different parts of the kayak and practicing wet exits when the boat is upside down,” Wing said. “Basically in the second class, we teach the Eskimo roll. Particularly, this clinic teaches the most basic skills you could learn.”

Although participating in the clinic won’t award a certification in kayaking, it will present all the basic skills needed to become successful.

“I’ve been kayaking before — I would just like to get more proficient at it,” clinic participant Sue Dahl said. “I want to get more confident and improve my skills. I really want to know what to do in an emergency situation.”

Dahl said she has been interested in kayaking for five years, and she and her husband own their own kayaks.

“We’ve kayaked in the Cuyahoga River, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and North Carolina,” Dahl said. “It’s so much fun. It’s very peaceful and quiet, and I love the wildlife around. It’s a great sport.”

Although Dahl has never been involved in any kayaking classes or clinics, she plans on attending the next open pool kayaking sessions.

Open pool kayaking sessions are not classes. There is an instructor present, but participants are permitted to practice any kayaking techniques of their choice and at their own pace.

“The open pool session is completely informal,” Wing said. “It’s great for people who don’t know if they’re going to like it or not. Open pool is also recommended for anyone interested in going on any kayaking trips we have.”

No personal kayaks are allowed in the open pool sessions or Beginning Kayaking. Three lanes are reserved in the lap pool and all equipment is provided.

The next Beginning Kayaking clinic is April 5 and 12 and costs $18 per member or student and $25 per nonmember. The next open pool session is March 8 and costs $6 per member or student and $11 per nonmember.

Wing said the clinics generally take around five participants and registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To register for a clinic or trip or to view a schedule of Adventure Center activities, visit or call the Adventure Center office at (330) 672-ROCK. For other kayaking tips or advice, go to

Contact fitness reporter Tanika Snyder at [email protected].