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The Class

Whitewater 101 will teach you the skills needed to run entry-level whitewater and gain experience in a safe environment. No paddling experience is necessary. Each class will teach you new skills and build on what you’ve already learned. You’ll learn basic paddle strokes, how to exit a kayak safely while you’re upside down, how to roll a kayak back upright if you flip over, and much more. All activities are challenge-by-choice: we will encourage you to push your boundaries, but no one will ever force you to do something you're uncomfortable with.
Classes will be held Tuesdays evenings for six weeks. There will be optional opportunities to practice skills with instructors and safety boaters on the weekends depending on interest and availability. The majority of sessions will be held in Columbia at the Columbia Canal or on the Saluda River. After graduation there is a weekend trip to the Lower Nantahala River near Bryson City, NC. This trip often has an optional day on Friday for students who cannot make the main Saturday paddle on the Nantahala. One Saturday of the class will likely be a day trip to the Lower Green near Saluda, NC. 


Expect to be challenged. Whitewater kayaking is challenging and can be scary for some people. We will always be there to keep you safe and on track, but you’ll have to work.
Expect to be treated with respect at all times. We take this class seriously and want everyone to be comfortable throughout the class.
Expect to have fun! You’ll meet new people – other students, instructors and safety boaters – who will all be part of your introduction to whitewater paddling. The class will grow together and have a lot of opportunity for fun.


We expect you to be on time and ready to go when class begins. That means arriving a few minutes early to get your gear on and be ready to begin when class starts. Let us know as early as possible if you will not be able to make a session, need accommodation to meet us somewhere, or if anything else comes up. The more time we have, the more likely we can work something out so you do not miss anything.
We expect you to be respectful of everyone involved in the class. The instructors and safety boaters are giving their time to you because they love this sport and want you to love it too. The other students may be progressing more slowly or quickly than you and we do our best to make sure everyone has something to work on, nobody gets left behind, and nobody gets bored.  Enjoy the progression!
We expect you to put your best effort into the class so you get the most out of it. Paddling isn’t always a natural thing; many ideas can be counterintuitive. It takes hard work to train your body to react well to the challenges of whitewater. If you put in the effort, you’ll become a confident paddler and have lots of fun doing it!


To participate in the class you must have all required gear. You can bring your own or sign up for a gear package through the class. If you get a gear package we will provide you with the necessities and any other helpful items where possible. If you use our gear we will transport your kayak to and from class. You will be responsible for smaller items (helmet, PFD, skirt, paddle, any paddling clothing). At the end of the course, gear should be returned in good condition with normal wear being acceptable. If you bring your own gear, we will inspect it to make sure it is appropriate for the class.

  • A whitewater kayak (included with Gear Package)

  • A helmet (included with Gear Package)

  • A paddle (included with Gear Package)

  • An appropriate Personal Floatation Device (PFD) – life jacket (included with Gear Package)

  • A skirt that fits you and your kayak (included with Gear Package)

  • A whistle (it’s the law and you can get a ticket for being on the water without one) (included with Gear Package)

  • Appropriate footwear – river shoes or booties are preferred. No flip flops.

Helpful items:

  • Nose plugs

  • Splash top/spray jacket

  • Cold weather gear – semi-dry or drytop. Neoprene tops and pants/shorts are helpful too. The Saluda is cold. The Nantahala is colder. Wearing the right clothing will help give you the comfort and confidence to be successful on the river. Instructors and safety boaters can help guide you if you wish to purchase cold weather gear.

See our gear page for more information on all the equipment.



​The price for the class is $295 per person. This includes all instruction. The price with a gear package is $395. This includes all instruction plus a kayak, helmet, paddle, PFD, skirt, and whistle to use during the course. You will have to provide your own footwear. Instructors and safety boaters may loan out cold weather gear from their personal collections when appropriate and possible. The Nantahala trip involves staying overnight one or two nights. We will have sites reserved at a campground, but there are also affordable hotels nearby. Trip lodging/meals/river pass ($5) is at your expense.


We are excited that you want to learn to paddle whitewater, but before we go any further we need to go over a few things so we are all on the same page and there are no unexpected surprises.

  • Whitewater 101 is primarily geared for adults.  Students 16 and under must be accompanied by a parent who is also enrolled in the class and present at each class.​  If you are interested in a clinic geared for kids, we highly recommend contacting H2O dreams in Saluda, NC.  They offer great classes & multi-day clinics.

  • The use of alcohol or drugs before or during class is prohibited. Violate this and you will be immediately expelled from the class without a refund. 

  • Gear Packages are sold as complete packages (boat, pfd, helmet, skirt & paddle) . We do not offer an option for a-la-cart gear selection. 

  • If you are going to use your personal gear for the class our instructors will inspect your gear at orientation. They will inspect the gear for safety, suitability for the whitewater environment, and suitability for you. Your gear must pass their inspection, before you can use it during class. If you have any questions you can email us at  Feel free to send photos of the gear in question. This policy is for your safety and comfort.  

  • Our instructors will be constantly assessing your progress and comfort on the water.   We will not place you in a situation that we do not think you are ready for.  Before out of town trips (Nantahala) the instructors will assess your progress and comfort to determine if you are ready. If we don't think you are ready, you will not be taken on that trip. We will discuss options with you for your future progression. This policy is for your safety.


Let us know we would be happy to hear from you.

Thanks for your question! We will get back to you as soon as we can.

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