Standard lesson plan and support for the novice jungle kayaker


     A) Theory at the classroom:
  •  River currents

               Identify different currents in a river

“Eddy currents”

 Effects of changing currents on the stability and directional issue of the kayak

  • Kayak handling

              Forward and back “sweep stroke”, “propelling strokes”

              Sharp turns

  • 3. River maneuvers

                     The “Ferry across” maneuver, (crossing a river)

                     The “Eddy Out ” maneuver, (stopping) paddle stroke associated, 

                     The “Peel Out ” maneuver, (reentering) dealing with oncoming current

  • 4. Safety briefing and group protocol in the river

                   River conditions and current water levels          

                   Awareness of type of hazards       

                   Group protocol at a hazard

                   Self rescue, group protocol



        Ideal Body posture : “Combat position” 

When putting maximum power into your strokes you should be sitting upright pushing your tail bone into the back rest while  firmly pushing  your heals into the foot rests,  leaning slightly forward. This is the best way to connect to the boat.

        How to maneuver your boat :

Forward sweep stroke

When planning to use your paddle stroke to turn your boat , the blade is put far away from the side of the boat to get better leverage.

Now we sweep the paddle from the front to the back . Paddle on the left , you turn right  , direct command from the coach : “forward left !”   

Paddle on the right, you turn left  , direct command from the coach :  “ forward right !”

 Back sweep stroke  

The back stroke is used to pivot the nose of your boat into the desired new direction and is usually followed up with a forward stroke .

Back Paddle on your right, you pivot right , direct command from coach : “back right !”

Back Paddle on your left  you pivot left , direct command from coach : “ back left !”. 

In River, pre departure practice

Enter the river, Position yourself up stream at the bow of the boat  pulling your boat into the water.

How to get into the boat

( turn your back to the boat and put you behind in first and then swing your legs in ) Avoid stepping into your boat and always hold on to your paddle throughout the process.

Ferry across the river, ( getting across the river without drifting down stream) When paddling across the river current , you must  point upstream in  an angle towards the desired direction  taking the pressure  of the current in consideration . The stronger the current the steeper the angle facing upstream.  Look where you want to go and adjust the angle as you drift across to get you there. Pitfall for beginners , the entry angle into the current is to shallow and the nose of the boat is pushed down stream. (make a U turn and start again)

Eddie out maneuver ( stop going down stream by making a U-turn and paddling  into an Eddy)

 “Eddy out !” is the direct command from the coach asking to come to an immediate stop.  When the U-Turn is completed you are facing upriver in a light opposite current zone (eddy) which are formed downstream of a rock, island or anything protruding into the main current . This maneuver is always accomplished by making a U -Turn. 

Eddy out left !”, is directed to an eddy on the left shore (” left” is always in relation to the current, facing down stream left ) .

Eddy out right !”, is directed to an eddy on the right shore.

TIP:  Just use forward strokes on one side to initiate and complete your U-turn.  

“Peel Out”direct command from coach (leave the Eddy and enter  facing the current , once completely in the current ferry across as far as you need to clear any obstacles and then  back stroke to pivot downstream).

      Practicing  360 degree turns

Alternate Back stroke on one side and forward stroke on the other side will accomplish this.

    Balance  when changing currents :

Tilt your boat away from any new current you encounter, it  prevents the current to hit the deck of the boat forcing it on its side.  

“Hug the rock” “Lean downstream” if you are getting pushed into something by the current. This will lift the upstream side of your boat allowing the flowing water to go under the boat resulting in less pressure on the side of your boat

 Practicing drifting sideways (perpendicular to the current), maintaining river center position while making 180 degree turns 

When You become a swimmer

 Hold on to your paddle (if you can), lay on your back and drift with your feet pointing down stream (so you can push off and dont get your feet caught on anything ). Never stand up in  strong current !  You do not need to hold on to your boat when close to shore .  We will take care of your boat.   Your goal is to drift and find  the next eddy , turn over and swim in .   Listen to coaches  instructions to help you find the eddy.  We will then reunite you with your boat. Other kayakers are ask to please eddy out immediately as soon as we have a swimmer.

Self Rescue in deep water

Flip the boat back over, if it is self-bailing.    Hold your paddle at the opposite side of the boat parallel to the edge, pull yourself across holding the opposite edge, until you lay across the center of the boat , then flip your body over  and drop your behind into the seat and swing your legs in. To make it easier  you can also climb over the bow of the guides boat and slide into your boat. 

River navigation in moderate to difficult (relative) conditions.

    As a group :

There is always a “Lead Guide” and a “Sweep Guide” and more depending on conditions and number of participants.

One guide enters the water first and patrols the entry line and keeps everyone upstream as the situation dictates,  it is usually “Single file” behind the lead guide. Use  the kayaker(s) downstream of you as reference,  be sure when you enter rapids , sharp turns etc. to keep distance from your fellow kayakers to avoid a pile up.  On very difficult turns etc. a guide may be facing you to observe as you enter the task,  just pass,  unless otherwise instructed.

Expecting a  particular difficult passages the guide will ask the group to “Eddy Out” ,  so we can navigate 1 person at a time. A guide is positioned to assist.  When it is your turn you  “Peel Out “ ,be sure to wait for the GO signal (verbal, paddle signal, whistle) . After  passing the hazard you are expected to eddy out , regroup until the guide can take the lead again.

To ad to your reaction time the lead guide from time to time will call out (“go left, go right” )  to point the favorable side of the river to paddle on.

When approaching  a difficult passage do it cautiously but deliberately, know that you can “Eddy out” anytime you want. In Class 3 + it is very common to even stop and inspect an unknown rapid before entering.   When paddling through overhanging trees etc. keep your head low leaning forward .  Do not use your hand to block oncoming branches.  When going through very narrow passages, you can pick up speed before hand and then glide through pointing the paddle forward using the back blade as a rudder .

These are just a few tips , when you get on the river most of this will be easier then in theory .

So don’t sweat it and have fun with it .

Looking  forward paddling with you

Aidan Schmer

Director of Activities , Instructor

Chiang Mai Mountain Biking & Kayaks