A kayak is basically a long and narrow boat, adequate for sailing rapids or facing long journeys. In this sport, the kayaker is sitting on the boat, maneuvering the kayak with a double blade paddle.
The type of kayaking you practice depends on personal expectations and choice. Just like preferences differ, kayak sizes and models vary according to the challenges each scenario poses.
The origin of kayaking can be traced back hundreds of years to Greenland and the Aleutian archipelago, where the Eskimos built canoes with seal skin extended over a frame made of wood or deer bone, using paddles to sail the seas. Originally, kayaks were created for fishing and hunting. Nowadays, they are used primarily for leisure and sport.
White Water Kayaking
The British were the first to discover the Eskimo kayak, taking it to Europe in 1890. Since then, shape, size and material of the kayak has evolved to its current form and appearance. All the current models are variations and improvements on the original kayak used by the Eskimos at sea.
Classification of rivers according to their difficulty level
- Class I: Easy. Rapid flow with small waves and meanders. Few obstructions, all of which are obvious and easily surmountable with little training. The risk is low and self rescue is easy.
- Class II: Beginner. Direct rapids, with clear and broad canals which are evident without previous exploration. Occasional maneuvering is required, but rocks and medium size waves are easily surmounted by trained paddlers. Little risk for swimmers, and group help is rarely required.
- Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping a canoe. Narrow rapids that often require complex maneuvering and a precise control of the vessel. Big waves and strainers are easily avoidable. Previous exploration is recommended for non-experts. Injury to swimmers is rare and self-rescue is easy, but may require from the group to avoid prolonged swims.
- Class IV: Advanced. Powerful, intense, predictable rapids, that require precise maneuvering in their turbulent waters. Depending on the characteristics of the river, large waves and holes may require fast maneuvering under pressure. Quick eddy turns are necessary to initiate other maneuvers, explore the rapids, or rest. Scouting is often necessary, and water conditions make self rescue a very difficult task. Group assistance is necessary and requires previously developed skills.
- Class V: Expert. Extremely long, violent, and unobstructed rapids, which expose paddlers to big risks. Descents may present large, unavoidable waves and holes, steeps falls, and demanding and complex routes. There may be long distances between backwaters, which requires an excellent physical condition. Scouting is mandatory, and sometimes can be hard. Swimming is dangerous, and rescues are difficult even for experts.
- Class VI: Extreme. This class of rapids is an example of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. Mistakes will lead to serious injuries and rescue may be not possible. For expert teams only, provided that all the necessary precautions have been taken.
"White Water kayaking" is the one practiced in rivers of class III,IV, and V
Chilean rivers are a hot destination for rafting and kayaking fanatics. The rivers that get most of the attention are Bío-Bío and Futaleufú, both of which are class V. The other Chilean rivers fluctuate between classes III and IV.
These are some of the best locations for practicing white whiter kayaking in Chile.
- Maipo River: Región Metropolitana, in the Melocoton sector, 22 km (14 MI) away from Guayacan village. Spring and summer seasons. Classes III and IV.
- Cachapoal River: VI Region oh O'Higgins
- Claro River: VII Region of Maule. Located in Radal 7 Tazas National Park. It is known for its waterfalls.
Araucania and Lakes
- Bio-Bio River: VIII Region of Bio-Bio. Southeast of Los Ángeles. Class V.
- Trancura River: IX Region of Araucania. 14 km (9 MI) away from Pucon. Classes III and IV.
- Futaleufú River: X Region of Los Lagos. 155 km (97 MI) southeast of Chaitén. Class V.
- Baker River: XI Region of Aysén. Located 10 km (6 MI) northeast of Cochrane. Class V
- Espolón River: XI Region of Aysén. It precedes the Futaleufu and it is considered a training place for the latter. Class III.
- Serrano River: 12th Region of Magellan. Located in Torres del Paine National Park. Class I.
White water kayaking is an exciting, challenging, but sometimes dangerous experience. It is practiced in class III, IV and V rivers, and therefore, it requires advanced technical skills, as well as physical fitness, stamina, and psychological preparation. These capabilities must be acquired through training, lessons with a licensed instructor or a qualified school, and of course, lots of practice.
- Choose a river class according to your skills.
- If you are not familiar with the river, seek advice from a knowledgeable guide or from a reputable agency.
- You must be a good swimmer.
- Always use the proper equipment with all the elements of safety.
- Take your time to plan your route carefully. You must know the entrances and exits of the river, weather conditions, current river conditions, the location of falls and obstacles, the location and availability of rescue teams, etc.
- Do not kayak alone.
- Do not kayak near dams or outlets.
- Design an emergency plan so as to know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.
Bearing in mind that kayaking is an outdoor activity, that occurs in direct contact with nature, some rules of ecological behaviour are necessaryTake care of nature.
- Be respectful of nature.
- Do not throw garbage in rivers or lakes. Keep it in a secure place where it will not accidentally fall out.
In order to choose the right equipment, you must bear in mind what type and level of kayaking you intend to do, whether launching yourself into Class III+ rapids, or travelling through calmer waters. If you don't have much experience, take advice from experienced kayakers, reputable agencies, or specialized stores.
This is the basic white water kayaking equipment:
- White water Kayak
- Life jacket (PFD)
- Neoprene suit
- Spray skirt
When buying or renting equipment, seek advice from someone experienced, so as to choose the implements that best suit your needs. You can start by renting until you're sure you like this sport and want to continue practicing it.
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Phone: (56-2) 272 90 95 and 272 42 04
Trips and Lessons
The Essential Whitewater Kayaker: A Complete Course
Author: Jeff Bennett
Whitewater Kayaking: The Ultimate Guide
Author: Ken Whiting , Kevin Barette
Kayak: The Animated Manual of Intermediate and Advanced Whitewater Technique
Author: William Nealy