But taking kayak lessons a good idea
If you’ve got a sporty sense of adventure and a bit of up-front money to invest in the equipment, whitewater kayaking is a much more accessible sport than most people imagine. And it can easily fill your weekends for an entire summer.
To quickly address the standard two concerns/fears: you won’t hit your head and you won’t get stuck in your boat. On the other hand, the startup costs are comparatively cheap (about $2,000 for a boat, paddle, PFD and helmet) and the ongoing expenses are negligible.
There are plenty of places to paddle in Ontario, but you might want to start with lessons. The Madawaska Kanu Centre offers pool sessions that cover basic paddling and rolling techniques. They run on Wednesdays and Sundays through April and May. Check for location and schedule information at owl-mkc.ca/mkc/toronto_pool_sessions.htm.
Beyond the pool, nothing beats the rush of actual whitewater. MKC, a three-hour drive from Toronto, offers weekend clinics and weeklong courses throughout the summer (owl-mkc.ca/mkc/courses.htm).
Students range in age from teens to retirees, with few barriers to entry beyond an ability to get over your fears. Grey hair is a regular sight wherever kayakers congregate, and on the river, newbies will be impressed with the general feeling of friendliness and concern. If you need some advice or an eye kept out for you, the guy in the next boat is likely to be obliging.
Kayaking is a sport of agility, not strength or endurance. It offers the rush of downhill skiing, the thrill of surfing, a sense of connection to the real forces of nature and it’s a total adrenaline rush. There are plenty of places to “put in” in Ontario, Quebec and the northern U.S. states, usually with camping or hotels close by.
On another note: If you can’t see yourself in a kayak but still feel the allure of the river, keep in mind that rafting on the Ottawa River is cheaper early in the season, and the waves are bigger. Much bigger. (Check out owl-mkc.ca/owl/high_water_special.htm for details.)