John Bell, of San Carlos, California, is into staying trim and fit through exercise. He’s big on mountain biking and kicking the soccer ball around.
But neither of those work the upper body. And using the machines at the gym or fitness center? “It’s boring,” says John. (And we agree!)
What drives John’s interest in exercise? “I need to be active because I love food!”
John had been on commercial whitewater rafting trips and realized he could enjoy the fun, excitement, and exercise of whitewater on his own in a kayak. “Whitewater kayaking is a great way to get exercise while being entertained, too,” says John. “Your obliques and your arms get worked while you’re having fun.”
With help from his girlfriend, Risa, John researched kayaks online and found that inflatable kayaks are easier to handle, more stable, and more forgiving than hard-hull kayaks. “Inflatables are easier to exit, too,” says John. No Eskimo rolls for John.
John considered the Sea Eagle 385ft FastTrack but chose the Eagle 380x Explorer kayak instead. He immediately took a test run in nearby San Francisco Bay. Next day John kayaked in a local lake and worked on his suntan. “Whitewater was next,” he says.
Into Satan’s Cesspool
So with no kayaking experience, John and Risa soon found themselves roaring down Class III rapids in Satan’s Cesspool in the South Fork of the American River. “It was a blast,” he reports.
Following commercial rafting parties helped them find the best path through the rapids but they were left to chart their own course, too. “We definitely made some mistakes,” John says. “We bounced off rocks and went into some rapids in the wrong position. But the inflatable Sea Eagle is wide and forgiving.” Good thing!
John’s Advice for Other Newbies
John shares some advice for other first-time kayakers. He suggests getting in the right position as you enter rapids and is planning practice runs to hone his technique. He and Risa found that the heavier person should sit up front. And the person in the back seat can steer using the oar like a rudder.
His experience with commercial rafting lead him to an interesting comparison: 6-man rafting in Class IV rapids is comparable to 2-man kayaking in Class III rapids. He also found that wearing a helmet is simply a good idea. “Not so much because of the kayaking,” he says, but because, in the frenzy of shooting the rapids, you just might get a bonk on the head from your partner’s paddle.