Weekend Trip Idea: PA Kayak School

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Two summers ago I went through a bit of a kayaking spree. I frequently kayaked around the lake at Marsh Creek on hot summer days (perfect remedy for those of you adjusting to life post-your parent’s pool) and even went on 3 day-2 night kayaking trip down the Delaware River with my buddy Eric.

While I’d obviously kayaked before and like to consider myself in pretty good shape, I was hurting afterwards. Now some of this can’t be helped. No matter how experienced you are or what good shape you’re in, paddling 21 miles in a day is going to wreck you a little bit. That being said, I know for a fact that I didn’t have the correct kayak posture down. My strokes were nowhere near as smooth as Eric’s. He would glide effortlessly and soundlessly through the calm parts of the river, while I would scare away wildlife and soak myself. And, while the Delaware is an easy trip that you don’t need much experience to conquer, there were a few times in the scant rapids we passed through that I found myself, well, stuck. I wasn’t a total mess, mind you, but there was definitely room for improvement, especially if I wanted to take another trip of this caliber, or introduce myself to the world of white water kayaking, both of which are on my agenda.

The good news is that Jim Thorpe is home to the Northeast PA Kayak School, which offers small group kayaking classes every weekend from May 4 & 5 through Labor Day. The school has a variety of classes to chose from, a 1 day course, 2 day course, private one on one lessons and even instructor certifications and river rescue techniques for those already proficient at paddling.

What I especially like about the school, is that there’s an emphasis on beginner to intermediate white water kayak instruction and that they keep a 4-1 instructor to student ratio so that you get the optimum attention and expertise as you learn the ins and outs of kayaking.

The two day class looks like the best bet to me and the kayak school’s website assures me that it is indeed their most popular course. The first day is spent on flat water, Beltsville Lake, where you learn basics as well as wet exits (in the water), eskimo rolls, and proper posture and balance (which is something I definitely need to work on). The second day includes a 5-8 mile paddle on the Lehigh River, where you get to practice the kills you learned the day prior as well as get some experience with actual whitewater.

I had a few questions about the Kayak School and Doug Bowman, one of the instructors was kind enough to answer them for me via email. He said that the majority of students have little to no kayaking experience, which was my initial fear, that you’d be in with a bunch of people who knew what was doing. He continued that this was for the best: people are often taught by friends and come equipped with bad habits (I’d probably put myself into this group) and said he encourages people to take said class before considering purchasing a kayak, which seems like smart advice to me.

The classes last from 9-5 everyday and includes kayak rentals and equipment along with instruction and a lunch. Lodging is not included but there is recommendations on the Kayak School’s websites. Jim Thorpe is an awesome little town in its own right that I’ve recommended several times for a weekend. I asked Doug if there was anyplace he’d recommend visiting/eating since you’d already be in town and he told me to rest assured, with the long hours of paddling that you probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much but eat and sleep afterwards. He recommended The River Walk, Molly Maguires Pub or Alfie’s Pizza for a meal. If you want to stay an extra day to check out the town, take a look at my other Jim Thorpe posts.

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