Guided River-board lessons

Pilar Yacht Club
2884 Highway 68
Pilar, NM
See map: Google Maps
From Santa Fe, take Hwy 84/285 to Espanola. In Espanola, take Hwy 68 toward Taos. Continue through Embudo and Dixon along the river, into Pilar. Note the Rio Grande Visitor's Center on the right, and the Pilar Yacht Club on the left approximately 1/4 mile North of the Visitor's Center.
Start Time: 
Saturday, July 17, 2010 - 1:00pm - 5:00pm

River Boarding is easier than kayaking, and more fun than Rafting!  This 1/2 day lesson will introduce you to the basic river-running skills needed to riverboard on class III whitewater.

River Boarding in Pilar NM from Nina Perea on Vimeo.

Here's how it works!

  • You lay on what looks like a souped up, modified boogie-board. It's hard plastic moulded to fit your torso, with handlebars to hold on to.
  • You wear dive-fins to propel yourself through the water.  In general, when you're moving faster than the current, you have control. When you're moving the same speed as the current, it's in control.  For the most part, we float and go with the flow, and use our dive fins for quick burst of speed, power, stability and control.

The 3 Golden Rules of River-boarding

  • Always hold on to the board - the board gives you hundreds of pounds of floatation, which is quite a bit considering our bodies are virtually weightless in water. The board is your vessel; hold on to it.
  • Always keep your body 'inside' of the board - the board is contoured to keep your torso, including hips and elbows, 'inside' of the board when laying on top of it.  By keeping your body 'inside' of the board, you remain protected from rocks.
  • Never stand in the current - This rule applies to all whitewater activities, from kayaking to rafting and river boarding.  Whitewater is made from water flowing over boulders. Stepping between boulders could result in a foot getting stuck between boulders. Avoid this hazard when river-boarding by always holding on to the board, never resting your weight on your feet (use the board instead) and swimming completely to shore when needed.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Do you hit rocks?
A: Sometimes, but consider this: water will flow around rocks when ever possible, rather than over them, because that is the past of least resistance. Flowing water will generally take us into deepeer water around rocks. There are occasionally rocks just below the surface.  For this reason, we suit up with a wet-suit and wrestling knee pads, soccer shin guards, life jacket and whitewater-specific helmet.  An expert guide will help you learn to read the river and escort you through the rapids.

Q: Is the water cold?
A: The water temperatures on the Rio Grande Racecourse can range from 50 - 85 degrees during river-boarding season. We issue high-quality "4/3" wetsuits for all trips, which include 4 mm of neoprene over the torso for insulation, flotation and protection, and 3mm of neoprene over the arms and legs.

Q: Does it hurt when you fall?
A: We never really "fall" when we're river-boarding, since we're already laying on the board and laying is arguably the most stable of all positions. Laying on the board, with a firm grip on thehandle-bars, feet behind us and slightly wider than our torso, makes your body and board SUPER stable!  The board is super easy to "roll" as well, simply by twisting your body and pulling the board underneath of you; once the board is underneath of you, it's buoyancy will lift you up and out of the water like a feather.

Q: Do I have to be a strong swimmer?
A: Being a strong swimmer certainly helps, although one need not be a competitive swimmer.  We will provide a personally-sized whitewater-specific PFD (personal flotation device) for those up to 250 pounds.  Your guide will instruct you on the proper fit of the PFD and other equipment.  Your tour will begin with a 30 minute orientation, which includes a safety-briefing, tips on reading the river and overview of how to swim with dive-fins.  The board, PFD and wetsuit all provide flotation to assist in swimming,while the dive-fins help propel you through the water. Proper swimming technique, usually a freestyle leg-kick technique, helps maintain speed and control while avoidingfatigue.

Q: How long does a trip last?
A: Depending on the flows of the Rio Grande Racecourse, most trips last about 3 hours.

Q: What is the character of the Rio Grande Racecourse?
A: The Rio Grande Racecourse is the mecca for whitewater rafting in New Mexico.  The Racecourse is 6 miles of mostly class III, with quite a few class IIs.  At higher flows, the Racecourse can have class IVs, although we do not offer river boarding trips when flows areabove 2,000 cfs (cubic feet per second is a measure of volume of water at any second).  The class II & III rapids are fun and playful and get better as you learn to maneuver your board.

Q: Does NMKI offer river-boarding year-around?
A: The Rio Grande Racecourse is the most suitable location for river-boarding, although we need a minimum of 500cfs to have the most fun river-boarding. Anything less can be a rocky-ride on a river-board.  The season usually runs from May - June, and sometimes into July when we have warmer water flowing through the Rio Grande Racecourse.

Q: How long has NMKI been offering guide training?
A: In 2009, we hired the person who brought River Boarding to the US, Shane Boling, to teach us all about river-boarding.  It was a thorough 4 day course which included a number of rescues, "towing"scenarios, what to do when dive fins are lost, surfing, ferrying, and more.  We were hooked from the beginning and have been river-boarding ever since!

Q: What credentials do your guides have?
A: In addition to the training from Shane Boling, our guides are whitewater kayak instructors, first and foremost.  While they are different sports, we kayak year-around, and have a thorough knowledge of the Racecourse at all different levels. As the river rises and falls, rocks can be covered, or exposed, createing different lines that should be well-known by the guides. Whitewater kayaking is also quite a bit more challenging and requires a greater knowledge of river dynamics, currents, friendly- and unfriendly features, and more.  All NMKI guides are certified kayak instructors by the American Canoe Association.

$100.00 Before Tax
A $25 non-refundable deposit is needed to reserve your spot in class. Classes are booked on a first-paid, first-reserved basis, so send in your deposit today!

I chose NMKI because of Kelly's professionalism and strong attention to detail.  I find this very important as it relates to safety.  I would never trust anyone other than Kelly to provide instruction to myself or for my 12 year old son, Navada.  We felt very safe and well guided under the direction of Kelly.  I would tell others if they ever hesitated to try kayaking, River Boarding or any kind of paddling to first take a course with Kelly and rest assured they will be in good hands.

Nina Perea
My history with water has been very negative.  When I was a kid, I almost drowned.  Since then, I've found myself avoiding situations where I felt vulnerable to dangerous waters.  Since my courses with Kelly, I have gained both confidence and necessary knowledge that allows me to finally enjoy the water again.  Never would I have thought I would be going down class III whitewater rapids on a boogie board.  Thank you Kelly.  You have peaked my interest in taking more whitewater courses.
Nina Perea


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