Intro to Whitewater

Whitewater Kayaking Made Easy (classroom)

Kelly has a way of transferring his passion for kayaking to everyone who attends a talk, lesson or paddles with him.  A very patient and conscientious instructor, I always feel safe during lessons on and off the river.  Not only does Kelly teach the sport, he finds ways to help you find your niche and meet others who share the same interest.  In addition, the other instructors he brings along are equally as knowledgeable and helpful.  If you haven't tried kayaking or want to hone your skills, this is a great place to start.

Susan Brockway  -  Los Alamos National Laboratory
Kelly is a terrific instructor!  He's extremely patient, manages to maintain a sense of humor, is very safety-conscious (a good thing on the river!), and has some unique tricks to help his students, be it learning to roll or learning to read a river.  He explains things clearly and simply.  He also seems to have the ability to get inside the heads of his students to help them get to where they need to be.
Deborah DeMack  -  Attorney

Intro to Whitewater, Weekend Adventure

I was a self-taught kayaker who constantly got caught in situations that were either dangerous or beyond my skill.  In fact, I almost gave up the sport multiple times before I met Kelly.  After taking his courses, I found that I was in much better control on the river and began to enjoy it more.  I never realized how much technique went into boat control and reading the river.  Kayaking changed for me from a sport that constantly terrified me, to a sport where I felt exhilarated and challenged, but still in control.  Kelly’s classes focus on reading the river, developing paddling skills, safety, and responsible fun.  The best part of taking his courses is meeting new people to paddle with.  I am now surrounded by like-mined paddlers whom I can trust on the river, for I know they received the same training.  Kelly’s classes turned me into a life-long kayaker.
Glenn Wellman  -  High School History teacher, APS
The class that I attended was small but the level of experience was quite varied.  Kelly has a great sense where the students skills were at during the weekend.  Kelly had a sense when a student needed to re-group after a bit of trouble and when he could push them with new skills to build their confidence.  Overall the group proceeded very smoothly through the weekend course without interuption.
David Brauer

Intro to Whitewater, Weekend Adventure

I have to say, Kelly covered EVERYTHING!  I've taken this weekend class twice to absorb everything that goes into whitewater kayaking.  Since my class, I've paddled on class III whitewater and felt like I had a great sense of what [maneuvers, compound strokes or techniques] to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why to do it!   What Kelly teaches would be pretty much impossible for a self-taught paddler to figure out alone.  I feel safer, and more confident each time I'm on the river with a foundation of strokes and concepts to practice outside of class, and most importantly, I feel in control on the water.
Bob Pennington  -  home-builder

I want you to know how much I benefitted from your white water and roll classes.  Kelly your presentations Saturday and Sunday were always clear and packed with vital information.  The way you sketch out the hazzards and river features makes them surprisingly easy to remember on the river.  On the river you worked hard with each of us and I thought we class members got far more feedback and individual attention than in other kayak classes I have taken.  Glenn and Michael also seemed genuinely interested in our progress and were always willing to answer my questions and provide good feedback.  All in all the class was both challenging and a lot of fun and I feel it greatly accelerated my development as a white water kayaker.

Reed Mencke  -  Retired

Intro to Whitewater, Weekend Adventure

I was a self-taught kayaker who constantly got caught in situations that were either dangerous or beyond my skill.  In fact, I almost gave up the sport multiple times before I met Kelly.  After taking his courses, I found that I was in much better control on the river and began to enjoy it more.  I never realized how much technique went into boat control and reading the river.  Kayaking changed for me from a sport that constantly terrified me, to a sport where I felt exhilarated and challenged, but still in control.  Kelly’s classes focus on reading the river, developing paddling skills, safety, and responsible fun.  The best part of taking his courses is meeting new people to paddle with.  I am now surrounded by like-mined paddlers whom I can trust on the river, for I know they received the same training.  Kelly’s classes turned me into a life-long kayaker.
Glenn Wellman  -  High School History teacher, APS

I like the emphasis on kayaking as a positive experience.  After taking the classes, you realize that you can have a very fun time, even before mastering the roll.  Other classes I've taken make the roll seem like a necessity, and learning to roll (or not), becomes the focus, which eclipses the fun of kayaking.

Betsy Glenn

Intro to Whitewater, Weekend Adventure

I have to say, Kelly covered EVERYTHING!  I've taken this weekend class twice to absorb everything that goes into whitewater kayaking.  Since my class, I've paddled on class III whitewater and felt like I had a great sense of what [maneuvers, compound strokes or techniques] to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why to do it!   What Kelly teaches would be pretty much impossible for a self-taught paddler to figure out alone.  I feel safer, and more confident each time I'm on the river with a foundation of strokes and concepts to practice outside of class, and most importantly, I feel in control on the water.
Bob Pennington  -  home-builder
This was my second time in this class in a months' time. Although I enjoyed the first class, I felt like all the pieces began to fall in to place the second time around. I felt my skills improved exponentially. The instructors were very skilled and helpful in zeroing in on specific needs of those in the class, and were there to roll you (back up) when necessary. Loved it.
Chip Berglund  -  Semi-retired

Intro to Whitewater, Weekend Adventure

Kelly is a great tactician with a keen ability to break the rivers' energy into a series of teaching moments that were both appropriate for our varying skill levels and allowed each of us to build confidence at every stage throughout the weekend.  My goal is to be able to manipulate the river, and all of its energy, with the grace and finesse that Kelly has!
Chip Berglund  -  semi-retired

I was excited to take the pool class, even though a few friends ridiculed taking a kayak class ("What's so hard about kayaking?!").  The whitewater clinic presented challenges I was not expecting (physically, mentally or emotionally), and it heightened my awareness of the river, the sport, challenges and myself.  It has taken me a week to process this experience, and I welcome the time it will take to continue to process both the instruction and personal learned experience. This course was positively intense!

Deanna Lundy

Can you recommend any places to stay, besides the campground?

There are a few Bed & Breakfast inns in the area.  The one I recommend is Casa Escondida.

Casa Escondida is an authentic adobe, 8-room bed & breakfast that is located in historic Chimayo (only 35 - 40 minutes from Pilar). They offer a rural, secluded setting with great mountain views. A full, hot breakfast is included. Enjoy their relaxing outdoor hot tub after a long day of paddling. Rooms range from $99 - $159 / night. FREE Wi-Fi. Pet-friendly. Book online or by phone: www.casaescondida.com / 505-351-4805

What about meals?

Plan on bringing breakfast, lunch and dinner, as there are few eating places in close proximity to the river and campgrounds. 

The Pilar Yacht Club is the exception. The Yacht Club makes a mean breakfast burrito, and has other basic conveniences; coffee, sodas, ice, sun screen and ice cream. The Yacht Club closes by mid-afternoon.

We'll pause for about 30 minutes during our lesson for lunch, but will not have time to leave the area. 

At the end of an awesome day, we typically have a pot-luck dinner Saturday night at the campground.  Bring a dish that can be shared with everyone.

Other options include going to Taos for dinner, or eating at Embudo Station or Sugars BBQ, both about 20 minutes away from the campground.

What about lodging?

When it comes to lodging, I let everyone decide what works best for them. Some people like to stay in hotels in Taos.  Others like to cut cost by camping out at the Orilla Verde State Park.  Others bring camper trailers and RVs.  In the past, some have stayed at Ojo Caliente, Sipapu, or found Bed & Breakfast inns in Dixon, Pilar, Embudo or Chimayo.  There are a variety of options.

I will typically will get a campsite on the State Park Friday or Saturday night, depending on when I arrive. Campsites are booked first come, first served, so advanced reservations are not allowed.  Anyone is welcome to stay at my campsite, provided we don't exceed the limits. 

Campsites at the Orilla Verde State Park vary from primitive to full RV setups. Most have enzyme or flush toilets, and one campground has hot showers. Bring $2-3 in quarters. It's not necessary to stay at that campground to use their shower.

Is the water cold? What do I need to bring?

I'll have a variety of 'farmer john' unisex wet suits, which should fit most people.  If you have a wet suit that fits, please bring it.  Additionally, I recommend bringing a few of your own layers; fleece vest or jacket (that can get wet), polypropylene shirt, nylon trekking pants, Lycra spandex tights, mountain bike shorts, and a good waterproof wind breaker, just in case. Anything that is fast drying, moisture-wicking and insulating is good.  It's not necessary to have ALL of that, but the more options you have, the more prepared you'll be for different conditions.  It also helps to have a second change of clothes for Sunday morning....just in case your clothes don't dry out overnight.

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