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An Introduction – Whitewater Kayaking

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Salaberry-de-Valley has some of the best whitewater rivers in Canada.

Whether you want your first taste of whitewater or you want to revisit the basics of paddling on moving water, this is to help reacquaint you to the basics of whitewater kayaking gear needs. You could enjoy the beauty of St Charles River as you paddle through its bouncy wave train.

The only downside to whitewater kayaking is that sometimes when we are having the most fun is when you are most likely to fall in and you have the right gear with the skills swimming around in a river when you stay dry is pretty fun.

Now to the guide of your basic gear or like the French say Assembleur Salaberry-de Valleyfield, the five essentials to kayaking obviously start with a kayak, paddle, helmet and a spray skirt. Now like most things new, selecting the right gear can be a bit overwhelming but a wrong choice could also mean roadblocks you could have avoided. So now you have your mind on the basics, let’s get on with it.


You want something that is easy to learn how to roll, how to edge and manoeuvre, and something you’ll feel comfortable sitting in for several hours. For your first kayak, avoid edgy, boxy, advanced freestyle kayak as they’ll be more difficult to roll and will get stopped in holes much easier. Avoiding long boats (over 9’), as they’ll be more difficult to turn. Creek boats are good, but once you get the roll, you’ll want something slightly edgier and more playful.


When purchasing a paddle, you’ll need to decide on blade material, blade shape, shaft length, and shaft shape. You’ll want something comfortable, strong, and durable.

Paddles have 4 types of blade material with plastic being the weakest and cheapest, fibreglass being the next level up, carbon glass being next, then foam core being the most expensive. We recommend fibreglass paddles because they are durable, perform well, and aren’t too expensive.

Blade shape comes in two general shapes, freestyle and river running. Freestyle blade shapes are a good bet because they are responsive and easy for learning subtle stroke manoeuvring.

Paddle shafts come straight or bent. I like straight shaft because they are less expensive and work just as well. There is some thought that bent shafts provide a more ergonomic grip, but if you learned with straight shaft, it’s recommended going that route. The length of the paddle is based on your height (wingspan).


Kayaking helmets are probably the most important piece of gear you can buy. You want something that is comfortable, but strong and will not move around on your head.

Spray skirt

Sprayskirts come in two types, shock cord and rand. I recommend shock cord skirts for newer paddler because they are easier to put on. For sizing, you have two measurements, the tube (goes around your body) and the cockpit (goes around the boat). Tube size is obviously specific to your waistline, but I’d recommend going a little smaller as they stretch and you want a tight fit to keep water out. For the cockpit, most kayaks will be large.

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