How To Prepare For Extreme Whitewater Kayaking

Extreme whitewater kayaking is one of the most popular watersports today. Adrenaline junkies often plunge into the fast waters of rapids across the world, so as to challenge themselves and nature as well.

The extreme nature of the whitewater rafting or kayaking causes one to face life-threatening situations. Examples of these are capsizing, drowning, encountering submerged jagged rocks, coming across broken tree trunks, and falling down waterfalls.

hardcore kayaking

Therefore, if you want to engage in extreme kayaking, it is important to properly prepare yourself. This includes attaining the right level of fitness, taking precautions, picking the right kayak and carrying along some safety equipment. Here are some tips on how you can go about this.

Attaining The Right Fitness Level

It is very important to prepare your body physically before engaging in whitewater kayaking. You will need physical strength and stamina to navigate the rapids successfully. There are specific core muscles that need to be stretched and strengthened to make it easier for you to paddle and prevent injury.

Extreme whitewater kayaking requires you to paddle for a long time, hence you need to have the necessary stamina to do this. You can build stamina by improving your cardiovascular health while out of the water. You can do so by engaging in activities such as biking, swimming and running.


It is also important to be strong so you can pull more water with every stroke. You can build your strength by exercising with row machines, free weights, performing pull-ups, bench presses and push-ups. Paddling a kayak requires core strength, so make sure to include planks and squats to make your core stronger.

To survive the rapids and waterfalls that you encounter while whitewater kayaking, you need to get the right gear and build a kit. It should contain your essential equipment and accessories to boost your competitive edge and keep you safe as you kayak. The two most important accessories to have are a PFD and a helmet.

Your Personal Floatation Device (PFD)


Your personal floatation device is one of the most important accessories for whitewater kayaking, helping to keep you afloat and your head above the water in case you fall in. Rapids are well known for being able to pull kayakers underwater, which can lead to drowning.

Therefore, make sure that you invest in a PFD. Pick one that is specifically designed for whitewater, since it has a low profile, increasing your range of motion. Moreover, it has safety features such as a harness for quick-release during water rescues.

A Helmet

helmet for kayaking

You should always wear your helmet while kayaking. If you end up underwater for any reason, your head might hit rocks and debris in the river. Thus, you should have a helmet on to protect yourself from concussions or much worse.

Pick a helmet that is built for paddling since it is made of materials which are non-absorbent. Therefore, it dries out and drains quickly. Also, a whitewater helmet has a brim to protect your eyes from spray and direct sunlight so you can more easily see what’s going on around you.

The Best Type Of Kayak

hull types

There are many types of kayaks. Examples of these are long boats, creek boats, river runners and freestyle boats. Each is built for a specific type of kayaking activity which is descibed in its name. However, they all fall into one of two categories, ones with a planing hull and ones with a displacement hull.

Kayaks that have a planing hull are flat along the bottom, while kayaks that have a displacement hull are curved along the bottom. It’s best to pick one with a planing hull for extreme whitewater kayaking. This is because it can turn quickly and is more maneuverable, so it requires much less effort to navigate.


It is important to have the right accessories so you can successfully navigate whitewater in a kayak. Generally, rivers are fed by snowmelt, a dam or rainwater, which means that they have very cold water that can induce hypothermia and unconsciousness in 30 to 60 minutes.

Therefore, you should wear a dry suit, a one-piece type of clothing that is waterproof yet breathable. It integrates rubber gaskets at the neck and wrists, also having socks and a waterproof zipper. It can keep water out and maintain normal body temperature.

A Throw Bag

kayak throw bag

A throw bag is a bag which contains a rope. It is a must-have accessory for every whitewater kayaker. It works by holding the leading end of the rope and throwing the bag at a kayaker who is in trouble. The rope unravels while airborne and delivers the other end to the kayaker. This helps to fish them out of the water and to safety.


The gear indicated above is ideal to carry along when you go for extreme whitewater kayaking. However, you also need to observe specific precautions. Firstly, always keep your helmet on. Also, ensure that you stay centered, your lower and upper body working in tandem to keep you balanced.

Keep your shoulder and hips aligned so as to control your boat better and your knees pushing on its inner sides to balance your boat. Your knees can also help you to power your strokes better.