Pick Your Paddle Sport: What Craft Should You Paddle Through the Whitewater?

The New and Gauley River rapids are rolling through the Gorge, calling you out to play. There are tons of ways to enjoy the waves. Which is for you? Paddling WV

Have you tried all the different ways to ride the waves? Grab a paddle and choose your boat! Need help deciding where to start? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Skill level: How much paddling experience have you had? Are you comfortable paddling alone? If not, try rafting first, and maybe opt for a canoe. A solo craft like a kayak or duckie would be better for a stronger paddler.
  • Thrill level: Are you looking for something low-key, or an extreme wave pounding? A smaller raft means higher adventure! And a kayak will get knocked around more than a duckie.
  • Challenge: Are you comfortable handling something technical? Rafting guides will take care of the guesswork for you as long as you paddle. Other guides can give you the scoop, but for the most part, you\'ll be the one doing the work in the rapids. Do you know how to roll an enclosed boat? Of not, are you comfortable having to pull a lever to get out of it if you flip?

Got an idea of what you might be looking for? Here are the full details on your river paddling options:


First-time paddler? Start with a raft to work on your skill. Paddle with a team of 8 and an experienced guide, so if your strokes aren\'t as strong at first, you\'ll have someone picking up the slack (and someone to tell you how to improve). If you want more of a challenge, try a smaller raft: a 6-person boat will be more at the whim of the waves, and a 4-person raft will be a thrill ride!


If you\'re ready to take on the waves without a full team, but still want to use the buddy system, you can whitewater canoe many of the challenging rapids on the New and Gauley Rivers. You might use a spraycover to keep the water from filling up the boat, so be sure you know what to do if you flip. If you can\'t roll the boat back over, know where your exit handles are.


Think you can handle a solo whitewater boat? Start out with a duckie. This inflatable kayak is much more sturdy, so it\'s more likely to stay upright through the bigger waves. If it does flip, you won\'t be strapped in, so you\'ll just tumble out. You can take guided group duckie tours, so you will still have some help. Your guide will help you navigate the safest paths through each rapid, and be there to help if you do fall out.


A regular whitewater kayak is more vulnerable than a duckie. Depending on the type of boat, it will take more control to stay upright. A more nimble play boat, meant to do tricks in the water, will be much more difficult than a longer, sturdier kayak. Choose the kayak that fits your skill level. And learn what to do in case you do flip. Like a whitewater canoe, a whitewater kayak will have a spraycover, so learn how to roll the kayak back over or to exit the boat if it flips.


For something a little different, you can take on the smaller whitewater waves surfer-style in a Stand-Up Paddleboard. You can start on something as small as a little roll of water left behind by a boat in the lake, or take on some Class I and II waves on the river. Balance is key, and make sure you know what to do if you fall. In the river, that means keeping your feet up to avoid getting them stuck in the riverbed.

What\'s your paddle craft of choice? Which paddle sport are you most excited to try?