Imagine experiencing the thrill of being in a tiny kayak and getting tossed around and pounded by rushing rapids. You could put your name on the waiting list for the Colorado river and patiently wait for 12 years, or you could just take a ride to downtown South Bend.
The East Race was originally constructed in the 1840s to power South Bend’s thriving manufacturing industry. In 1984, it was slightly modified and used as a training course for whitewater kayakers in the Olympics. Now it’s open to the public a can be a great afternoon and a perfect launching place for many adventures.
If you just want to try the race out, check their schedule at http://sbpark.org/parks/east-race-waterway/ and show up on a weekend. A single trip down the race costs $5.
But if you’re looking for real adventure, you’ll want to join the East Race Whitewater Kayaking Club (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/erwwkc/). They will help you out and train you in the basics. The rest is just a matter of practice. The club also plans trips to real rivers together.
Essentials of whitewater
The most basic skill that you need to learn to whitewater kayak is rolling. When you’re boat inevitably gets flipped over, you need to know how to get back up out of the water. This can be a very difficult and frustrating thing to learn, but everyone gets it if they stick to it long enough. The ERWWKC folks are always happy to help out with learning this and other useful skills.
Boat and gear
You need a kayak, paddle, spray skirt, helmet, PFD, and nose clip. Most of this can be obtained used from either the ERWWKC group, or from craigslist. There’s no need to buy any of it new, used gear works great.