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Culture » Get Out

Kayak Attack

Utah Whitewater Club organizes for veterans and newbies alike.



Gordon Stam is the first to admit the kayaking organization he runs needs some better, um … organization, and more approachable ways for novices to get involved. He’s planning on doing something about it in August, setting up a trip to the Green River that he hopes will get the word out for the Utah Whitewater Club.

“We have a beginner’s series already,” UWC president Stam says. “But it’s basically a year-round commitment that starts in February with some indoor pool work. Then we get people out on the water. Maybe a third of the people who start it actually finish, and we don’t have a lot of places where people can jump in the middle.

“We need to be more realistic on our assessment; get people in with a trip that comes on shorter notice, and with less commitment, and something that offers a more immediate introduction.”

Stam, along with members of the UWC, point out that kayaking—and less stringent water sports like canoeing, tubing and rafting—is more accessible than most locals think. For starters, they don’t even have to own the equipment. Those that do—like Utah medical student Ashley Meagher—point out that recreation departments like the U. will even hand it out for a nominal fee.

Stam has pinpointed Aug. 29 as the date he’d like to do a down-and-back trek, noting that the UWC doesn’t have anything going on during that time and it comes at a safe distance from the summer’s major holidays. This is the perfect time to learn, says Stam. The runoff isn’t at its peak, like during spring, creating safer environments, and flipping from the vessel isn’t as big a deal.

“And the water’s warm,” he says, alluding specifically to the Green River. “Even though the rapids may look intimidating for the beginner, they’re really straight forward and low-consequence.”

For experts, and those with a good idea of where to go, there are already some terrific online resources available for Utahns to plan trips locally and elsewhere. Eddyflower.com is basically Craigslist for rapids lovers, offering everything from classified advertising for equipment sales to chat boards and an extensive up-to-date guide of rivers and flows — plus descriptions of the areas.

Mountainbuzz.com, also popular among the winter sports thrill-seekers, has some trip-planning resources.

Meagher is capable of talking newbies on tours, but claims she’s hardly a diehard by the standards of some of the registered users on EddyFlower. But she has met total strangers for trips to Idaho and the Moab area, where an unusually wet spring plus all of those winter storms have made for some of the best current conditions in years. She says newbies who might only be able to chip in gas money and muscle power, and have no other training or knowledge of water sports, might still find it worthwhile to seek out excursions.

“People looking for groups to go on those sites tend to be pretty chill,” Meagher says.

Stam says there are more people with kayak minds than realize it. He says rock climbers tend naturally to be interested, for sake of adventure. But, don’t discount skiers who are “intrigued with mastering a movement-and-balance sport. Skiing, you have gravity, and in kayaking there’s a current. Both are kind of relentless, but you learn to use them to your advantage.” Of course, aquaphobia is an interview killer.

UWC and its approximately 100 members also meet every third Thursday, 7 p.m., at the REI on 3300 South. Interested folks should also check out the website UtahWhiteWaterClub.org for further notice about the August trip.

Stam says there’s plenty more room in the water. “We’re trying to build the sport,” he says, “get some fresh blood. A lot of people want to get into it, they just don’t know how. Well, this is a way.”