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Chiang Mai Kayaking Class 1 ++ River basics and event briefing

Here in Northern Thailand we are blessed with the perfect weather conditions to enjoy kayaking all year round.  Hypothermia never comes in to play , the cool waters actually ad to the pleasant experience.  While whitewater class 3-5 is only available during the cool and rainy season , leisure kayaking and jungle exploration is doable all year on various section of the rivers , we do not share the same over crowded waters as the rafting companies have to . We enjoy an exploratory  approach to our kayaking expeditions.  Although we do provide a set program we always are taking weather and water conditions into consideration  and are flexible enough to pick the best river sections for the day after meeting the groups.  Guides are at home on the rivers and are happy to assist you to ensure a safe passage down the river. When  booking a kayak trip please inform us of  your passed kayaking experience, if any,  level 1-5 Level 1 Never Kayaked before, but I am physically fit. Level 2 I have done some kayaking on lakes and ocean, but never on a river. Level 3 I have done some river kayaking or canoeing Level 4 I have done quite a bit of river kayaking but can not do the roll Level 5 I am an expert kayaker and do class 3-5 Your physical condition for RIVER kayaking and LAKE kayaking:

Choice by ability, size and task at hand.

Although the shore is conveniently close we need you to be an average swimmer. Participants planning kayaking on rivers should have some upper body strength and have some sport back ground such as tennis ,squash, swimming, fencing (haha) anything that requires upper body strength . In difference to rafting you are the captain of your own boat and are solely directing it down the river. Sudden spurts of aggressive paddling are to be expected to cut across currents etc. For lake paddling on the other hand a more looser approach can be taken . Unless strong winds and waves conditions are expected it’s a lot less demanding then river kayaking since there is no current. For very young children (under 9) we usually recommend paddling on the lake, or River Trip D with and adult in a double Kayaks.


On Jungle Trip rivers such as E, A we prefer single kayaks , the more challenging the waters the smaller and more maneuverable the boats. For beginners in challenging river sections a short Sit on top Kayak with backrest and knee straps is the best bet. Wider currents with less ‘obstacles’, such as Trip D touring kayaks with large cockpits are provided, especially for larger people these boats are stable and still offer performance. Advanced kayakers who know how to roll their boat can be provided with white water kayaks or touring boats depending on the activity.


Bring your friends

Our kayaking trips take place about 1 hrs driving of Chiang mai Bring an Extra set of clothes for the ride back You should wear shorts or swimsuit, t-shirt or a lycra when on your kayak Wear a hat, sunglasses, river shoes (sneakers ok, or river sandals that don’t come off) Bring sunscreen and repellent Should you have none of the above , we are ready to equip you at our shop before departure.  

The natives are restless.. kids playing in the river… and now on our boats ‘Future River Guides’

What to bring:

Water, snacks are provided ,  bring only a water proof camera if you can. We have water proof cameras and hero cameras available on request bring your sd card. We provide: Helmets, life jackets, gloves and shoes . (helmets are Before we head into the water a safety briefing and basic instructions (reminders for some) are given at the  launching site  : On land briefing , Sit on Top/ Sit in Kayak , Back rest, knee straps, paddle.   Handle the boat  at the bow. Tie everything down on your boat before entering the water, you will be  provided with a safety rope if we do dam hops .

How to get into the boat

( turn your back to the boat and put you behind in first and then swing your legs in ) Avoid stepping into your boat and always hold on to your paddle throughout the process.  

How to maneuver your boat :

How to hold the paddle, check the blade entry.  The paddles are feathered. In training and difficult situations the coach will speak in ‘direct commands’ to you

Basic forward stroke

Paddle on the left, you turn right   , direct command from the coach : “ left forward !” Paddle on the right, you turn left  , direct command from the coach :  “ right forward !” Paddle equally left and right you go straight ahead (not counting the currents)

When putting maximum power into your strokes you should be sitting upright and leaning slightly forward.


Your blade dips in close to the boat with the blade as steep as possible for maximum power transfer. direct command from the coach : paddle, paddle, paddle, or harder, harder!

Back stroke

Basic back stroke is not as powerful as your forward stroke and mostly used to change or maintain direction. Back Paddle on your right you turn right , direct command from coach : “back right !” Back Paddle on your left  you turn left , direct command from coach : “ back left !”

  1. Eddied out on the left… and getting a drink

    Enter the river (pointing your boat upstream)

  2. Paddle upstream against the current , stay upstream do not pass back across your entry line until the coach alerts everyone for takeoff. “Eddy out !” is a direct command from coach asking to come to a stop facing upriver in a no current zone behind a rock, tree or alongside the shore .
  3. Eddy out left !”, is the left shore facing downstream .
  4. Eddy out right !”, is the right shore facing downstream . Always point upstream and parallel when landing on the side of the shore, hold on to something. Check where you eddy out so you don’t drift back into some bushes etc., when you want to peal out back into the stream.
  5. Tilt your boat away from any new current or lift the side of the boat facing the current prevents the boat from edging into the current and possibly flipping the boat

    Ferry across the river , paddling across the river, you must  point upstream a bit as you cross so you don’t drift passed your exit point on the other side of the river, the stronger the current the steeper your angle .  Look where you want to go, not where the boat is pointing as you paddle across.

  6. Practice 180, 360 degree turns and drifting sideways in the center of the river using both forward and backward stroke.
  7. Drifting sideways (perpendicular to the current) is practiced because a lot of times we want drift into a turn already pointing in the resulting direction of the turn giving us valuable time to exit the turn .

Hold on to your paddle Hold on to the boat and swim to the rivers shore,   listen to coaches  instructions.

How to get back into your boat in deep water

Flip the boat back over, if it is self-bailing.     Hold your paddle at the opposite side of the boat parallel to the edge, pull yourself across holding the opposite edge, until you lay across the center of the boat , then flip your body over  and drop you behind into the seat and swing your legs in. When needed , mostly on open waters,  you can climb over the bow of the guides boat and slide into your boat. The guide may also assist  by pushing the boat with the bow to  shore or /and pulling the swimmer holding on to the tail of the boat . For the guide just to hang on to the boat to be rescued and drift downstream is useless. The rest of the group unless assisting, eddy out and wait till the rescue is completed .

A brush with nature


We do some river maintenance … this one though has to wait for now. We cut a small passage can you see where (picture on the right).

When approaching  a difficult passage do it slowly so you can check out the situation, this can be achieved by slowly back paddling . Watching the person in front of you,  giving them plenty of space,  helps analyze your plan of action. On some river sections the overhanging trees make the trip more interesting and “precision kayaking” comes to play. Some of the fallen trees or overhanging bushes become an obstacle or ‘strainer’, difficult to pass strainers are pointed out by the guides and you can prepare yourself.  Places like these are usually only accessed in low current season and drifting into a strainer usually doesn’t have severe consequences.  If you do drift into a strainer sideways, Lean towards the obstacle and then pull yourself clear or just paddle out of it.  Do not lean away and towards the current, the current could flip your boat. It is best to keep firm grip of the paddle , once you are clear you want to have control over your boat.  When paddling through overhanging trees or low bamboo etc. keep your head low and lean forward to  protecting your neck and face,  you can also use your paddle to block oncoming small branches and bamboo. Do not attempt to hold on to a passing branch, it will pull you sideways and you will flip over. Some narrow passages pointing the paddle forward makes it easier to get through, but be ready to control your boat as soon as you get clear and you’ll need the paddle back firm in your hands.

Be creative… leaning forward under the tree might be easier but its your line, enjoy it.

The guide enters the water first and patrols the entry line and keeps everyone upstream doing their maneuvers.

River navigation:

After all trained,  its single file behind the guide , there is usually only one ‘ line’ around strainers, shallow waters and the best current,  use the kayaker in front of you as reference but be sure to enter difficult rapids etc. individually to avoid a pile up. On difficult turns etc.  the guide will be facing you as you enter the task ready to verbally assist you if needed, the student passes the guide and eddies out behind so the guide can assist the next participant. Most importantly enjoy yourself , relax on the easy parts admiring the astonishing beauty of Northern Thailand’s  river scenery.


Happy Trails and to see on the water…

  contact me anytime for questions,  Aidan (Director)