A mullet-bearing kayaker dips and dives in the pool. Laughter emerges between two playboaters who throw donkey-flips, loops, a Cabscrew and McNasty. Individuals learning to roll for the first time paddle with a professional kayaker who has paddled alongside baboons in the Zambezi River in Africa.
A new, unofficial kayak club on campus is an off-shoot of the Outing Club, drawing kayakers of all disciplines to practice and enjoy the aggressive and adrenaline-infused sport of whitewater kayaking. Fort Collins is only minutes from one of Colorado's premier whitewater kayaking – the Poudre River.
"Our main goal is to get people who enjoy kayaking together to do it," said Tyler Newton, a senior economics major and founder of the kayak club.
With more than 300 runs, some of which run year-round including the Colorado, Platte and Arkansas rivers, Colorado is world famous in the world of boating. It is home to the most kayak playparks in the United States, including the first one in the nation, located in Golden. Rapids classified I through VI send kayakers on a tumultuous journey between rocks and eddys, over waterfalls and down river.
"It is such an adrenaline rush, you get to see a lot of cool places in a kayak that you could never see otherwise," said Katherine Carr, a senior equine science and biomedical double major.
Carr has been paddling for the last two years. She hit the river right away without learning how to roll.
"Rolling is a finesse thing," Carr said. "It doesn't take a lot of strength as long as you have the technique right."
The Mountain Shop/Poudre River Kayaks introductory class and pool roll:
– 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Sunday
– Mulberry Pool
– $6 (extra for gear)
– Call (970) 493-5720 for more information and to register
CSU Kayak Club pool sessions
– 7 to 10 p.m. every Monday
– South College Pool
– Contact email@example.com for more information and for specific dates
Kayakers of all disciplines make up the kayaking sub-culture of Fort Collins. Playboating, creek boating, slalom boating, down river, squirt boating and rodeo boating are just a few.
Chris Turnbull-Grimes, a senior civil engineering major, began kayaking five years ago in Estes Park. He now rides in a creek boat designed with high volume in mind for shallow creeks and hitting waterfalls.
"The mental aspect to kayaking is the biggest thing to overcome, especially when it comes to rolls and hitting waterfalls," Turnbull-Grimes said. "But there is nothing better than finishing up a good rapid."
Rodeo boats are a shortened, lower-volume version of the playboat, about 7 to 8 feet long. They have a low-volume bow and stem to make it easier to slice through the water, stay in holes and get vertical.
Playboats are longer, around 8.5 to 9.5 feet long. The design is flatter overall and more narrow at the ends to make carving easier. They are great for maneuvering and throwing tricks.
Leif Anderson, a physics graduate student, is among the kayaking elite of Fort Collins and specializes in playboating. He has been kayaking for more than nine years and spent four years of that kayaking year-round between the Northwest and Colorado.
He has traveled to Zimbabwe to kayak the Zambezi River and was intrigued by elephants crossing the road, the Slave River in northern Canada where he swam in "Molly's Nipple," a class V rapid, and traveled all across the United States with his sponsors.
"There's always something new to learn," Leif said. "You can never top out at kayaking, and if you do it right, it's safe."
Downriver boats are fairly long, about 8.5 to 9.5 feet long. They are good for beginners because they are stable and track well.
"People interested in learning how to kayak should take an intro class, roll in the pool and just get a feel for how it is to sit in a boat and hold a paddle," Newton said.
The Mountain Shop/Poudre River Kayaks offers introductory classes and pool roll sessions at Mulberry Pool every Sunday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sessions are $6 for pool time (extra for gear). Call (970) 493-5720 for more information or to register ahead of time.
The CSU Kayak Club will continue to hold pool sessions Mondays from 7 to 10 p.m. at the South College Pool. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for specific dates and more information.
"Although kayaking tends to draw a younger demographic, it is still a lifelong sport that anyone can get into," Carr said. "It's a sport anyone can enjoy, because it's not about strength, it's about technique."
Sarah Rawley can be reached at email@example.com.