FD Alumni Whitewater Kayak Retreat

FD Alumni Whitewater Kayak Retreat

Program Description

“A stay at the Sundance Riverhouse with Gnomeo & crew is unforgettable.  At a Lodge built for kayakers, by kayakers, on a perfect stretch of Whitewater, prepare to fall in love with the people, the place, and the river.”    -RutRoh

You will spend your days playing on the river and perfecting new skills, with evenings luxuriating in the riverside accommodations of the Historic Riverhouse Lodge. The property includes semi-private rooms and yurts (you might have a roommate). Riverside yurts have their own attached deck overlooking the river. All meals will be prepared by the Sundance Chef and we are happy to work with guests individually to accommodate any food preferences and considerations.

This 4-day course is based on a twelve-mile stretch of the Rogue River near the lodge and immediately upstream from the wilderness section.  Morning and afternoon classes are held on these easy stretches, to introduce students to whitewater river kayaking basics like paddling strokes, eddy turns, ferrying in current, and the roll.  The on-river teaching sessions are supported by our infamous “chalk talks” and classroom presentations.

Throughout the class, students are challenged by exciting yet forgiving Oregon whitewater. The Rogue’s warm water, friendly pool-drop nature, and deep channels provide the perfect environment to learn in. The day’s section of river is chosen to provide just enough challenge while keeping you in your comfort zone. It’s your choice when to push yourself and with watchful instructors close at hand and ready to assist, you can feel free to experiment and try new things. You will learn how to scout a rapid and determine the safest path through.

Go at your own pace. Many opportunities exist to play on features and surf waves so you’ll have the choice to add additional challenge!

You must have previously attended an adventure program with First Descents… Other than that, no previous experience is required! Whether your last program was rock climbing, or surfing, or kayaking, this is the adventure for you. This course was designed for anyone interested in learning to kayak for the first time, as well as those who already have some basic skills. The Legendary Sundance kayak instructors can tailor your experience to meet your goals and go at your own pace.

Length: 4 Days

Prerequisites: You must have previously attended an adventure program with First Descents.

2024 Start Dates:

  • August 26th – 29th
  • September 2nd – 5th (open to the public but with a $70 discount for FD Alumni and their “plus one” guest.)

Number of bookings per reservation: 2  (You and your “plus one” guest)

Includes: Meals, lodging, world-class instruction, shuttles, and required gear

Cost: $1825
All prices per person are subject to a 3% Government Use and Service fee. Guide Gratuity not included in the price.


Day 1:
The first day, you will be introduced to whitewater kayaks and paddling gear. You’ll discover you CAN easily get out of the boat, and we’ll learn a few basic strokes to put you in control.  You will have to option to explore a variety of recovery techniques including progressions that will eventually lead you to learn the kayak roll. On this day you will be a 5-minute walk from the lodge so you can head back for a shower whenever you feel like it.

Once on the river, you’ll begin to learn how to maneuver your sleek river craft and be introduced to the mysteries of the T-Rescue – a cool method for coming right back up if you tip over.

Day 2:
The next morning your instructor will introduce basic skills and maneuvers, such as forward strokes, high/low braces, eddy turns, and finally the Eskimo roll. These skills will form a strong foundation on which to build throughout the class. The afternoon will be spent on the river, applying such skills, testing abilities, and gaining confidence on the water. While we will stick to the easy rapids, you’ll begin to feel the freedom of moving around on the river, going where you want to go!

Day 3 & 4:
By day 3, you’ll continue to hone the basic skills learned in days 1 and 2, as well as start playing in the rapids, learning your limits of stability, risking tip-overs and discovering the fun and excitement the river holds. Before long, you will begin to anticipate your next move, reacting to each and every wave. By the end of day 4 you’ll have the skills and confidence you need to start running rapids!

Kayaking is soul food: Kayaking is one of the best ways to enrich your life and relieve stress, and you will be surprised by how fast you gain skills and confidence on the river.  By day 4 of your beginner kayak class, rapids you wouldn’t have dared a few days ago will now seem do-able. The crazed pace of the real world becomes distant and inconsequential. You notice that your life is more in tune with the nuances of the great outdoors.  In addition to the song of the river, you hear the strum of a distant chord that now includes you in the workings of nature.

Don’t Take Our Word For It. Hear What Our Guests Have To Say!

My family loved every moment of our week long kayaking school. Not only did the wonderful and fun guides teach us how to kayak and roll, but we also established friendships and memories that I know will last for a lifetime. Thank you, Sundance! We can’t wait for our next trip.

Lauren K., San Francisco, CA

The experience was the highlight trip of my summer. I had been “making” it down the river, but that’s it. I felt like I was kayaking a bunch, but reached a point that I wasn’t getting any better. The instruction I received from your great group of instructors has been so helpful. They gave me so many techniques/paddle strokes to work on and they helped me with the bad habits I had developed. There wasn’t a single instructor that I didn’t think was great and enjoyable to be around, both on and off the water.

Angela W., Olympia, WA

The guides and others created a FUN and safe environment that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone.  JR’s teaching is a combination of silly, serious and encompassed in a positive energy and a can-do spirit.

Charlie, Berkeley, California

I recently spent a week on the Rogue River with Lori and JR from Sundance Kayaking school and it was AMAZING!!!! I’m looking forward to going on another kayaking adventure soon and hope to be able to learn more from them again!

Megan S., Los Angeles, CA

In my years as a river guide and in my own trials at learning to kayak I have seen many go through the progression and take up a paddle. But learning how to kayak is not easy and can involve overcoming some very innate fears. Of all the teachers I have encountered none have so effectively turned that fear into fun as Sundance Kayak School.

Aaron B., Denver, CO

My instructors make maneuvering through challenging cross currents look effortless, but I have learned that there are no short cuts to doing so myself. Every time I enter a new rapid, I know a community of paddlers supports me.

Zoe L., Berkeley, California

Additional Information

When Sundance participated in our first FD program back in 2013 we knew we had found the perfect fit. Since then, Sundance has taken part of dozens of FD programs over the years and those programs have become a core part of our business. All of the Sundance Kayak Instructors have worked on FD programs and this summer we will be running 7 more week-long, FD kayak programs out of the Riverhouse Lodge. Suffice it to say that we have a ton of friends in the FD community!

"If I had to choose a favorite location, which is super hard, I would have to say the Rogue River in Oregon. It truly holds a special place in my heart."    -Veggetti

Just to be clear, this is not a First Descents Program.  This is an awesome Sundance gourmet kayak adventure vacation with other people who have all previously attended an FD Program including the guides! (If this had been an actual FD Program, we probably couldn't serve you Rogue Valley wine with dinner ;D )  This is your trip and Sundance's only agenda here is to help make this your best vacation ever!

We love kayaking!

The thrill and reward of accepting the challenge of learning how to kayak in whitewater, mixed with experiencing the fun, majestic beauty and timelessness of a wilderness river trip are the reasons people come to Sundance Kayak School.  Come join us for 4 days of fun, challenge and relaxation on the Rogue River!

Why Sundance? Maybe you've heard of us?  Sundance Kayak School has been in business for over 50 years!

Our roots run deep in the culture of wilderness River Trips.  Nestled on the edge of a wilderness canyon, Sundance has spent decades honing our craft, providing wilderness multi-day retreats and world-class kayak instruction on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.

Our recipe is simple, Bring adventurous people from all over the country, provide a cozy riverside lodge with a deck overlooking the magnificent Rogue River, eat delicious, healthy meals courtesy of our private chef, Learn to kayak with happy professional River guides, have fun, play games, stories around the campfire, star gazing...