Liz’s Beginner Kayak School Experience – Part 1

My Sundance Kayak School experience was an incredible adventure from start to finish.

This past August I made the trip out west to immerse myself in Sundance’s 9-day Beginner Kayak School on the warm and sunny Rogue River. By the time we got off the river on the last day, I knew I’d found a new passion for kayaking. This is the story of the 4-day beginner portion of my class.

Dagger mamba rogue river

Ready for action in my lime green Dagger Mamba.

Our trip began in the beautiful River View House at the Galice Resort in Merlin, OR. The breathtaking view from the resort, perched right on the banks of the Rogue, was the perfect place to call home over the next 4 days. After introductions and sorting out our gear, we were off to our first put in.

Kayaking gear

Wetsuits, kayaks, helmets, and PFD’s.

One of the first things you’ll learn before you get on the river, aside from how to sit comfortably in your boat and paddle efficiently, is how to stay calm if you suddenly find yourself upside down and underwater. Our instructor Marty timed us as we held our breath for as long as possible. He knew this would help keep us calm when we did eventually tip our boat over. It was a great feeling to know that a T-Rescue could take only a few seconds, but we could potentially hold our breath for much longer. This especially came in handy for me later on during the Wild and Scenic portion of our trip.

Sundance kayak school

Sami shows us how to adjust our seat for comfortable ride.

Each day of the lodge based school was fun and exciting as we learned about perfect strokes, eddy turns, ferrying, and rolls. We practiced T-rescues with buddies, ate delicious lunches, and enjoyed incredible scenery with old friends and new. I was especially grateful to have my friend Lori right by my side. Lori and I grew up and attended school together in our hometown of New Ulm, MN. She was completely in her element and radiating joy as she danced around the river in her blue kayak with the “I <3 Minnesota” sticker on it. Lori hearts Kayaking too and she’s really good at it! She led with confidence each day and always presented us with easy-to-learn instruction. She tailored her instruction to each student and took the time to interact and work with every person in our group. I was so happy to see her doing her thing, and doing it very well. Another awesome instructor was Sami! She led each day with an abundant amount of energy and happiness and made sure everyone was smiling and having fun.

Lori and liz rogue river sundance kayak school

Lori and I enjoying the beautiful weather on the Rogue.

After a long day of kayaking on the recreation section of the Rogue River, we’d clean up and have an amazing meal while conversing with each of our new found friends. We could also take a stroll down to the resort and enjoy the tasty homemade soft serve ice cream or dance to a live band while watching eagles and deer off the back deck. It’s truly a magical place to experience life and nature and I felt so blessed every morning to wake up to the sound of the river.

Sundance kayak school

Laura, Marty, Larry, and I take a break to snap a photo.

The last day of kayak school was led by JR who brought his enthusiasm and experience with him on every step of our trip. He was a fearless leader on the river and made sure everyone got the knowledge they needed to be successful.  He organized great chalk talks in the morning so we’d know what to expect on the river that day.

One of my favorite moments happened as we floated past the Galice resort.  I remember someone was blasting Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” out of their car speakers and it echoed off of the cliff on the other side of the river. The experience was utterly sublime. I felt so strong and confident while completely at peace as I floated gently with the current. I knew I had the tools and motivation I needed to take on the multi-day, Wild and Scenic portion of the trip.

Sundance kayak school

“I’d never felt that strong. Like a rock.”


About Team Sundance

Sundance Kayak School was started on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon way back in 1973! And was created for one very specific reason: to teach whitewater kayaking. Sundance Kayak School is dedicated to sharing the love of rivers and paddle sports through Education, Involvement and Enjoyment.