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Canoe U: This is the Adventure for You!

What is Canoe U?

Canoe U is a whitewater paddling instruction program for canoe, kayak, and SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard). The courses provide training for all levels of whitewater enthusiast – from those who have never paddled before, to the experienced boater who wants to perfect an advanced skill. Canoe U happens only once a year in the spring.

Canoe U is not just about the skills, it’s also about comradery and community. You will camp, eat, hangout, and paddle with like-minded people who you can boat with beyond Canoe U. Expect to make new friends - maybe even friendships that will last a lifetime.

I'm ready! Where and how do I sign up?

When registration is open you enroll on this page.

However, We do not know yet if Canoe U for 2021 will be possible. Check this page, our home page, or Events page to see any change in the program's status.

Descriptions for the Fundamentals Courses are here and the Advanced Courses are here.

Wait a minute! There's whitewater in Minnesota?

You betcha. Quite a lot of it. There are rivers with rapids at every level of difficulty from class I (novice) to class V (expert). And there are beautiful whitewater rivers nearby in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan.

Who is Canoe U for?

Anyone interested in learning how to handle a canoe, kayak, or SUP on whitewater. We offer courses for people who have never paddled a boat, courses for who would like a tune-up, and courses teaching advanced skills. Previous whitewater experience is not a requirement to enroll in a Rapids Riders fundamentals class. However, comfort on and in the water is a must.

People can learn whitewater boating at any age, but the courses are geared for adults. Students under 18 will be accepted when partnered with a parent or guardian at the instructor's discretion.

Essential Eligibility Criteria can be found here.

Which course is right for me?

We offer two different sets of classes: Fundamentals Courses for the beginner or novice and Advanced Courses for those with experience. There are courses for Canoe and Kayak at both levels. SUP - Whitewater Fundamentals is the only stand-up paddleboard course. Canoe courses are for both solo and tandem boats.

If you have never paddled in fast-moving water, select a Fundamentals course. If you have had prior training or experience, select an Advanced Course.

Time Commitment?

Only the Fundamentals courses meet for a pool session on May 8 from 5-9pm and for the two weekends of May 22-23 and June 5-6. Classes build skills progressively, so plan to participate in all instruction days.

Advanced courses meet just one weekend, either May 22-23 or June 5-6. Check the Advanced Courses section below for course-specific dates..

Plan on full days. Courses vary from 12 to 36 hours in length. Most of your time will be on the water.

It’s possible to take both the Kayak-Refresher and the Kayak-Continuum courses because they meet on different weekends. You can take both by enrolling in the Refresher/Continuum Combo found in the Advanced Courses section of this page.

When and Where?

You will get detailed information on when to be where, but it will be very close to the date of our first session before that happens. In the meantime, here's a brief rundown.
Introductory Classroom & Pool Session - May 8 (5-9 pm)

Only the Fundamentals classes include this four-hour session. We start by going over a few things you need to know about the weekend sessions before hitting the pool for some in-the-boat time. This session is held at the Brooklyn Center Community Center.

Canoe U Weekend - May 22-23

The first weekend will take you back to nature, and possibly your youth-camp days, at beautiful St Croix State Park, Norway Point Group Camp. We are housed in small cabins the group campground provides (included in your registration), but you can tent camp if you like.

We gather at the main lodge for breakfast and to organize the day. We're back at the lodge for dinner and sharing the day's exploits, which usually continues at a bonfire outside the main lodge.

We supply all meals from Saturday breakfast through Sunday lunch.

Graduation Weekend - June 5-6

The second weekend will continue the back-to-nature theme in Sandstone, MN, along the banks of the Kettle River at Robinson Park camping with the friends you made the first weekend.

Robinson Park is a very rustic, meaning that a tent, hammock, or self-contained camper/RV is your only option. There are some motels in the area too if you prefer.

We provide dinner Saturday night, but you need to provide all your own breakfasts and lunches. There are restaurants and grocery stores just minutes away in Sandstone.

Exactly what classes do you offer?

Here are the full descriptions for this year's courses.

Fundamentals Courses

Kayak - Whitewater Fundamentals

Our five-session whitewater kayaking course teaches the fundamentals you need to participate in this exciting sport. You will start at an indoor pool, progress through flat-water to moving water, and finally onto Class II whitewater. You’ll learn basic strokes, boat control techniques, and maneuvers like eddy turns and peel outs. We also cover river safety and rescue skills, river reading, personal gear, tips on outfitting your kayak, and more.

Cost: $265 per person

Dates for 2021: 5-9pm May 8 + May 22-23 + June 5-6

Canoe - Whitewater Fundamentals, Tandem or Solo

This is a comprehensive five-session course that teaches how to canoe on Class I-II whitewater rivers. Appropriately outfitted solo and tandem whitewater canoes are required for this course.

At the introductory session, we start in the comfort of an indoor pool. The first weekend we move to flat-water for work on basic and advanced strokes. Then it's on to moving-water where we practice maneuvers like catching small eddies, making controlled peel outs, and learning effective ferries in fast-moving water.

Graduation weekend will be spent running class I and II rapids on rivers rated class II-III. The course also covers river reading, safety, rescue skills, necessary gear and equipment, and how to properly outfit a whitewater canoe.

Cost: $265 per person

Dates for 2021: 5-9pm May 8 + May 22-23 + June 5-6

River Canoeing, Tandem or Solo

This five-session course teaches the skills required to efficiently paddle a canoe on moving water up to Class I rapids. This is the course for you if you want to develop your canoeing expertise. It teaches stroke quality, boat control, plus river safety and rescue. You will learn and practice valuable skills like catching eddies, making peel-outs, and effective ferries.

Canoes used for this course must be a properly outfitted for fast-moving water. Either a "versatile" canoe or a whitewater-specific boat is required. Both tandem and solo canoes are welcome.

Cost: $265 per person

Dates for 2021: 5-9pm May 8 + May 22-23 + June 5-6

SUP - Whitewater Fundamentals

This five-session Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) course provides a platform for learning the basics of paddling Class I and II rapids. The course is appropriate for experienced SUP paddlers and knowledgeable whitewater kayakers or canoeists. The course will begin in the pool then progress from flat water to moving water to whitewater.

Discussion includes theory, basic and advanced strokes, and stance variations for whitewater SUP.

Skills development includes reading rapids, eddy maneuvers, surfing river waves, and footwork skills to keep you on your feet.

Equipment rental is available! Rental cost (board, paddle, leash) for the duration of the course is $150.

Equipment Required:
  1. Whitewater Specific Inflatable Paddleboard (Mandatory)
  2. SUP Whitewater Paddle
  3. SUP Whitewater Leash

Cost: $265 per person

Dates for 2021: 5-9pm May 8 + May 22-23 + June 5-6


Advanced Courses

Advanced Courses meet only one weekend, which weekend can be found in the descriptions below. These courses require previous whitewater instruction or significant whitewater experience. Select one of these if you are confident in your ability to paddle class II whitewater.

Kayak - Whitewater Refresher

This two-day kayak refresher course is designed for returning Canoe U students or other paddlers with previous whitewater instruction. It provides a tune-up and chance to get the rust off during two fun-filled days. You will work on improving stoke effectiveness, making successful ferries, clean peel outs, snappy eddy turns, and graceful S-turns. All on moderately challenging whitewater. This course will build your competence and confidence for the coming season.

Cost: $165 per person

Dates for 2021: May 22-23

Kayak - Whitewater Continuum

Feeling comfortable in class II water and are ready to work on precision and boat control? Then this class is for you. Expect to work on attainments, performing Class III maneuvers on Class II water, dropping decisively into those micro eddies, and more. River time will be geared towards improving water reading skills and preparing you to run bigger stuff. We'll also take time to identify "friendly" features and practice surfing waves, playing holes, and self-rescue [not necessarily in that order].

Cost: $165 per person

Dates for 2021: June 5-6

Kayak - Refresher/Continuum Combo

This choice enrolls you in both the Kayak Whitewater Refresher and Continuum courses. Think of it as Canoe U post-graduate studies. This combo saves you money! Previous whitewater kayak instruction and experience is required.

Cost: $265 per person

Dates for 2021: May 22-23 + June 5-6 (No pool session for this combo.)

Freestyle Kayaking

Learn how to make the spins, flips, and turns that put the play in playboating.

Cost: $165 per person

Dates for 2021: June 5-6


Who teaches the classes?

Each course is lead by at least one instructor who has been certified by the American Canoe Association. Instructors also have training in CPR and First Aid. They are also people who love to paddle. Instructors are volunteers and don't get paid to teach - they love it that much.

What if I need a boat or gear?

If you don't have a boat, Midwest Mountaineering has a discounted rental rate for Canoe U students. Don't worry if you don't find what you need, we will do our best to find you a boat. You will need to supply your own PFD, helmet, and appropriate clothing.

Nora Whitmore's blog Midwest Whitewater Paddling 101, has lots of information on boats and gear needed for whitewater kayaking.

What about a refund if I want to cancel my enrollment?

If you cancel the amount refunded will depend on when you cancel.

  • If you cancel at least seven days before the first open-water session a full refund will be given.
  • If you cancel with fewer than seven days before the first open-water session one-half your tuition will be refunded.
  • No refund will be given if you cancel after the first open-water session.

What do we mean by "open-water" session? This refers to class sessions scheduled to be held on lakes or rivers. Specifically, these are called "Canoe-U Weekend" and "Graduation Weekend" on this website. It does not include the Introductory Classroom & Pool Session. What we are trying to say is that, after you attend the Introductory Pool session you decide this isn't for you, that's cool, here's your money back. But you have to let us know and the sooner, the better for everybody.

If Rapids Riders, for any reason, does not conduct the course you enrolled in a full refund will be given. One reason for not holding a course might be that not enough people sign up, but there are other reasons.

Rapids Riders and its volunteer ACA instructors reserve the right to recommend alternative paddling opportunities to any potential student or refuse any application. In such a case, you shall receive a full refund.

I have more questions. How do I get more answers?

Feel free to e-mail our Safety & Education Director at training@rapidsriders.org