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Canoe U: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Canoe U?

Canoe U is our collection of whitewater Kayak and Canoe courses that are offered each spring. For 2019 all the "Fundamentals" classes include a classroom/pool session that is scheduled for 5-9pm on Sunday May 5. The "on the water" sessions meet May 18-19, plus June 1-2. The "Refresher" and "Continuum" classes meet only one weekend.

What's all this about Fundamentals, Refreshers and Continuum classes? For detailed class descriptions, information on costs and to enroll see the Course Descriptions.

There's whitewater in Minnesota?

Yes, there is. Quite a lot of it actually. Wondering what you need to get started? Read Nora (Sea-Boo) Whitmore's blog post Midwest Whitewater Paddling 101.

Who is Canoe U for?

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

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, or at the instructor's discretion.

Essential Eligibility Criteria can be found here.

Time Commitment?

Plan on full days. Courses vary from 6 to 40 hours in length. Most of your time will be on-water. Classes build skills progressively, so plan to participate in all instruction days. In addition to the introductory Sunday evening session, several classes require two full weekends of your time.

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.

When and Where?

Almost every course meets for all three of the sessions listed next. The exceptions are a few of the advanced or refresher courses. All the "Fundamental" courses meet all three sessions.

Introductory Classroom & Pool Session - May 5 (5-9 pm)

Most classes include this four-hour session. You will go over a few whitewater fundamentals in a classroom situation before spending some boat time in the pool. This session is held at the Brooklyn Center Community Center.

Canoe U Weekend - May 18-19

We will be staying at St. Croix State Park, Norway Point Group Camp on Friday and Saturday nights. Shared cabin lodging is available on a 'first come' basis. There is also an area for pitching tents. Food will be provided from Saturday breakfast through Sunday lunch.

Graduation Weekend - June 1-2

Like the first weekend we will camp Friday and Saturday nights. This time we're at Robinson Park, on the Kettle River in Sandstone, MN. Robinson Park is a very rustic meaning tents, hammock, or self-contained camper/RV are the only options. We provide the meal Saturday night otherwise you are responsible for your own food.

Which course is right for me?

Go to the Course Descriptions page for full details on this year's courses including costs, dates and, when registration is open, to enroll. Below is a list of typical course offerings. Please note that not every class listed here will actually be held. We don't offer all these every year.


  • River Canoeing Fundamentals (tandem or solo)
  • Whitewater Canoeing Fundamentals (tandem or solo)
  • Canoe Tripping
  • Canoe Tandem Refresher


  • Whitewater Fundamentals
  • Whitewater Refresher
  • Whitewater Continuum
  • Whitewater Rodeo

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 prior to 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 refer to the Introductory Classroom & Pool Session. What we are trying to say is that if, after you attend the Classroom/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, for any reason, Rapids Riders does not hold the course you enrolled in a full refund will be given. One reason for not holding a course would be if not enough people sign-up. There are other reasons, but that's the most likely.

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