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Beginning Paddler FAQs

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions for our beginning paddlers which we hope will help provide some guidance and direction. If you have more questions after reading these, please reach out to the coaching staff or just  send us an email via our contact page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I get wet?

Yes! Especially in your first few weeks of paddling as you learn to balance our tippy boats.  While we do have more stable boats for beginners to start in, even these are ones that most people tip over in to begin with.

It is also not uncommon to get wet from water splashed from paddles in team boats or paddling near other boats.  While we do not try to get into the water, it’s a part of the sport that you can expect to get wet.

How are sprint boats different?

Our boats are narrow and very unstable – they are built for speed. Even if you’ve paddled kayaks and canoes before, our sprint boats are likely very different from what you’ve used before. 

We have a few more stable boats for beginners to use and once you have developed balance skills, we’ll get you using the sprint boats.  (The yellow boat in the picture is one of our training boats.)

Learn more about sprint canoe and kayak.

What should I wear?

Please come to paddle in clothing that you can get wet in is always the best bet; a bathing suit or board shorts are good choices, as is a “base layer” shirt for warmth and sun protection.  Hats and sunscreen are encouraged for sun protection, too.

Water shoes or flip flops are a must! We carry the boats to the launch ramp and you will not want to wear shoes in the boat unless they are ones made for water.  Beginning paddlers will likely be paddling very close to the dock and launch area to begin with and not around the Harbor. 

Do I need to wear a life jacket?

Yes, Coast Guard approved life jackets/personal floatation devices (PFDs) are required for all paddlers in all club workouts. The club has some for beginners to use until one is purchased. During sanctioned American Canoe Association races and regattas, there may be safety boats that permit us to paddle without a personal flotation device but it really is not a big deal to wear one and should be considered just part of your normal paddling gear. 

All paddlers are expected to get their own PFDs and not use the ones the club has for beginners for very long.  We’ll help you get one that fits and through a club discount with, too.

You’re sure I’ll tip over?

Yes, in the sprint boats – but maybe not in the training boats.  It usually takes several sessions for people to learn the balance needed. As you might imagine, the amount of time it takes to learn your balance depends very much on the skills of each individual and the effort put into it. 

Most beginners learn to stay in the boat within about a month’s time and only occasionally falling out of the boat after that.  For adult paddlers, it can take longer depending on their experience and balance skills

Do I have to sign a waiver?

Yes!  ALL paddlers must sign our waivers (adult or minorannually. (Club members must also the ACA’s insurance waiver annually.)  One waiver will do for the whole calendar year, but everyone must sign a waiver before using club equipment.  Please be sure you complete all required fields.

How old do I have to be?

Club membership is open to 11 year olds and up.    

Racing age groups for minors are broken up into three separate classes:

  • U14 or “Bantam” – Under 14 as of January 1st of the current year.
  • U16 or “Juvenile” – Under 16 as of January 1st of the current year.
  • U18 or “Junior” – Under 18 as of January 1st of the current year.

Internationally, there is also a U23 class.  “Senior” is the open category for all ages to race. 

We have age classes for older athletes, too, starting at 30 with 15 year intervals in three different “Master” classes.

What about adults?

Adults are absolutely welcome!  Most adults are more reluctant to pick up a sport where they may fall into the water for the first month of trying, but paddling sprint boats is something for all ages.  Please note that we are a sprint racing club, not a recreational club; our boats and goals are for sprint.  If you are looking to “just learn about paddling,” this is not likely the right spot for you.

As noted above, there are “Masters” age classes at our Nationals that permit adults to compete against others in their age brackets as well as the open Senior events for all ages.  Paddling is a great low impact, whole body, core workout and one that can be done for an entire lifetime.  

When are the workouts?

Club workouts are typically on the weekend and two afternoons during the week for much of the year.  During the racing season, workouts may be daily for athletes who have performance based goals.  Club coaches will provide both water and land workouts for members to pursue.

As the club grows, we will work with the membership to establish times and days that work for the majority.  We currently have Monday and Thursday workouts, and a longer morning workout each weekend.   (We  hope to someday have a shipping container at the Harbor so we have a “boat house” that is accessible for members all the time.)

Where do we meet?

We have a trailer with our boats stored in dry storage at the Ventura Harbor. We use the public dock found at the end of Navigator Drive on the south side of the Portside housing development as our main club launch location.  Some workouts are also done on land; climbing gyms, our coach’s backyard, local parks and trails, etc.

Get Directions to the Portside Dock on Navigator

Are there rules?

Yes!  We have Bylaws and are managed by an elected Board, too.

The rules are simple and hopefully will show you the kind of culture we strive to keep –

  • Have fun while making good decisions.
  • Support and encourage the growth of others.
  • Include everyone.
  • Do your best and trust that everyone else will, too.
  • Be kind, even when others may not be in return.

How do we communicate?

Club members are given a code to use with our channels in TeamReach – an application for smart phones.  All minors should have their parents also use TeamReach.  All communication is visible to everyone with access to the club’s channels at all times as part of our adherence to the practices of 

Team Reach

What does it cost to join the club?

Club dues are set by our Board and are currently $20 a month, year round and billed quarterly.   Our dues permit you to use our club equipment, take part in club workouts and events, and receive coaching.  To join the club, you must also get a membership with the American Canoe Association which currently costs $40 a year.  (The ACA membership cover’s the club’s insurance needs and more.)   Please select the Ventura Canoe & Kayak Club as your club when joining!

If you end up going to the Nationals or racing in a National Team Trials event, you will also need to purchase a “racing license” from the ACA which is another $80.   This is not something we would expect a first year paddler to need as most are not yet ready to race at the Nationals.  Our club dues are intentionally low compared to the cost of many other club sports so that you can save up for the purchases of your own equipment and travel fees for races.  We will do all we can to help people with fees and hope to be able to secure grants so we can provide assistance to those that would otherwise not be able to afford to take part.

As noted above, members are also expected to purchase their own life jacket in the first few months of paddling.  The club gets a discount from NRS for these purchases.   A good life jacket/PFD for paddling will run between $50 and $100 dollars but you may also be able to find one cheaper through other sources.  The main thing is to get one you feel comfortable wearing while paddling and to wear it at every workout.

By the end of your first year, you need to also purchase your own paddle.   New paddles cost between about $250 and $450, some cost much more.   Used paddles can be found on occasion and we will actively look for deals for you, too.  The club currently has an inventory of new paddles we got at a discount that we will pass along to members.  We purchase paddles when we see deals to save club member’s money.

We encourage all club members to buy (or make!) a boat after their second paddling year.   Boats range in prices depending on new vs. used, homemade vs. professionally made, materials, model, and more.  Expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 to as much as $5,000.  (Our coaches have never spent that much by the way.) We have various fundraisers for both supporting our paddler’s and the club’s equipment needs.

Boats and paddles, if well maintained and cared for, will last you for many decades!

Where do the club dues get spent?

Our club is run completely by volunteers – we have no paid staff.  Coaches even cover their own expenses.

Dues cover the maintenance of our club equipment — life jackets, paddles, boats, and trailer — and the rental of the space in the dry storage lot at the Harbor, and boat repairs.   Dues also go towards our annual American Canoe Association fees which are in addition to the individual payments made by members and required for obtaining insurance.  These ACA fees are about $150/year for the club — our coaches have fees of their own, too, which they pay for themselves and not with club money.  Our club’s monthly overhead is currently about $125. 

Our Board may choose to increase or decrease our club dues in the future depending on needs.  We actively seek donations, we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and rely on fundraising to purchase additional equipment and to offset the cost for paddlers to go to races.  We are fortunate to have a significant amount of boats and equipment already donated to our club and ask that all paddlers maintain and protect these assets.

When and where are the races?

The National Championships are each summer — usually the first week of August or last week in July.  The Nationals are often far from California and the races themselves span four days.  It’s not a small commitment to go to them.  

The US Team Trails are often in April or early May but sometimes may be part of our Nationals.   Trials are usually over a two to three day period. There are some races in the Spring and Fall in California, and we plan to host our own races as our club grows.  We are also considering attending annual races held in the Seattle area and on the East Coast.

Do I have to race?

No.  Racing is optional for all members.  That said, we are a sprint club and want everyone to train to be the best that they can be.  No one is forced to race but we do expect everyone to do what is required to improve in the sport.