published Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Paddle school days begin

By Gary Petty
Tennessee Valley Canoe Club member Sally Edwards takes a picture of a canoe student as he readies his canoe to go over a rapid on the Hiwassee River.
Tennessee Valley Canoe Club member Sally Edwards takes a picture of a canoe student as he readies his canoe to go over a rapid on the Hiwassee River.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For more info

Or to register, see www.tvccpaddler.com

The Tennessee Valley Canoe Club is ramping up for its annual paddle school May 31-June 2.

Depending on the students' skill levels and desired type of instruction, classes will be held on either the Ocoee or the Hiwassee river. Water sessions will be held that Saturday and Sunday.

While not required, most students and instructors will camp those Friday and Saturday nights at the Ocoee Adventure Rafting outfitter's site. OAR is located at 629 Welcome Valley Road in Benton.

"One of the best aspects of paddle school is the group camping, which allows the students extra time to mingle with their class, their instructors and other students off the water," said Rob Bartlett, one of the instructors. "Many great campfire stories get told in the evenings around the campground. Add food, drink, music and lots of humor, and paddle school just isn't paddle school without the camping."

A paddlers reception will be held on the evening of May 31 with a potluck-style cookout. Those attending should bring covered dishes or desserts to share. In addition to the cookout, the Chattanooga-based group Endelouz will be playing a mix of soulful rhythms, old school rock, rhythm and blues and pop music.

The next night the TVCC will provide dinner at a cost of $10, and students can participate in a canoe jousting tournament with oversized foam Q-tip-looking lances. A gear auction will follow.

Five courses are offered:

• Kids club: Whitewater kayaking for ages 8-15, grouped by skill level.

• Whitewater kayaking: With feet forward in a decked boat using a double-bladed paddle.

• Alternate whitewater boat: Using what is commonly called a "duckie" -- an inflatable kayak.

• Sea kayak: A course on flatwater with boats generally 15-18 feet long.

• Whitewater canoeing: Learning to kneel and develop skills to handle a canoe with a single-blade paddle, either solo or tandem.

The club encourages those new to whitewater kayaking to attend an Outdoor Chattanooga Rapid Learning roll practice session at Chester Frost Park before the school. Sessions are held on Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.

All paddle school students are required to become TVCC members with annual family membership at $20. Registration for the school is $40 with a late fee of $15 added for those who register after this Friday.

As the paddle school is an American Canoe Association-sanctioned event, an additional $5 is required for students who are not ACA members.

Camping fees at OAR have been set at $7, which includes both nights.

Students are required to provide or rent their own equipment. However, volunteers with the TVCC are willing to help with this aspect, along with local outfitters in the Chattanooga and the Ocoee/Hiwassee area.

"Last year we had about 150 students," said Rebecca Hendrix, vice president of the club whose membership numbers about 350. "The majority of those attending were mostly beginners."

Hendrix said the school's popularity has been aided by social media such as Facebook.

"We have some families coming from South Carolina and one person coming from New Mexico," she said. "We are very excited about the school."

Said Eric Fleming, another one of the instructors: "Paddling with a club is much better than paddling alone. It's safer, more fun, and we have leaders that know all the rivers around the area. People are more likely to stay with paddling if they have the confidence of good training, advice on the best boat for them and the best gear and getting to try different boats, meeting people with similar interests, et cetera.

"The comments we get from students are mostly very positive about how friendly and willing to help everyone is, and that they think it was a good experience and worth the money."

The TVCC schedules numerous kayaking excursions and canoe overnight camping throughout the year.

"After paddle school, the learning doesn't stop," Bartlett said. "The TVCC offers a full calendar of training trips and group trips to members. Whitewater trips range from the Hiwassee to the Tellico, and sea kayaking trips range from the Tennessee River to the coast of Florida."

Contact Gary Petty at sports@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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