Beginning Kayaking


Course Syllabus











Department of Sports Science & Physical Education - Idaho State University




Course: Beginning Kayaking (PEAC 1175A)

Semester: Fall and Spring Semester


Time:  Tuesdays, 5-6 & 6-7 PM

Kayak & Paddle
Place: Reed Gym Pool


Instructor:  Dana Olson





The Kayakers Handbook (which is free to all students enrolled in the course) will be provided.  This complimentary resource to the class includes information on the following topics:           


“Uses controlled environment of ISU pool and includes basic skills including forward paddling, draw and sculling strokes, high and low bracing, eddy turns, deep water rescue techniques, river safety, and the Eskimo rescue and roll.”



The Sports Science and Physical Education Department’s Outdoor Education curriculum at Idaho State is based on a foundation of five national recognized standards.  The following standards apply to this course:  Standard 1 (Content Knowledge), Standard 3 (Safety and Minimal Impact), and Standard 5 (Experiential Skill and Field Experience).



Kayak Activity Definition: Whitewater kayaking can take several forms.  It can be a fun and enjoyable recreational activity on nearby streams and rivers, a means of travelling through the backcountry, and a competitive sport.  The type of rivers on which whitewater kayaking take place range from simple, carefree streams and rivers with little to no rapids to creeks with steep drops or  rivers with whitewater rapids.  This course is primarily oriented to the recreational form of kayaking.  It will help provide you with the basic skills and knowledge to get started in kayaking, and from there you can take it any direction you desire.


Kayak Surfing

Kayak History Summary:   The use of floating craft on rivers, lakes and oceans is as old as the Stone Age.  The raft, the catamaran, the canoe and the kayak evolved depending on the needs and environment of indigenous people throughout the world.  The modern day kayak most likely originated about 8,000 years ago along the Siberian coast by the Yupik people and then went through a transformation by the Aleut and Inuit from open canoe to the enclosed kayak as we know it.  In simplest terms, all the ethnic groups of the polar region are called Eskimos and their means of conveyance on water are Eskimo kayaks/canoes.

More recent developments include the following:


1905:   Alfred Heurich, an architectural student from Germany invented the folding kayak called Folboat and which he use to paddle over 62,000 miles on rivers and lakes.


1907:   Alfred Klepper improved the rigidity of the Folboat and started mass production.  He created a paddle craft that for the first time in human history allowed hardy enthusiasts to see wild rivers and canyons never before seen by the human eye.  Klepper’s boats were affordable, easy to travel with and suitable for whitewater river.


1920:   Edi Hans Pawlata reintroduced the Eskimo Roll. (The Eskimos, of course, had been rolling kayaks for centuries.)


1955:   Herbert Baschin built the first fiberglass kayaks.  Despite the much improved maneuverability, Baschin’s hard shell was received with skepticism by European paddling enthusiasts who were in love with their folboats and depended on public transportation.  The catalyst for changing this attitude in Europe came when owning an automobile became affordable.  The hard shell kayak was easily transported to rivers and remote launching sites that were not accessible before. In the late 1960s interest in whitewater kayaking spread from Europe to the U.S. and other parts of the world.


1973:   Tom Johnson designed and marketed the first roto-molded polyethylene boat called the Hollowform.  Paddlers no longer had to worry about repairing fragile fiberglass boats after trips.  Because of the durability of the boats, techniques were even developed by which rocks could be used as part of the strategy of negotiating rapids.  Difficult white water became more accessible to less-skilled paddlers.


1980:   The Prijon company introduced polyethylene boats to the European market. Whitewater kayaks, up to this time, were 13 feet long, the same length as required for competitive slalom racing.  Holger Machatschek developed the first 7.2 foot-long playboat called Topolino.  This revitalized the sport, creating many new and exciting possibilities from surfing waves in rapids to exploring new rivers.


Kayak Philosophy Summary:   Kayaking on whitewater rivers combines challenge, athleticism, excitement, and problem solving.  Rivers are dynamic, involving a mix of quiet and fast water and variable currents, some of which flow upstream.  Even on a fairly simple level, rivers demand a constant awareness on the part of a kayaker to react to their changing moods and temperament.  This interplay of physical and mental effort, all of which takes place in a healthy outdoor environment, makes the sport of kayaking an immensely satisfying and rewarding activity.


The course is taught in the Reed Gym Pool, but because kayaking is ultimately an outdoor activity, an optional weekend float trip on an easy river will be offered.  The weekend trip allows students to apply the skills they’ve learned in the pool in a real situation on a flowing river.  The course is designed to help students develop skills, form an appreciation for safety, and gain an understanding of kayaking history and equipment.  The following value statements help guide course strategy:

To assure maximum opportunity for learning, a pre-planned semester course schedule will be followed which takes students through a progressive series of steps.  (The course schedule is reproduced below.)  Note that the course schedule may be adapted to facilitate individual differences in learning abilities.

New techniques will be introduced and demonstrated to help reduce the risk of injury.

All interested students are welcomed in this course, no matter what their ability.  Whenever possible, personal attention will be provided to enhance learning.

Kayaking has inherent risks, and in the interest of safety, students are asked to follow class rules.  Anyone not adhering to the rules will be asked to leave class.

Near the end of the course, an assessment of the skills learned in the course will be administered.

Academic materials and lecture subject matter will be evaluated by the use of a written final exam.

The course is taught in a way which allows students to gain an appreciation of whitewater kayaking, and physical activity in general, as a healthy and viable lifetime recreational activity.

An optional weekend trip is offered which introduces students to the river environment and opens the door for future satisfying recreational experiences in the outdoors.



Objective 1 (Academic Objective): To gain an understanding of the history of kayaking, the evolution of kayak design, and the function and use of accessory equipment. 

Objective 1 Learning Outcomes - By the end of the course, students will:

1a. Have an understanding of the development of the kayak from ancient times to the present, including how kayak design has changed over the years, and the progression of materials used in kayak construction.
1b. Understand the function of and the use of kayaking equipment including curved and flat-blade paddles, spray skirts, flotation bags, and other accessories.
1c. Be able to demonstrate the proper use of kayaking safety equipment include helmets, protective clothing, life jackets, and throw ropes.

Objective 2 (Academic Objective):  To develop an appreciation and understanding of the safety procedures involved with kayaking and an overview of stream flow hydraulics.

Objective 2 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will:

2a.  Understand the risks associated with cold water, the procedures to minimize and prevent cold water problems, and treatment of cold related injuries.
2b.  Be able to identify common river hazards including strainers, dams, weirs, ledges, reversals, holes, and hydraulics, and know the procedures in avoiding these hazards.
2c.  Know the universal river signals as approved by the American Whitewater Affiliation.
2d.  Understand kayaking groups procedures including spacing of boats and methods to maintain contact and communication between kayakers.
2e.  Know the International Scale of River Difficultly including the six levels of river classification. 
2f.  Have an understanding of the direction and force of river current flow based on river morphology, river gradient, and obstacles such as boulders, ledges, and rock bars.

Objective 3 (Motor Skill Objective):  To develop basic motor skills in kayaking

Objective 3 Learning Outcomes – By the end of the course, students will:


3a.  Know how to properly lift, carry, launch, and land kayaks.
3b.  Be able to execute efficient paddling strokes including forward, reverse, and draw strokes (regular draw and sculling draw.)
3c. Have worked through the Eskimo roll learning sequence with the ultimate goal of developing a reliable pool roll, and, if time permits, to learn the roll on the opposite side.
3d.  Understand the fundamentals of support systems through the use of high and low braces as well as the scull for support.
3e.  Understand the fundamentals of eddy turning, ferry, boat positioning for curves and corners, and avoiding of rocks and obstacles.
3f.  Have the opportunity to practice paddling, turning, ferrying and rolling on a half day river trip


Grades for this course are determined by using a point system.  The final grade is reached by adding points from three components:

Total Number of Points Possible:  200 pts


Weekend River Trip:  Half-day river trips will be held April 20.  The river trips counts for extra credit towards your grade. 


Make-up Opportunities for Absences:  Two make-up absences will be allowed.  You can make up a class by attending Open Kayaking which is held on Thursdays evenings from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.  The instructor will provide information on when Open Kayaking begins.


Grading Example:  As an example of how grades are determine, let’s say that a student in the course attends 14 out of the possible 16 total class sessions; and they receive 45 pts. on the skill assessment test, and 40 pts. on the written final.  Here’s how the grade would be calculated:

  • Attendance and Participation  14 x 6.25 =  87.5 pts.
  • Skill Assessment  45 pts.
  • Written Final  40 pts.

Total Points:  87.5 + 45 + 40 = 173
Percentage Grade: 173 / 200 =  87%
Letter Grade - Using the ISU grading scale (below):  B+


A         93-100             C+       78-80               D-        63-65
A-        90-92.9           C         75-77                 F          62-below
B+       87-89               C-        72-74
B          84-86              D+       69-71
B-        81-83               D         66-68



If you have a diagnosed disability or believe that you have a disability that might require “reasonable accommodation” on the part of the instructor, please call the Director, Center of Services for Students with Disabilities, 282-3599. As a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is the responsibility of the student to disclose a disability prior to requesting reasonable accommodation. 





Course Segment

Topics / Skills

Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Session 1

Introduction, Review of Syllabus
Buddy Rescue
Wet Exit

Objectives: 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1f, 2a, 2b, 3a

Session 2

Forward Paddling/ Eskimo Rescue

Objectives: 1, 2, 3
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 1e, 1f, 2b, 3a

Session 3

Eddy Turns/Kayak Polo

Objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 1e, 1f, 2b, 3a

Session 4

Eddy Turns/ River Rescue Systems

Objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4
Learning Outcomes: 1d, 1e, 1f, 2b, 3a

Session 5

River Trip:
Read River Safety, Hypothermia and River Hydraulics Handouts for the River Trip

Objectives:1, 2, 3, 5
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d,1e,1f, 2b, 3a, 5a

Session 6

Jug Rolls

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 1e,2b, 3a

Session 7

Jug Rolls/Eskimo Rolls

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 1e,2b, 3a

Session 8

Eskimo Rolls

Objectives:1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a

Session 9

Eskimo Rolls (Continue to work on)

Objectives:1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes: 1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a

Session 10

Draw Stroke/ Eskimo Roll Practice

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes:1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a

Session 11

Sculling Draw/Eskimo Roll Practice

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes:1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a

Session 12

Kayaking Film

Objectives: 1, 2, 3, 5
Learning Outcomes:1c, 1d, 1e, 1f, 2b, 3a, 5a

Session 13

High Brace/ Eskimo Roll Practice

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes:1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a,

Session 14

Sculling For Support/ Eskimo Roll Practice

Objectives: 1, 2, 3,
Learning Outcomes:1c, 1d, 1e, 2b, 3a,


No Class Thanksgiving Break


Session 15


Objectives: 4, 5
Learning Outcomes: 4a, 5a

Session 16

Practical Skills Assessment

Objectives: 4, 5
Learning Outcomes: 4b, 5a

Session 17

Written Exam:
Over all handouts posted in Moodle

Objectives: 4, 5
Learning Outcomes: 4a.5a



Kayakers Having Fun: Waving Feet



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