Open Water Paddle

Georgia River Network is launching its first full season of kayak and paddler safety classes designed specifically for paddlers who enjoy lakes and slow-moving rivers and would like to gain some skills to be safer and have more fun on the water. GRN began offering classes in September 2021, and all initial offerings sold out rapidly.

According to a recent press release from the Waterfall Foundation citing the latest data (2020) from the Outdoor Foundation, a record 37.9 million participants across the United States engaged in paddle sports like kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding during the pandemic. This pandemic surge brought an estimated 2.5 million new paddlers to American waterways. However, it increased accidents to 331 and fatalities to a record-high 202 – accounting for more than 26 percent of all boating fatalities that same year. More than one-third of victims had less than 10 hours of experience in paddle sports; experts cited lack of safety training as an important contributing factor.

Georgia River Network classes are led by instructors certified by the American Canoe Association, the gold standard in paddle sports education. Classes range from intro to kayaking and intro to river kayaking, which offer an introduction to lakes, Class I rivers, and basic paddling skills, to a more progressive and unique offering that GRN is doing for only the second time in the Atlanta area, rescue for rec boaters. This class, offered only once this year, gives entry-level paddlers a singular opportunity to experience a comprehensive approach to safety and rescue for paddlers that is designed for exactly the kinds of hazards they will encounter.

GRN board member Bill Cox, who recently retired from the position of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area Park superintendent after 40 years of service, underscores the importance of offering rescue training for entry-level boaters on the Metro Hooch section of the Chattahoochee River.

“What Georgia River Network is doing here is impressive and very timely,” said Cox. “While sea kayakers and whitewater paddlers have had access to this kind of safety and rescue training for a long time, entry-level paddlers on lakes and Class I rivers have never had a class designed just for their paddling level. These instructors are bringing something special to help the paddling community in our region.”

Rescue for Rec Boaters (Lake & River, 1-Day & 2-Day options available)

Rescue for rec boaters is an entry-level safety and rescue class for paddlers who plan to paddle flatwater lakes and slow-moving rivers. In addition to learning how to avoid unsafe scenarios on the water, participants can expect to learn how to rescue themselves, how to rescue others and how to be rescued by someone else.

•June 4, Lake Day: Panola Mountain State Park and Lake Alexander (optional kayak rental available)

•June 5, River Day: Akers Mill/West Palisades Trail on the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta (optional PFD rental available and no boat needed)

•$85 per day or $140 for both days.

Introduction to River Kayaking (Class I River)

The introduction to river kayaking class will focus on basic paddling skills, tricks for added boat control in current, trip planning, and prevention, as well as skills like how to read the river and how to identify and avoid hazards and be more confident about exploring Class I rivers. Introduction to kayaking is a half-day, introductory-level class to get paddlers more familiar with the features of their boat and paddle and to give them more confidence on their adventures.

By the end of the day, paddlers can expect to feel like their boat is less tippy, know how to paddle all day without wearing out their arms, know how to avoid tennis elbow, know how to help themselves or a friend in a capsize situation on a lake, and other basics that will prepare them to be a better paddler or trip leader for their family.

•June 12 or July 30: Lower Chestatee River

•$90 per person + optional kayak rental

Introduction to Kayaking (Lake)

•July 9: Lake Jackson at Bear Creek Marina, Mansfield

•$75 per person + optional boat rental

Earlier this year, Georgia River Network launched a free mobile app, the Georgia River Guide, which highlights more than 30 Georgia water trails with all the key information paddlers need to plan a trip. The app brings information about river accesses, outfitters and camping, and safety conditions all into one handy digital tool for people to explore Georgia’s waterways. For more information, visit:

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