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From Pools to Rapids, Bronco Fit Teaches Kayaking Skills

Nick Sparacino thought that “you should put yourself out there and make connections, find people that you can live your life with.” Last semester he put his motto into action.

Nick saw the opportunity to take a kayaking class and took it. As someone who loves the outdoors, he always wanted to learn to kayak. Another student,  Kennedy Nye, chose the class to spend more time with her friend Bayden Olson–the student instructor. 6 months later Nick, Brayden, and Kennedy drove to the Boise River to test their kayaking skills.

As part of the class, students gathered on the side of the river and unloaded their gear to embark on a journey down the rapids. Each time they approached a rapid they exited the river so the class supervisors could talk about how to navigate it. Students saw their supervisor lead the way and followed suit.

“[The trip] was pretty freaking sweet,” Nick said.

All the students enjoyed the journey down the river and were able to practice their techniques. Both Kennedy and Nick had butterflies in their stomachs, but the feeling went away once they got into their kayaks. After practicing in the Rec Center, the current of the river was a challenge to get used to. Understanding “what is the river telling you” and reacting was Kennedy’s greatest takeaway from the trip. On the multiple hour trip down the river, Kennedy only flipped over once. After they reached their destination, everyone did a few rolls in the water to celebrate the end of their class and successful excursion.

Rolling the kayak was a key part of their learning experience in the pool after they learned basic safety rules and strokes. Rolling is an important skill because it allows kayakers to continue after flipping over. It took a lot of practice to get the movement down, but, eventually, all the students could roll.

Wondering how they do it? Here’s a crash course on rolling from Nick:

  1. Have all of your equipment.
  2. Once you flip underwater, you need to brace your body by leaning your head forward. This is essential because in shallow water, hitting your head on the ground is a serious danger.
  3. Hold your paddle outside the boat and perpendicular to yourself.
  4. Lead your head and body forward.
  5. Snap your hips toward the surface and follow with your head as you push the paddle into the water.
  6. All done! (Although it’s harder than it sounds.)

Plus a pro tip from Kennedy: wear goggles.

“Going under the water is like a whole different world or dimension,” she said. Most of the students used goggles so they could see under the water. Before she rolled her kayak for the first time, she held herself underwater thinking about the steps. Shortly after, she found herself right-side-up with a big smile on her face. She was ecstatic.

Other than practicing technique, students got to play games. “Ultimate Kayak”, where teams threw a ball to one another with the same rules as Ultimate Frisbee, was a class favorite. This friendly competition built a bond between the students and supervisors. When they raced against each other, the pool echoed with words of support for the students. Other students rooted for their friends and shouted as they paddled across the pool. After frantic paddling and friendly competition, a winner would be crowned.

Kennedy and Nick are excited to join the kayaking club after learning the new sport. Reflecting on the class, both agree it was the best class they took and suggest the class to all students.

“When else can you take a kayaking class?”  Kennedy said.

“It is so much fun, the group of people is worth it alone,”  Nick said.

BroncoFit 211: Introduction to Kayaking has a Tuesday or Thursday session available next fall from 7-9 p.m. at the Rec Center swimming pool. The class accepts all skill levels and encourages anyone to try! If you’re interested in signing up for a class or have questions about BroncoFit, please contact BroncoFit Activities Coordinator Kevin Blume at

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    Writing Correspondent