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Monday 23 November 2020
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Pick Funs! – Submitted by Maddie Thies, Bend Kayak School.

When it comes to beginner kayak gear, most of us have terrible, embarrassing flashbacks of tattered, sun-bleached jackets, ratty old boats that were way too big (or small…) for us, and lots of purple and teal… But that was the old world of kayak instruction. Today we have options, largely thanks to Jackson Kayak and their come one, come all boat lines.

At the beginning of 2009, two partners started Current Experiences, Central Oregon’s Kayak School, now better known as Bend Kayak. We are a whitewater kayak school focused on instilling strong river stewardship knowledge along with the solid paddle skills that we teach.

It was established early on that not only were we going to offer the best whitewater education around, we were also going to be the best looking kayak school on the water, which was how we chose Jackson. JK and their team of support companies helped us outfit our students to the gills in some of the best modern gear. When it came to choosing which of Jackson’s boat models would best suit our instructional needs, we had a long, debating discussion (ok, we fought for 3 days straight): Heroes or Funs? The Heroes seem to have become the beginner/instructional boat of choice for a lot of paddlers, but for us it came down to the boat that best fit our teaching model.

We believe that, while whitewater kayaking may not be for everyone, anyone can learn this sport. We want to offer our instruction to as wide a range of people as possible, and the Fun series allows us to do that. From age 7 to age 78, with its all-inclusive paddler weight range and versatility of paddle-ability, we can count on the Funs to fit almost any size, ability, or genre of boater that comes our way. Plus, the Funs are little boats, which means we can pack more of them: more boats = more paddlers!

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Our teaching model is based on comfort and honesty. We want our students to feel comfortable in their gear, comfortable with us, and comfortable with their skills. For all of these reasons, our instructors and students love the Funs. Easily customizable outfitting (especially easy with the newer foam block system!) allows students to feel at home in our fleet. The hard lines and unique shape of the boats make it easy to find good grip for learning a T-rescue or for rolling a student back up. The goal of our teaching process is to progress skills and confidence in equal doses; this is where the honesty comes in. We feel that the Funs offer a much more honest (if occasionally harsher) assessment of a students’ skills than do larger, more forgiving models.

The instructors at Bend Kayak are strong believers in the powerful tool of playboating. There is no better way to give the learning curve a boost and test basic paddle skills (bracing, rolling, edge control…) than playboating. The Funs are an awesome cross of downriver stability and playboat control giving our students a truly rounded kayak education. For this same reason, Funs are quickly becoming the kayak of choice for single-boat paddlers in our area.

Bend Kayak is proud to be a Jackson Kayak Super School, and we have been very happy with our original choice to outfit with the Funs. They have completely lived up to our expectations and beyond. Many of the key points and praises for this article were suggestions directly from our students. We are also very excited to be opening our retail shop in Sisters, Oregon, and bring in a demo fleet of Jackson’s full line-up, so that we can even better serve our boating community.

Maddie Thies- Head Instructor

If you have any questions about this topic, please feel free to contact us at info@bendkayak.com or by phone @ 541.701.4077