Whitewater Kayaking

Group Raft Up

What We Do

The Hoofers Outing Club whitewater group provides the equipment and instruction to members of all levels of ability to experience, learn, and progress in whitewater activities with the comfort of paddling with experienced paddlers. Club members paddle kayaks, decked canoes (C-1) and open canoes.

Beginner level trips are often held either locally or in Northern Wisconsin where we often camp at, a small plot of land owned by Hoofers Outing Club.


For more information contact our Whitewater Kayaking Chair at whitewater@hooferouting.org.

Find out when we're hitting the river here

Check out our ratings here

Getting Started

All paddlers must have completed a swim test and lake lesson before attending a whitewater specific event or lesson. If no swim tests or lake lessons have been posted on the activities website reach out to the Whitewater Chair at whitewater@hooferouting.org to get a lesson scheduled. If you happen to have preexisting whitewater experience, you must still complete a swim test and lake lesson where your skills will be assessed.

Any time of year is a great time to start! The warm seasons make it super convenient to schedule lessons on Lake Mendota, but we also hold semi regular pool sessions at the MATC pool throughout the winter which is a great time to work on personal skills with experienced paddlers. Pool sessions are a particularly outstanding time to learn how to roll a kayak!

Alec Stern Squirt

Rating System

Hoofers Outing Club has a rating system that acts as a measurement of paddling ability. The general progression for kayaks is as follows:

  1. Swim Test - Demonstrates ability swim.
  2. Lake Rating - Base paddling rating.
  3. R1 - Actively learning how to paddle in moving current (eddy outs and peel outs).
  4. R2 - Comfortable capsizing in current and beginning to develop control on class II rivers.
  5. R3p - Comfortable on class II rivers and is capable in assisting with rescues. Is beginning to roll.
  6. R3 - Competent in reading and running class III rivers and can consistently roll up.
  7. R4p - Has demonstrated proficiency in reading and paddling class III water with ease.
  8. R4 - This rating is the highest rating given by the Hoofer Outing Club for decked canoes and kayaks and suggests that
    the paddler is competent to paddle any whitewater attempted by the Hoofer Outing Club.

Ratings are achieved by developing skills and gaining experience by attending Hoofer Outing Club trips. If you don't see any events posted on the activities website for your rating, don't hesitate to reach out to the Whitewater Chair to look at scheduling something. There's always people looking to paddle!

For a more detailed explanation of ratings and required competencies, either talk to an instructor or consult the Water Safety Code Section 2.2!

Educational Resources

For anyone looking to get an early jump on concepts and skills, a list of quality resources is below. It is often easier to understand how to perform a skill or move when it can be visualized, and videos often provide a unique perspective for "seeing it".

General Paddling

  • Forward Stroke - How to paddle a whitewater boat in a straight line. Harder than you might think!
  • Sweep Stroke - How to effectively turn a kayak.
  • Draw Stroke - How to control your boat in current. A great introduction.
  • Draw Stroke (Intermediate) - A great overview on not only how to do a draw stroke, but how to maximize the advantage gained by using it. Recommended for paddlers who have already been on a river and are beginning to understand paddling in current.
  • River Features - An introduction to the vocabulary relating to river features. This is how we refer to specific features while paddling.
  • Ferrying - How to move across the current.
  • Peel Out - How to exit an eddy and rejoin the current. This is why you practice forward, sweep, and draw strokes!
  • Eddy Out - How to exit the current and rest in an eddy.
  • Mid-river S-Turn - A way of slowing down mid rapid and demonstrating comfort with eddy outs and peel outs.
  • Eddy to Eddy S-Turn - A great way of demonstrating comfort on rivers. Shows competency in reading and running rivers

Rolling - All these videos are relatively equivalent. I recommend watching as many as you like and finding the one that resonates with you.