Scale of River Difficulty

Whitewater KayakingOften times you will see whitewater kayaks advertise what class of water they are good for. What that is telling you is how rough of water your kayak can handle as well as what kind of passage to expect. It is important to know what these classes mean. These ratings usually refer to rivers at normal summer levels.

Below is the list of classes and their description…

  • Class I – Easy – Mostly flatwater with possibly some tiny waves and little to no obstructions. Fine for beginners.
  • Class II – Medium – Some rapids, moderate difficulty with a clear passage. Good for fun and adventure.
  • Class III – Difficult – High and irregular waves, possible sharp rocks, eddies, rapids with passages clear through narrow that require expertise in maneuvering. Need to know what you’re doing.
  • Class IV – Very Difficult – Powerful and irregular waves, long rapids, dangerous rocks, boiling eddies, need to be able to do powerful and precise maneuvering. You better know what you’re doing.
  • Class V – Extremely Difficult – Violent and long rapids that follow each other almost without interruption, very obstructed, heavy and violent current, big drops, very steep gradient. You have to be a little crazy.
  • Class VI – Don’t even bother.

Knowing the definition of these classes is important but it is also just as important to check out the river before you go kayaking to know what to expect along the way. Be smart, be safe and don’t expect to ever find me in anything past a class II. What can I say.

Read our comprehensive reviews of solo whitewater inflatable kayaks or tandem whitewater inflatable kayaks.

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