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How to Read Water for Kayaking

It’s been some time that I was discussing how to choose a kayak and safety aspects of Kayaking. And I’m back with a new blog! My apologies for the delay! As an adventurer sometimes the most difficult part in life is sitting in front of a computer and trying to find the best words and time. 

I believe now it’s time to know about the water! Yes if you are kayaking in Sri Lanka it is the most important aspect of kayaking! Without knowing water you will have difficulties and even may cause injuries and damages your kayak. So it’s important that we have a basic knowledge of WATER! Before start kayaking in Sri Lanka.

Types of water in kayaking! 

Types of water in kayaking could be categorized basically into two.

  1. Flatwater
  2. White water.

Yes, there is the sea with waves and swells but let’s stick to inland kayaking for now. If you are kayaking in Sri Lanka it is important that you know the basics of river reading.

Before moving on to the subject of flat and white water, I think it’s important to know about the life stages of a river. As you know a river starts in the mountains as a small stream, gathers water and momentum, travels through the mountains to plains and then ends the life at the sea. There are three stages of the river and it’s important we choose which stage to kayak based on your experience and the type of kayak. 

3 stages of a river!

1. Youthful River Channel

The youthful river channel is where it all begins! Up in the mountains. A characteristic of this river is that it has V-shaped bottom, Narrow with steep sides and gradient. The water here runs fast with maximum velocity and at the formation of rock on the bottom will usually create the phenomena called the “RAPIDS” this is where the river also has those beautiful wonder called the waterfalls. If you are swimming here this is where you have to be very cautious. And if you are kayaking in Sri Lanka this is where the adventure seekers will have the best action. 

A famous place for this type of river is Kitulgala. There are also other places and we love white water kayaking is in Lankagama (near the border of Singaraja rain forest) where you get a safe and adventurous place for whitewater kayaking in Sri Lanka. 

A word of caution! Never ever go white water kayaking without a rescue guide or a qualified instructor by your side! It is also important that you have the best safety equipment. We have whitewater kayaking in Singharaja Forest Border with safety guides and it will be a great place to experience sheer adventure. We also have kayaked in Kitulgala apart from famous whitewater rafting. 

Types of kayaks used here should be strictly plastic and good quality. A single person sit-in kayak or sit on tops will be the ideal types and a huge NO-NO for fibreglass kayaks which are locally made.

Youthful River

2. Mature River Channel

As the name says this is where the things slow down a bit. Usually, the bottom here is U shaped and the water velocity is not as ferocious as the youthful river. This river has a narrow flood plain that can hold some excess water. This area will have few rapids as descend here is not that vertical. This area is relatively less adventurous but will present a few rapids and a wider river.

This is ideal for a nature lover where you can paddle calm and slow while enjoying nature. If you love this type of kayaking in Sri Lanka I could recommend a few places and top of my recommendation will be the river Mahaweli. A good stretch of river for this type of paddling is from Mahiyanganaya to Manampitiya via Wasgomuwa National Park.

Here’s the link to our Mahaweli expedition, a true adventure of a lifetime! Another place is Kaluganga starting from Kiriella all the way down to Kalutara you could also have beautiful landscapes and village life for 3 days.   

3. Old Age River Channel 

This is where the things get really slow down, the water here is very slow-moving and has no rapids. Further, the river is broad and the bottom now has a broader U shape. This segment can hold more floodwater than the previous stages. This is a safe place to start kayaking in Sri Lanka and you could start on your own after a few sessions with your friends or a qualified instructor. But beware of the water quality as now the industrialism has claimed many rivers. 

You could use any type of kayak here and even locally made fiberglass kayaks. 

3 stages of a river

Choosing the water to Kayak

So now I’m sure you know where the white water and flat water exists!

As the name says flat water means water that’s relatively calm and has a very low or no dynamism. The dynamism if interpreted could be explained as the tendency to move. So when you say flat water it could mean that the nature of the water is still or slow-moving. 

Other places where flatwater exist apart from rivers Lakes, Tanks have still water thus you could say its flat water. 

The white water is of course now as you now the water with big swells and waves with white coloured foams where the density is low and oxygen content is high. A place where you should not venture if you are kayaking in Sri Lanka alone. 

So I guess this is enough to get an idea of which kayak to use in where, and the safe places to start kayaking in Sri Lanka. See you soon with another blog discussing in detail about places to start kayaking for beginners in Sri Lanka.

Till then Happy Paddling!

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