Northeast PA Kayak School

First Day on Beltsville Lake

First Day on Beltsville Lake

I got into kayaking about six years ago, and from the very first minute I sat in the cockpit on the floor of the dealers shop I realized how different it would be from canoeing, and I knew I was going to have the fear of becoming trapped in the kayak if I overturned. It’s a very legitimate fear, a number of incidents occur every year because of kayak entrapment. And my fear was severe enough that I didn’t want to paddle the boat except on calm water. So I decided that if I really wanted to enjoy kayaking I’d need to develop my skills with the help a qualified instructor. Notice I said a “qualified instructor” because an actual instructor knows how build your confidence rather than just going through the motions. So I decided to take a two day whitewater kayaking course at the Northeast Pennsylvania Kayak School owned by Jerry McAward, and I can’t tell you how much I would recommend this course for any new kayaker.

Jerry McAward is an American Canoe Association ITE (Instructor Trainer Educator) in Whitewater Kayaking. Jerry has been an instructor for years and an Instructor Trainer since 2001. He is past chairman of the ACA’s River Kayak Committee which is responsible for the development of ACA courses for beginner kayakers and for those seeking certification as kayaking instructors. 

Learning the Roll

Learning the Roll

I elected to take the two day course. The first day was paddling on the nearby lake learning the basics of kayaking. Once covering the very basics like paddle strokes, turning, bracing and the hip snap, we focused on the wet exit and rolling for the remainder of the day. At the end of the first day I conquered much of my fear of the wet exit and actually discovered that I was very comfortable upside down in a kayak. I also hit my first kayak roll.

The second day was a blast. We paddled a section of the Lehigh River, spending a great deal of time recapping the previous day’s instruction and putting it to practical use on an easy class 2 section of the Lehigh. It was sort of funny because as our confidence increased we dared to test our skills, and one by one we were put into real world kayaking situations and forced to execute the wet exit, kind of like birds taking flight for the first time. Finally we finished off the day with some surfing on the Lehigh, and although it was a small wave it was some serious fun for us first time surfers.

The Northeast Pennsylvania Kayak School specializes in beginner to intermediate whitewater kayak instruction. The instructors are all qualified, they have great humor, and they are so willing to share their passion for kayaking with the students that you will walk away with a memorable paddling experience. You’ll be laughing and learning at the same time. The school uses highest quality equipment and gear; I paddled a new Daggar Mamba. They have convenient schedules to choose from and a convenient location near the Lehigh River. There is also plenty of tourism and recreation in the area so you live further away you definitely wouldn’t mind driving the distance and making a short vacation of the class. Just writing this post makes me want to sign up for their River Day session.   

The school also runs addition training programs like the Girls at Play Summer Tour for women only, instructed by Anna Levesque. They also have ACA Instructor Certification Workshops for instructors, swiftwater rescue classes, and even private kayaking lessons.  A kayaker for 27 years, Jerry has led people in outdoor adventures for most of his career and believes strongly in properly introducing new people to the sport of whitewater kayaking.

Check it out at or call 570.325.3432.

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