The Thrill of the Skill

Paddling

Discover the secrets to sharing the load     Photo: Eyewire

SEA KAYAKING
Maine Island Kayak Co.
Peaks Island, Maine
More than 2,000 islands—home to hundreds of protected coves and isolated pools—create the ultimate location for Maine Island Kayak Co.'s Five-Day Fast Track camp. For the first three days, hover in nearby coves to hone paddling technique, self-rescue, wet exits, route selection, and navigation. Spend the final two days in the open Atlantic, where seals trail the kayaks. Stay in one of the island's three hotels, or set up tents in the grass behind the boathouse and steep in the briny sea mist.
End Game: Leading your own 21-mile circumnavigation of Isle au Haut, in nearby Acadia National Park.
Info: $750–$1,250 (all-inclusive), June to September; 800-796-2373, www.maineislandkayak.com
Or Try: Body Boat Blade International's five-day camp on Orcas Island, Washington, where you can learn to sea-kayak in the San Juan archipelago; $520; 360-376-5388,


ROWING
Craftsbury Sculling Center
Crafsbury Common, Vermont
Don't get the wrong idea when you're told you're velvety, silky, or seamless—that's how sculling coaches describe a smooth stroke. You'll learn from Olympic and world-champion rowers at Craftsbury's Weeklong Sculling Camp on the 320-acre campus of an old boarding school in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Practice synchronizing your catch, drive, and release as you row a 26-foot-long single scull across Great Hosmer Pond, then give yourself some well-deserved TLC with evening yoga classes and Craftsbury's famous home-cooked meals.
End Game: Showing off your fluid form in the Head of the Hosmer, a two-mile race on the last day of camp.
Info: $795–$895 (all-inclusive), May to September; 802-586-7767,
Or Try: Lancaster, Virginia's Calm Waters Rowing, for sculling fundamentals on 80-acre Camps Millpond; three to four days, $615–$960; 800-238-5578,

RAFTING
Destination, Wilderness
Sisters, Oregon
If you've ever dreamed of bossing your friends down a river, Destination Wilderness's Seven-day Whitewater Rafting Workshop is the place for you. You'll spend the first three days camping on Oregon's North Fork of the Umpqua River, taking turns captaining your raft down Class III–IV rapids and stopping on the way for sandbar seminars on paddle technique, boat repair, and navigation. Then spend four days floating the Class III Rogue River, refining the skills you need to guide a private paddleboat or oar boat downstream. The training, which has a three-to-one student-teacher ratio, includes simulated rescues and addresses leadership issues—like how to deal with your rowdy cousin Tony on your next trip down the Rio Grande.
End Game: Rowing or paddling a Class III torrent.
Info: $1,150 (all-inclusive), April to May; 800-423-8868,
Or Try: Far Flung Adventures, of Taos, New Mexico, whose courses on New Mexico and Colorado rivers transform first-time rafters into Class IV boat captains; seven days, $900; 800-359-2627,

CANOEING
Nantahala Outdoor Center
Bryson City, North Carolina
Since 1972, the legendary NOC, tucked in the woods on the banks of the Class III Nantahala River, has been schooling people in proper paddling technique—from the basic J-stroke to peeling out, ferrying, and boofing drops. During the Four-day Rapid Progression Course, you'll start out with a day of dry-land and flatwater paddling instruction before transferring those skills to Class I flatwater on day two. Days three and four are spent testing yourself on more challenging Class II sections of the Nantahala. Chow down on riverside picnic lunches and overnight in NOC's woodsy cabins.
End Game: Planning your own trip down Maine's Allagash and St. John rivers.
Info: $755 (all-inclusive), April and September; 800-232-7238,
Or Try: Tuckamor Trips, in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, for instructional adventures on Quebec's Class I–II Dumoine River; six days, $890; 819-326-3602,

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