AMHERST — The Totman Gymnasium pool was busy on Sept. 26, but not with swimmers. With the help of several University of Massachusetts students, Dave Su, a traveling kayaking instructor, pulled out lane dividers to convert the lap pool into one open space. In a matter of minutes, the water was filled with neon-colored plastic kayaks and UMass students taking their first lessons in whitewater kayaking.
The lessons, held every Tuesday and Thursday, are hosted by the University of Massachusetts Outing Club. The Sept. 26 lesson was attended by 20 kayakers.
Some students, like freshman Aidan Byrne, sat in a kayak for the first time during the lesson.
“It’s a little scary, a little disorienting,” said Bryne, after being flipped upside down a few times. He was inspired by watching kaykers during the summer. “I’ve always seen whitewater kayakers just going at it and wanted to try it,” he said.
Leading the class was instructor Dave Su, an avid paddler who travels around the country teaching others how to kayak. “I’ve been paddling since 1982,” said Su, who was introduced to water sports when he canoed in the Canadian arctic. Although Su travels around the country to teach his craft, he has been based in Amherst and has taught with the outing club since 2004.
“These kind of boats weren’t invented then,” he said, referring to the kayaks the club uses. “This style of boat started coming around 1990. They made them shorter and more dynamic (now).”
This dynamic, shorter design is what allows paddlers to flip and recover the kayaks so easily, as well as pull off tricks.
More experienced students, many of whom are active participants with the club, also assisted in teaching newcomers. Some of them have been with the outing club since the beginning of their college…