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FAQs for Beginners

Short-distance competition on flat water is an Olympic sport involving very fast single, double, or four-person kayaks. If you have a need for speed and enjoy water sports, this might be for you.

We practice on the Petaluma River, mainly within the city limits of Petaluma, and race throughout Northern California and beyond.

Most new members start with our annual Introductory Clinic (insert link) in June. You’ll learn the basics and may be invited to join the team afterwards. On rare occasions new members have joined at other times of the year, but summer is the best time to start learning this sport.

Beginners usually practice two or three times a week, after school on weeknights and Saturday mornings. Every session is about 2 – 2.5 hours. Advanced athletes practice frequently, up to 6 or more times weekly, depending on their racing schedules. We train year-round.

Age 11 to 14 is a great time to start this sport.

Absolutely yes. River Town Racers strives to have a 50-50 mix of girls and boys.

No, but you need to know how to swim in case you tip over.

Athletes under 13 (and, in the winter, all athletes) wear lifejackets. A coach in a motorboat or in a kayak is on the water to help athletes get back in their boats if they tip over. If you have a special need that makes you vulnerable to immersion the coaches need to know in advance.

When people start in fast racing boats they often tip over until they learn their balance. Beginners start in more stable “trainers” but advance to faster (and tippier) boats as they get experience.

You get strong by paddling. All beginners participate in body-weight exercises on land, and older athletes participate in developmentally appropriate strength and flexibility training.

Most paddlers who join through our summertime Introductory Clinic are ready to race locally starting in the fall.

There are other resources in Petaluma for recreational paddling; our club is oriented to competition, although we have a lot of outdoor fun as we learn and practice.

Members pay a monthly fee that covers the operating expenses of our largely volunteer-run organization. Occasional grants and our annual fundraising Challenge, in which all athletes participate, help with the costs of equipment and travel.

Our club “culture” is very family friendly. River Town Racers relies on volunteers, to the extent they are able, to help with transportation, snacks, fundraising, leadership, chaperonage, coaching, and nearly everything the club does.

There are youth development clubs across North America and around the world. Beginners race in the North Bay their first few months, and work their way up to racing out of town and overseas.

The closest clubs to River Town Racers are in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. Between the times we can get together with athletes from those clubs, we race anyone around here we can find who likes to go fast!

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area we have year-round training and racing opportunities for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. Each summer, some team members take two large trips: to Seattle and to National Championships, which may be as far as the east coast.

Please register for the Introductory Clinic or contact for more information.

National Championships support volunteers
National Championships support volunteers