Summer Paddling Camp Roundup!

So you’re sending your brood off to camp for the summer. Save your tears—they’ll only make your kids think of paddling when they return from one of the following retreats where paddling is as much of the program as pancakes and poison ivy…

Sure, they’ll still experience bunkroom snoring, pranks and—gasp!—maybe even that first kiss–but they’ll also come out better paddlers, meaning they’ll be that much closer to pulling their own weight next time you venture out as a family. Following are five that offer everything from wilderness sea kayaking and canoeing to whitewater instruction a throw-rope’s toss from the mess hall.

Camp Mondamin/Green Cove
Lake Summit just 10 miles above the Green River Narrows separates Tuxedo, N.C.’s Camp Green Cove for girls from Camp Mondamin for boys, but with a Class II section above and Class IV run below, it also offers one of the best paddling venues of any camp in the country. For kids aged 6-17, the two camps, based in the mountains of Pisgah National Forest, offer five-day, three-week and five-and-a-half-week sessions, with such activities as climbing and sailing to archery and tennis. Though they try to downplay it compared to other activities, it’s their paddling programs that stand out. From lessons at the camp paddling dock to extended overnighters, the camp emphasizes open boat skills before progressing to C-1 and kayaking. Need proof of its accolades? Alumni include Olympians Fritz and Lecky Haller and Matt Taylor, as well as 2003 C-1 freestyle world champion Bill McKnight. And meet head of instruction Andrew Bell, the founder’s son and OC-1 runner-up at the 2003. Info:;

World Class Kayak Academy
Surf’s up this summer for youngsters at Missoula, Mont.’s World Class Kayak Academy (WCKA). Known for its international academic/kayaking programs, with a new headquarters and sleeping facility at Crystal Springs in Alberton Gorge, this year the academy is offering a summer program for kids looking to improve their kayaking skills while paddling the best rivers in the West. With demand expected to be as high as the area’s rivers, the two-week-long Summer Sessions (cue surf-theme music here) are capped at 14 students between the ages of 12 and 18 and are designed to take advantage of what’s running where at the drop of a helmet. The first and third camps focus on river running and freestyle, while sessions two and four add on a trip to British Columbia’s Skookumchuck. And if you’ve ever want proof that your child actually attended camp, WCKA also offers a month-long Videography class where students earn High School credit for making films. Now that’s an endless summer. Info:

Camp Manito-wish
Wish to have your kids paddle? Wisconsin’s Camp Manito-wish can make it come true. Located on the shores of Boulder Lake, the YMCA-run camp is celebrating its 90th anniversary this summer by continuing its tradition of offering 8-, 14- and 20-day camps for boys and girls aged 10-19. The only requirement: every camper participate on a wilderness trip, involving canoeing, sea kayaking or backpacking. Shorter trips depart right from camp in the heart of the Northwoods, while longer ones explore more remote Midwest waterways. True to the Northwoods, the traditional Paul Bunyan Day ends each session, including competitions in everything from pancake-flipping to log rolling. Graduates can also return for the Outpost Program, which offers 9- to 45-day trips through Isle Royale, Quetico, Lake Huron and Northern Saskatchewan. Now we wish we could go. Info:

Camp Chewonki
Your child may have a hard time picking between such activities as pottery or organic gardening, but if she has an itch only salty ocean air can scratch the choice will be easy. Sea kayaking is a tradition at Camp Chewonki, which owns over 1,200 acres along the Maine coast. Programs are designed to keep kids progressing as they grow, with 8- to 12-year-olds spending a two- to six-day retreat on the coast while 13- to 15-year-olds are offered the opportunity for weeklong trips. Elder campers might also take a three-week trip down the Maine coast, exploring everything from Wiscasset to Mount Desert Island, while sleeping beneath the New England stars. They can also learn hand-tool boatbuilding crafts and then take their hand-built kayaks out for a two-week expedition and then bring them home afterward. The only drawback? The boats will likely find a home in your garage, relegating your shuttle rig to the curb outside. Info:
-Sam Weiss

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