Instructor Nathan Henkenius talks with student Jean Bougeant during an open boating class.
Instructor Nathan Henkenius talks with student Jean Bougeant during an open boating class. (Jaclyn Waggoner/Special to The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — One of the last things you expect to see at the Farmington Aquatic Center is a pool filled with kayakers.

But on Thursday evenings, that's exactly what you will find.

Every Thursday, instructors from the San Juan College's Outdoor Leadership Program load up a trailer of kayaks and equipment from the Outdoor Equipment Rental Center and head to the pool for an open boating class for the community. The only charge for the class is admission to the pool.

With three rivers running through the city and several lakes nearby, Farmington is an ideal place for kayaking and boating. The problem, says kayak instructor Scott Burchfield, is that there either isn't enough interest in kayaking or people don't have the equipment to do it.

But the instructors are hoping to change that with the open boating classes.

"We really want more people to learn about kayaking. I grew up in Aztec and was told the river was a dangerous place to play. Then I took a kayaking class through the Outdoor Leadership Program, and that was it for me. That was what I wanted to do," said Burchfield, who has been an instructor for the past five and a half years.

The class aims not only to get more people interested in kayaking, but also to show them the basics before they head out. It also gives people access to the necessary equipment and teaches them how to use it properly.

"Not a lot of people know how to boat because they don't have access to (equipment)," Burchfield said.

The Outdoor Equipment Rental Center has dozens of kayaks for rent, and instructors bring their equipment for free to the open boating classes on Thursdays.

Some of the basics covered in the class are how to get in and out of the boat. If you bring your own kayak, instructors will show you how to fit it to you. They also cover how to safely roll and how to do a T-rescue, if needed.

"Mental preparation is a huge part of learning how to do these skills," said instructor Nathan Henkenius.

Henkenius stressed that instructors are not just teaching people how to kayak, but they are teaching them real life skills through the recreational experience.

Between seven and eight people typically attend the classes, which provides a good chance for one-on-one learning, the instructors said.

Jean Bougeant, a first-time student who recently attended an open boating class, raved about the experience. He said that after he gets more proficient at kayaking through the open boating class, he plans to rent a kayak and explore the lakes and rivers in the area.

 Instructor Nathan Henkenius demonstrates how to roll as he comes up in his kayak during an open boating class.
Instructor Nathan Henkenius demonstrates how to roll as he comes up in his kayak during an open boating class. (Jaclyn Waggoner/Special to The Daily Times)

"I came here to learn how to kayak, and it really helps to learn what to do before you head out. Put this class on your to do list," he said.

GET YOUR GEAR

• The Outdoor Equipment Rental Center is open from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday inside the Health and Human Performance Center at San Juan College.

• The rental center offers gear for camping, mountain biking, paddle sports, rock climbing and winter travel. Gear can be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

• Information: 505-566-3221 or email outdoor@sanjuancollege.edu .

LOOKING TO START KAYAKING

• A good spot for beginners to kayak is on the San Juan River. Having a start and finish location is important before you start your journey.

• Burchfield recommends heading in at Westland Park and out at Lions Park. Also, you can head in at McGee Park and out in Kirtland at the river access area.

IF YOU GO

What: Open boating class

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursdays through November

Where: Farmington Aquatic Center, 1151 Sullivan Ave.

Cost: Admission to the pool is $5.

More info: Contact the Outdoor Equipment Rental Center at 505-566-3221.

Jaclyn Waggoner covers outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at jaclynwags@gmail.com.