One of the greatest things that this sport offers us is the ability to take it as far as you want. From enjoying your hometown beach or lakefront to travelling to the other side of the world and immersing ourselves in a different culture. From the moment that you crack that first roll the possibilities on where you want to take it becomes endless.

Kayaking can teach you so much about yourself and open your eyes to the world and other cultures. You don’t need to be a class 5 stout runner, but you do have to be willing to put yourself into situations that may often feel uncomfortable to most. We have the ability to take ourselves far off the beaten track, which can lead us to some of the craziest and most beautiful pockets of the world.

The first time that I got to experience this side of kayaking was on a trip to Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, to paddle the Asahan River. I spent just over two weeks camped out on the side of this world-class river. I got to experience a new language and culture that was very different from my own for the first time. The people of this tiny little village in the middle of the jungle are able to survive and thrive with so little. And we were only ever treated with welcoming kindness and joy.

The Asahan River – photo David Sodomka

You don’t need to be someone who paddles class 5 to enjoy these places. Half of the kayakers that were there at Asahan were only there to enjoy the beautiful class 3 sections of this river and paddled every day as well.

Unfortunately, the Asahan has since been destroyed by a newly built hydro dam, so you won’t be able to add that one to your list of places to go. It’s also tragic for the people who live along the river.

There are so many contrasting whitewater destinations to explore, here are some distinctive whitewater destinations:

  • The Soca Valley in Slovenia
  • The Ottawa River, Eastern Canada (big water)
  • Rotorua, New Zealand
  • Futaleufú, Chile (big water)
  • Baeza, Ecuador
  • Meghalaya, India

All of these places are different from each other but they’re all world-class paddling experiences for all people and all levels of paddling. Some – Ecuador, Chile and India – I found a much deeper and more full-on eye-opening cultural experience for a lad from Rotorua, New Zealand.

The road to the Futaleufú – photo Max Rayner

Your first, or next, kayaking trip abroad could be the trip of a lifetime. But make sure you put the time in to do the research: the best time of the year to go for the best water levels; how you’ll get around; and what rivers you want to paddle to your list. Stay safe out there and enjoy!