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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
Beginner and advanced kayakers have a place they can go this winter to prepare for warmer weather, as well as learn a few techniques from fellow paddlers.
Starting in February, the Creek Freaks paddling club will be holding weekly sessions at the swimming pool at the Franklin County Family YMCA in Rocky Mount.
This is the fourth year Creek Freaks and the YMCA have partnered for the sessions, which are each Sunday, starting Feb. 5, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
No membership is required, and the sessions are open to paddlers of all skill levels. Participants can practice rolls, strokes and other techniques.
"We really don't really instruct people how to roll," said Amanda Teer, Creek Freaks president. "There are different people there that will help each other. It's more like a group of friends, not a formal instructor."
Participants need to bring their own boat or paddleboard, but other participants may also be willing to share their equipment, Teer said, which can give people new to paddling an opportunity to try out different equipment.
"We've even had people just show up that wanted to try out a friend's standup paddleboard," Teer said. "We've had people bring their kids and had them just paddle around the pool in a safer environment before they let them go out on the lake to practice tipping over and things like that. Really it's just an opportunity to get in the water in the winter."
Part of the Creek Freaks' mission is to promote safe and responsible boating. They do this in a family-friendly atmosphere that permeates all of the Creek Freaks events. Life jackets will be required at all times, including at the YMCA pool.
The club is made up of a group of outdoor enthusiasts that take a special interest in the Franklin County blueways, according to Matt Ross, outdoor recreation manager for Franklin County Parks and Recreation.
Annual dues are $25 per family, which helps the club host special events such as the New Year's Day paddle and annual Kids' Float on the Blackwater River.
Members also volunteer to make sure the county's blueway network and paddling activities continue to grow in a safe and sustainable way.
"In addition to paddling trips we help keep the put in and take out spots clear and help keep the blueways clear and clean," Teer said.
The club also has a close relationship with the parks and recreation department, Ross said. "We let people know we have this club that they can join it to go paddling or learn to paddle. People can also join the club through our website."
For more information about Creek Freaks, visit playfranklincounty.com/creek-freaks.
The cost to attend the Sunday sessions at the Franklin County Family YMCA is $5 per person per session.
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