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Keener Program

Keener Program

World's Premier Youth Development Program

The world’s premier youth development program in whitewater kayaking, the Keener Program focuses (in order of priority) on:

    • Graduating fine young men and women
    • Producing world-class junior paddlers with the ability to compete and win internationally.
    • The 2015 World Championships held here at Garberator 30 Keeners compete with 7 making the podium.
    • Providing Keeners with the skills (first aid, CPR, Swiftwater Rescue) to paddle safely
    • Prepare Keeners for future work in the whitewater industry as river guides, kayak instructors, video boaters, etc.
    • Senior Keeners will earn an opportunity to earn compensation working part-time within Wilderness Tours as they train

Note: For Big Water Week or Competition Week the rate is $995 if combined with another session or $1,175 as a single week

Big Water Week

$ 1175
  • Sun, June 11 - Sat June 17, 2023
  • Spaces Available

Keener Session 1

$ 1295
  • Sun, June 18 – Sat, July 8, 2023
  • 8 Spots Left

Keener Session 2

$ 1395
  • Sun, July 9 – Sat, July 29, 2023
  • Sold Out

Keener Session 3

$ 1175
  • Sun, July 30 – Sat, Aug 19, 2023
  • 6 Spots Left

Competition Week

$ 995
  • Sun, Aug 20 – Sat, Aug 26, 2023
  • Spaces Available


Keeners are young people between the age of 12 and 17 who are “keen” about kayaking and have a positive attitude about life. Younger paddlers (age 12 and 13) are welcome provided they are mature and physically able to kayak. A strong whitewater kayak roll is required. Parents who are not sure their teens are “keen” on kayaking can put their child into Wilderness Tours’ Teen Resident Camp which is a week-long kayak program starting Sunday evening and ending late Friday afternoon. Parents can then decide at that time whether to enroll their son or daughter into the Keener Program. Please keep in mind Keeners is not a traditional summer camp. Its sole purpose is youth development through high-performance kayaking.


Keener Program focuses on the following:

    • Personal Demeanor, Attitude, Work Ethic, Conduct, Youth, and Character Development
    • Leadership
    • Public speaking – ice breaker speeches on Sunday night and formal speeches every Monday
    • Written communication – Keeners must post at least weekly to weblog
    • Skill Development
    • Competitive Training – Keeners compete weekly
    • Cross-training
    • Kayak Swiftwater Rescue Training
    • First Aid, CPR Certification
    • All aspects of becoming a PRO Boater
    • Movie making – Keeners have access to movie-making equipment and cameras
    • Travel to other rivers (at extra cost)

Keeners will be accommodated at “Keener Heaven” at the base of McCoy Chute and in cabins at Wilderness Tour’s when appropriate. The program operates June through Labor Day Weekend. We prefer Keeners to arrive Sunday afternoon and depart on Saturday morning but we can be flexible.


The program includes instruction, coaching, competition training, supervision, meals, cabin, bedding, local transportation, and traveling to other rivers (shared expense). Keeners are also required to purchase the clothing/gear package.
A minimum of three weeks’ stay is required for the keener program.

A 50% deposit is due at the time of booking, 85% is refundable up to 120 days prior to the trip date. At 120 days prior the balance payment is taken automatically from the card on file and the total becomes non-refundable.

We strongly recommend the purchase of cancellation insurance outlined on the application.


Training involves traveling to other rivers. Keeners must have a credit card on file to cover the cost of the trip. Trip cost is approximately $50 – $95/trip depending on distance and time away. The trip schedule is tentative based on water levels on other rivers.


Keeners are under the daily supervision of the Keener Coach Stephen Wright and his assistants. Guest instructors are a big part of the training and include Tyler Curtis, Claire O’hara, Eric Jackson, Bren Orton, Dane Jackson, Tyler Fox, Clay Wright, etc. Rounding out the Keener instructional team is our Keener graduates and now instructors Nick Troutman and Joel Kowalski.


Keeners are encouraged to compete. Keeners are responsible for their own entry fees or have a credit card on file with Wilderness Tours (for Wilderness Tours to enter the Keener in the competition). Keeners run their own competition (with supervision) each week on the Ottawa. What if your long term kayaking plans don’t involve competing. No problem! The weekly competitions are friendly and serve the dual purpose of providing valued practice for those Keeners who plan to compete and valued training for those Keeners who don’t.


Keeners are supervised 24/7. Smoking, drinking, drug use, profanity, disrespect, and “conduct unbecoming” are grounds for immediate dismissal without refund. Off river supervision is provided by our Keener Coordinator, Savannah Westeinde and Sveta Martynova.


A goal of the keener program is to graduate kayak professionals ready for work in the paddle sports industry as river guides, kayak instructors and video/photo boaters. Keeners progress to Senior Keeners and Keener Instructors. Senior Keeners are compensated if appropriate and Keener Instructors are compensated less room and board.


Keeners live in several cabins at the base of McCoy Chute, the best location on the Ottawa River. The cabins have bunk beds, mattresses, pillows and sheets. Keeners bring a sleeping bag. Keeners have Wifi access, telephone, TV and computer.


With written parental permission and head coach permission, Keeners can “paddle on their own” under certain conditions.


No one leaves the Keener area without signing out and back in
Keeners “paddling on their own” follow a safety protocol from the head coach


While little is required, parents can provide money to their children by emailing Joe with the amount. Wilderness Tours’ accounting department will advance the money and the amount will be debited to the parents on file credit card. We also have a new RFID wristband program, you can authorize a specific amount available to spend on the wristband, monitor it online from home and increase the limit if required from your login. This should be set up in advance if you prefer this option.


    • Keeners can add sessions on-site if space is available
    • Parents who are unsure about their child’s enthusiasm for kayaking can enroll their child in the Teen Resident Camp. If the child is “Keen”, he or she can then be booked into the Keener Program (if space is available)
    • Space for the Keener Program is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis with reservations required
    • Cabins include mattress, sheets, and pillow (bring a sleeping bag)
    • Parents are welcome to visit and may rent a cabin or campsite at Wilderness Tours.

Contact keener coordinator Joe Kowalski ([email protected]) for information and request a keener application form to make your reservation or use the online application on this page.