"Paddling white water has been extremely exhilarating and immensely rewarding for me. While I reflect on 20 years of exceptional flow, here's how you can get started."
– Brendan Moore
Start with some guidance on basic strokes, rolls, rescue procedures and river knowledge. A good grounding in flat water kayaking technique will be a useful start, and you should definitely practice the wet-exit (getting out of the boat after a capsize). While it doesn't need to be bomb-proof, an eskimo-roll will increase your confidence, as most capsizes happen in deep water where there is ample opportunity to roll back up. The roll can be taught in a swimming pool in under an hour with the right aptitude and coach. You should learn basic safety and rescue procedures in small rapids before a river trip and have someone explain river features and hazards.
The Barron River (near Cairns) is a superb river for advanced beginners under supervision, with great areas for skill development. The paddle from below the power station outflow to Lake Placid will take a couple of hours, allowing time to walk around the bigger rapids. Make sure you paddle with a team that knows the river well to show you through the lines (safer passage) and rescue you as inevitably required.
Likewise, the Tully River is much closer to Townsville and is the primary place to learn if living in North Queensland.
Paddling is an exciting team sport that will allow you to see magical places inaccessible to non-paddlers. The Townsville NQ paddling community will be sure to support your learning adventure; a post on any of the local adventure pages will be sure to find help. The Cairns area Facebook group is Piss Poor Paddlers.