Course Number



May 22, 2021 - May 27, 2021



Dotted with lighthouses, the Outer Banks are a 200-mile-long string of narrow barrier islands beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach and going down the North Carolina coastline. The Core and Pamlico Sounds, which are along the Cape Lookout National Seashore, are where most of North Carolina Outward Bound School’s sea kayaking courses take place. This wilderness area remains minimally developed and offers the largest expanse of primal barrier island ecology available on the east coast. There are no residents on this 56-mile long section, which runs from Ocracoke Inlet in the northeast to Beaufort Inlet on the southeast. <Click to learn more about this course area.>



You can expect to spend a good deal of time each day in kayaks. We use both single and tandem kayaks. Each student will have an opportunity to spend time in both vessels. Depending on the wind and weather, the level of difficulty will most likely vary day to day. You and your crewmates will practice:

  • marine expedition risk assessment and management.
  • marine route planning and navigation.
  • paddle strokes and techniques for kayak propulsion and steering.
  • kayak-based assisted rescues and self-rescues.
  • sea kayak expedition equipment use, care and maintenance.

It will be necessary for you and your crewmates to perform a swim assessment; as well as a flip and swim assessment as practice for paddling and self-rescue. This activity is closely monitored by your instructors. It is critical for us to determine your paddling comfort as you and your crew explore the islands. Even if you are a non-swimmer or weak swimmer, you will still participate in this safety assessment. All students will be wearing personal floatation devices (PFDs) during the assessment. Personal floatation devices (PFDs) are required apparel anytime students are on the water.


At the end of your course, you may participate in a final challenge event. This is an opportunity to see how much your skills have improved since you began your course.


Solo typically occurs more than halfway through your course and may last up to 24 hours. Your instructors will assign each participant an individual campsite within a designated area. Your instructors will teach you procedures to follow during solo and monitor you during this experience. You will know the location of your instructors’ campsite should you need to contact them; otherwise it is essential that you remain in your designated area. If your course has an overnight solo you will have your clothing, food and water.  In addition, you will have Outward Bound issued gear: including rain gear, shelter, sleeping bag, compass and whistle. Due to a decreased need for caloric intake, you will have less food available than you would have during your other course activities. Solo is a not a “survival test.” You will not be physically active during solo, as solo is a time for rest, recharge and reflection. Solo is also a good time to write in the journals we provide. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss with your Student Services Representative or your instructors.  

Physical Criteria for Sea Kayaking

If one or more of the following criteria apply to you, you may not comfortably fit in our sea kayaks. Please contact your Student Services Representative if your:

  • Height is 6 ft+
  • Weight is 275 lbs+
  • Shoe size is 12+.
Background Reading

Here are some books that we encourage you to read as you plan for your course:

  • The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook by Jeff Isaac
  • Leave No Trace: A Practical Guide to the New Wilderness Ethic by Annette McGivney
  • The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
  • The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson
  • How to Read a North Carolina Beach by Orrin Pilkey
  • Sea Kayaking Illustrated by John Robison

While in the Outer Banks, you will be sleeping on the beach in a personal bug tent or in a multi-person tent with up to three other individuals*. You will also be given a ground sheet and a foam sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.

*Due to COVID-19, all participants will have individual sleeping arrangements. 

Sample Course Itinerary
This is a sample itinerary only. Adjustments will be made due to weather, programming area availability and group dynamics.

Day 1                     Course Start; Review equipment; Paddle Strokes, Boat Packing Techniques

Day 2                     Begin Expedition: Practice rescue skills (T-rescue, wet exit, on-the-water re-entry)

Day 3                     Paddling: Learn navigation skills, reading tidal charts and flow, and using a weather radio

Day 4                     Paddling; Solo or Reflection Activity

Day 5                     Paddle Back to Mainland; Course end Banquet and Ceremony

Day 6                     Course End; Transportation to Airport