Posted by: abc on Oct-11-12 10:31 AM (EST)
"I had a hard time keeping my paddling angle high enough to get past the “knee bumps” on the deck. I beat my knuckles up pretty badly! "
I wonder if your paddle was too long? Or too short?
Long paddle makes it hard to keep it vertical. Though that doesn't explain the hitting your knuckle part, which is often caused by paddle too short!
The best way to enjoy rivers, in my opinion, is lots of lessons. During the lesson, you can typically try different boats and different paddles. 2 birds with 1 stone.