Leave Your Troubles on the Bank
Whether you paddle a quiet backwater, lake or slow moving river, a kayak is a wonderful tool for fitness and peace of mind. All the troubles of the week and noise can be left on the bank as you paddle away.
Kayaking is a wonderful way to explore nearby waterways or add adventure to a trip. Kayaks allow a quiet intrusion into nature that will let you see things that could never be seen from a noisy powerboat. Either paddling solo or with friends and family, being in one of these small plastic boats is a great way to spend time and the exercise is just a bonus.
Gear You'll Need
The main gear to prepare for your adventure will be: 1. A personal floatation device (PFD), 2. a paddle, and of course, 3. some type of kayak.
PFD - The PFD should fit comfortably and be rated for the size of the paddler. PFD’s are made in many styles and there are several on the market designed specifically for youth or ladies.
Paddles - Paddles are not created equal, this is the human/water interface tool and a good paddle will make for a much better experience.
Kayak - Sizes and styles of kayaks are widely varied and each has its strong points.
There are 3 basic types of kayaks to consider.
A “SINK” or sit inside kayak is an open cockpit design that the paddler sits down inside. This design is great for paddlers that are apprehensive about the water. Being inside the cockpit adds a secure feeling and a bit of stability due to a lower center of gravity. SINK Kayaks will also protect from the elements on cooler days and keep the paddler a bit drier.
A “SOT” or sit on top kayak allows the paddler to sit on top of the kayak. This style of kayak is a bit easier to get on and off of for beginners. The SOT is self bailing, meaning there are drains that run through the deck called scupper holes that will allow water to drain out of the kayak. This style is popular at beaches and river runs where waves can be expected.
A ”SUP” or stand up paddleboard is a large version of a surfboard and is usually paddled standing up. A long handled paddle with a single blade is used to propel a SUP unlike the double bladed paddle used in a conventional kayak. The SUP is a unique experience on the water and is really gaining in popularity.
Where to Learn, Where to Buy
Many areas have local shops that will either outfit you with your own supplies, or rent gear that you can try on your own. This is a great way to try different styles of kayaks and get basic instruction on safety and paddling techniques. My local shop will charge a small “demo” fee but will take off up to three demo fees from your purchase if you end up buying a kayak from them. They also sell their demo fleet every year for vastly discounted prices and that is an outstanding way to get into the sport without sinking a ton of money into it.