Who To Paddle With:
The second item to consider is researching and finding local paddling groups and local paddling outfitters in your area. They're a great source of information. Info for example: where should you paddle? When should you paddle? What type of weather causes what types of conditions? Are there areas that really are off limits? Or are there areas that are absolutely fantastic during certain times of the year?
Groups and Outfitters are also (as I've mentioned many times before) a great source for used gear, and a great source for helping figure out what gear is right for you. And I mean not only something that will fit you, but something that will do and behave the way you want and need in whatever type of paddling.
For example: if there's a group that sets up monthly races, (and you’re looking to race) they will be the right group to go talk to in order to learn. They probably would be a great resource to figure out what kind of gear you need. Not only that – that means people within that group will probably be buying and selling their gear, and that might be the perfect way for you to pick up something that you want to use.
Don't get me wrong, if you want a paddle in a small pond, or small lake, or just have fun and splash around with your family, you don't need to go through all these lengths. But to cover all the different disciplines – and some of them really do depend on being very safe on the water. Whether it's rough, coastal kayaking, or high-level whitewater, those levels require a lot more equipment, training, understanding, learning about the weather… Where if you just want to go and relax in a small lake or pond all you really need is a kayak, a paddle, a PFD and just have fun.