If you're thinking of getting into kayaking, whether you want to explore faraway places or just hang out all day on the water, here are three topics that will be helpful for new kayakers.
Where To Paddle:
I usually get this question: “this is my height, this is my weight, what kayak do I need?” I believe it shouldn't start there. Let's take a step back… Let’s first figure out what type of paddling you want to do. A lot of times the paddling you will do will be dictated by the type of water you might have near you. Are you near the coast? Are conditions rough where you live? Are you near rivers? Are you thinking of paddling whitewater? Are you thinking of racing? Do you want to go as fast as possible and compete? Are you thinking of just hanging out all day in a small lake? In a bigger lake? Do you want to fish? Or even maybe want to surf?
While there are hybrid and crossover kayaks that can do a couple of things, each type of paddling, each discipline will have kayaks that will excel in that particular area. So, if you start backwards with what is available to you, then you can start to think of what type of paddling you ultimately want to tackle.
In terms of activities, you might already know that you want to go kayak camping – in which case you want something that's going be able to take lots of gear. You might already know that you want adrenaline pumping all the time, and you want to do whitewater. Fantastic! You might already know that you just want to focus on fishing or you might just want to get a little bit wet and hang out on a lake all day – completely fine! But each one of those will require slightly different gear.
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.
How to Paddle:
The third thing to consider is actively looking into and researching classes, researching information, researching about cold water if you happen to be in an area with cold water, overall putting in the time to learn the skills that might be needed for those specific types of paddling. For example, if you want her to paddle in a spot that has a lot of current and certain conditions arise when the wind does X, Y, & Z, that's a specific skill that might be required for a specific place. And once again, that's why I say that finding a paddling group and a paddling outfitter where you can either work with other paddlers, learn from them, take lessons and learn specific skills to paddle in those specific areas is the way to go.
Maybe you were thinking of doing a camping trip alone, but you don't really know the ins and outs or the area. Maybe it turns out that a local outfitter actually does that same trip. In that case, it might be worth it to do it with them the first time and then once you have a little bit more knowledge of the local place, of the gear that's required, maybe then it might be the time to attempt it by yourself.
- consider where you want to paddle.
- Try to find a group of paddlers that could be a great source of information.
- Lessons and skills! Once again, lessons depending on the type of paddling you want to do and the level of paddling and knowledge and skill required to paddle in those specific areas.
I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts to wrap up:
- Learn about weather, because almost every story always starts with “…it was supposed to be a beautiful day” and then, fill in the blank.
- Have local knowledge. Don't just show up with any kayak and go in the water. Find out if what you have really is the right equipment to go in that particular place.
- Learn about cold water paddling (I have a video that could be helpful) and dressing for cold water if you happen to be in a place where cold water is present.
- We always recommend having and wearing a PFD
- Lastly, don't forget to have fun. I am a very big advocate for learning and pushing your skills, and developing skills on the water. But that should be complementary to having fun on the water.
I really am a firm believer than someone that's riding a wave, or dropping on a waterfall, or exploring a faraway place, or just sitting in a small lake all day is going to be having fun on the water. We can't forget that, and that's what motivates us to get on the water time and time again.
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