Kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be made from many different materials. Each design has a specific use in mind and many kayaks can work well for a variety of uses. Let's identify the parts of the kayak and look at the gear you'll need to get on the water.
You don't want to be up a creek without a paddle, so let's look at kayak paddles. This is the link between you and the water and it's going to propel you in your kayak all day long, so don't skimp on your paddle. Paddles come in a variety of shapes, lengths, and materials. The paddle has a shaft and two blades. The blades have a power face and a back face. We use the power face for paddling forward and the back face for reverse. There is no need to flip your paddle over for reverse.
Big blades are good for strong paddlers and require more power to draw through the water. Smaller blades suit paddlers that are smaller or stronger paddlers looking for a higher cadence style stroke. Paddle length will be based on your height, the width of the boat, and personal preference. Most kayak paddles will fall between 220 centimeters and 240 centimeters.
Paddles can be used in a variety of offsets or feather angles. The offset is for efficiency in wind and also encourages good body rotation. No offset is also a good option, allowing you to paddle without having to twist the shaft. You will want to play around with this option and find what works best for you. You hold the paddle like this, with arms about at 90 degree angles.
You'll also want a good fitting, comfortable PFD, short for personal flotation device. Your PFD is like a seatbelt in your car. Wear it whenever you are on the water. A PFD and a whistle are required by federal law, and you should become familiar with your state's requirements regarding PFD use. Make sure it's adjusted correctly. It won't work very well if it's not.
When choosing what to wear while paddling, there are a few things that you'll want to take into consideration: air and water temperature, wind factor, and sun exposure. There are a lot of options in this arena and understanding the dangers of both hypothermia (the chilling of the body) and hyperthermia (the overheating of the body), are a key to your safety and comfort on the water.
Carrying some extra dry clothes and food in a secure, dry bag is always a good plan. And don't forget about drinking water and sunscreen. These basics can help you enjoy your time on the water. And remember to always use good judgment and not be out in conditions that might capsize you. Knowing your local waterway and possible dangers that exist is key to good safety on the water.
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