Kayaks are fun! Whether you are storming through whitewater in a remote canyon, slicing through ocean surf, or gently gliding across glass smooth water on your favorite lake, there is something about being in a kayak that connects you to your surroundings and fills you with joy.
With all the different types of boats and paddles to choose from these days, new people just getting into the sport can find choosing a boat confusing.
Typically, most people develop their interest in paddling after either renting a boat while on vacation, or by being invited by a friend who has one to loan or they saw others doing it and it peaked their interest. They decide that kayaking is something they want to get into so they immediately begin a quest to get their own boat. It is at this point that the mistakes begin.
- They haven’t paddled enough to know what kind of boat they need. Kayaks are very specialized. No one boat does everything. There are some that can be used in different settings and environments, but no one boat will do it all. You need to identify what you will be mainly using it for and where because paddling a kayak in water it was not designed to be in can be dangerous. Also, ask yourself what will I be carrying with me when I go? How much storage space do I need? How will I transport it? These are all questions that need to be answered before you make a purchase because this is what determines what you should buy.
- They buy the cheapest kayak they can without researching. Buying a kayak can be an expensive purchase. I love saving money and admit, that most of my boats have been purchased used. There is nothing wrong with that at all and I encourage people to do the same. But, most first kayaks come from big box stores that don’t specialize in paddling. Yes, these stores sell boats and in many cases, sell some very good boats, but many of the kayaks you find in these stores are designed only to float. They don’t track well, have uncomfortable seats, limited storage and many have excessive weight. Not to mention that the clerk that stocks the shelves in these stores typically has no experience paddling and often offers uninformed advice to the consumer. Add all these things together and often, new paddlers end up with a boat that is uncomfortable to sit in, hard to handle and difficult to load and transport. Kayaking then becomes a chore, not a joy. I am in no way saying you should always buy your boat from a specialized kayak dealer, but before you purchase that $250 kayak from a big box retailer, do some research on that model and read reviews. Find out what others who own it have to say about it. If possible, find a place that rents that model. Paddle it, carry it, load it with whatever you would normally carry with you and put it through its paces. If it is the boat for you, now you know, if not, move on until you find the right one. It is much better to spend $20 -$30 dollars to learn a boat is not for you than to spend $200 – $300 and own something you don’t like.
- They buy the wrong paddle. After buying a kayak, many people buy the cheapest paddle on the rack. Remember, the paddle is your propulsion system, just as much research needs to go into that selection as the boat. Not all paddles are the same. There are different lengths, construction materials (aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, graphite) blade shapes and blade stiffness. Any paddle will get you moving, but the right paddle will make it a lot less work and a more enjoyable experience. Just like testing out the boat, you should test paddles too. Test different lengths, construction materials etc. to find the one that best fits your paddle style and is most comfortable for you to use. Am I saying you should buy a high end paddle? Only if that is the one that makes your experience more enjoyable. I know people who use $500 carbon fiber models because of the light weight and love them and others who use inexpensive aluminum paddles and swear by them, but in both cases, they are using the paddle that is right for them. To get the most out of kayaking, you need to find what works best for you, to know that, you have to do your research.
One of the great things about kayaking is once you make your initial investment, if you have made the right choices you don’t have to sink more money into it. Your boat and paddle can and usually will last you for a very long time. By doing your research and finding the equipment that is right for you, it will be a one time investment that you will enjoy for many years to come.
Find your headwaters,