General Kayaking Tips

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Kayak or Canoe?

When many people decide to get into paddling, they do so with a type of boat already in mind. They know whether they want to kayak or canoe. Unfortunately, more often than not, this decision is based on not much more than what they’ve seen others doing or on their preconceived ideas about each sport.

There are pros and cons to both canoeing and kayaking and one or the other may be better suited to an individual’s needs. Any person interested in getting into kayaking or canoeing would do well to do some research to ensure they get into the sport best suited to them.

Some of the questions that one should consider when deciding between canoeing and kayaking are whether or not they will be padding alone or with someone else, if they need to carry a lot of gear or not, and what type of paddling is frequently done in the area where they live.

Canoes are very well suited for two paddlers, carrying lots of gear, and leisurely paddles. Kayaks are better when paddled solo, are very maneuverable, and fast. Of course, these are just rules of thumb but they should be followed by people just getting into the sport.


Kayak or Canoe (Part 2)?

While kayaking is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities, there are some reasons why a person may want to canoe instead. There are pros and cons to both canoes and kayaks. The trick is to find out which paddle sport best suits the individual paddler’s needs.
In general kayaks are more maneuverable and are propelled with a double-bladed paddle. This makes them easier initially for the beginner to get in and paddle. While tandem kayaks are available, kayaks are the ideal type of boat for a single paddler. The downside to kayaks are that they have limited load capacity and some models might not be too stable.
Canoes on the other hand are often larger than kayaks and are most conveniently paddled with two people in the canoe. While canoes aren’t as maneuverable as kayaks, in most cases they will hold more gear. They are also generally more stable and provide paddlers with more room to move around within the boat.
Really, the choice whether to canoe or kayak depends on the individual needs of the paddler. This brief article really just speaks in generalities as boat design has improved and at times blurred the lines between kayaks and canoes. In the end the only bad choice is to not paddle at all.


Sit-On-Top Kayaks

When many people think of kayaks, they think of sit-on-top kayaks. This is because sit-on-tops are the types of kayaks that are most frequently rented. They are stable, easy to get in and out of, and have no risk of getting stuck in them if they are flipped over.

Besides being used for beginners, sit-on-top kayaks have some very functional purposes. They are often used by fisherman and scuba divers and can be quite extensively rigged for such activities. Sit-on-tops are also used by experienced kayakers who simply need the ease of getting in and out of the boat as well as by kayak instructors who find it easier to work with clients in a sit-on-top.

All in all, sit-on-top kayaks are the most versatile of the lot and make a great addition to any kayak collection, beginner or not.


Know How to Refer to Direction on the Water

It is not only helpful to know how to refer to directions while on the water it is downright necessary. There will be times when you will need to communicate quickly with other boaters. It is during these events that you want to make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to direction.

On bodies of water that are not flowing or actively moving in one direction and where the shore is in sight you can say you are heading to the right or left, with reference to your direction of travel. You can also say to the right shore, left shore, or refer specifically to a landmark. In open water situations it is best to refer to the direction you are referencing by North, South, East West. This is especially true when landmarks are a long way off and not evident from each person's perspective.

On rivers that are flowing and in particular on whitewater you refer to the direction from the river's point of view. Upstream is the direction where the river is coming from. Downstream speaks of where the river is going. River-right is the right side of the river as it is seen while traveling downstream. River-left refers to the left bank while traveling with the main flow. This especially needs to be remembered when you are paddling upstream. You may be traveling to your right, but if going upstream, it will be called river-left.


Getting Started in Kayaking

Getting started in kayaking can be a confusing endeavor. Many people are enamored with the idea of kayaking and decide they would like to pick it up as a hobby. They then go out to a sporting goods store and buy the first kayak and paddle they see in their price range, not paying any heed to the type of paddling they will be doing. This could pose all sorts of issues, especially if a recreational kayak is purchased and the person really needs a whitewater kayak.

When getting started in kayaking, it is best to seek the counsel of friends who already kayak. If you don't know any kayakers, go to places where you've seen people paddling and speak to them. Most people who are into kayaking are very friendly and eager to speak with people about this passion of theirs. Also, be sure to go to a store known for selling kayaks, not simply a sporting good store which happens to have a few kayaks in the back. Ask to speak with someone knowledgeable about kayaking and tell them you're looking into getting started in kayaking and need some guidance. Take the knowledge you glean from your friends, the kayakers you come into contact with, and kayak salespersons and determine which type of kayaking you want to get into.


Decide What Type of Kayaking You Will Be Doing

While many kayakers branch out into the various types of kayaking, there is usually one method that stands above the others for each paddler. As a new kayaker, it is up to you to figure out which type suits you best and which you most enjoy. This, in large part, often has something to do with where the paddler lives and what type of kayaking they have the best access to.

If a person lives in West Virginia or Colorado they may find themselves more interested in whitewater kayaking. Whitewater kayaking is not for the faint at heart. If you have a need for adventure and are athletic, this type of kayaking may be for you. Bear in mind though, whitewater kayaking can be the most dangerous and will require lessons.

A paddler living along the east or west coast of the country may gravitate toward Sea Kayaking. Sea kayaking is also dangerous but this type of kayaking can be done at many different levels. It therefore can often be better managed to the individual needs of each paddler.

Or a person may just live by some secluded lakes in which case they will just be into recreational kayaking or maybe even into kayak fishing or kayaking while camping. Recreational kayaking is probably the most popular and is often the gateway into getting into more advanced types of paddling. Since recreational kayaks and gear are usually cheaper than more specialized types, this may not be a bad place to start if you are unsure of the type of kayaking to get into.

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