Beginning to kayak or you’re thinking about how to start kayaking? Then there is some information you need to know before you try it and make decisions on if you like it or not from one attempt.
What most new paddlers don’t know is there are many types of boats and the ease of paddling; ease of tipping varies wildly depending on the type. Some people will try kayaking once and decide they don’t like it because the kayak tipped and they got wet, maybe got embarrassed at what is referred to as a “wet exit” in kayak speak.
First there are general kayak categories such as white water and flat water. There are sub categories to each one of those such as recreational, sit-on-top, river rapid kayaks, sea kayaks, racing boats. There are plastic (roto mold) and fiberglass kayaks. Prices also vary by the type of kayak and the level of technology in the boat. Generally if you are just starting to kayak a lower tech plastic boat may be best for your first experience.
Stay away from narrow kayaks at first, since these will be the easiest to flip. If you don’t know what is narrow or wide ask someone or read about what the manufacturer has to say about it. You are looking for words that say “stable” “beginner level,” “easy to paddle,” and “great first sea kayak.” review the width specification of various models to get a feel for the proper width. The more expensive fiberglass kayaks are usually more narrow and are designed for experienced kayakers, so even if a friend has a nice kayak and lets you try it out, remember if you flip it may be that the kayak is not yet right for you. Try out a different one before making judgments on the sport.
I have a roto mold P & H Capella Kayak 166; it is 22″ wide and 16’7″ long, classified as a sea kayak. I consider it a very stable kayak and it does not roll unless you want it to. My friend has a Nordcap Valley Kayak it is 21″ wide and 17′ long. I found the Nordcap to be much more unstable than my kayak. As you can see it may not just the width but the hull design that dictates the stability of the kayak. In a kayak small dimension changes make a big difference.
I found the longer sea kayaks to be more fun to paddle if you’re on larger bodies of water or paddling a good distance on a somewhat wide river. The short kayaks are fine for going down small rivers less than 18′ wide, and short duration paddles around a lake. If you plan for much time in the seat opt for the longer sea kayak. They are easier to paddle, faster, and track (go in a straight line) much better than a short 8′-12′ recreational kayak. These are tips that a beginner just won’t know without experience or having a friend that is knowledgeable.
I do most of my paddling on the Huron River chain of lakes in Southeast Michigan. I live on the chain so it is easy access for me. I will be heading North this summer for several kayak symposiums which are great places to get certified instruction and try out kayaks.
When getting in a kayak to try paddling, remember to wear a Personal Floatation Device (PFD). All experienced kayakers wear them and you should too. Wearing a PFD will make you look like an expert.
Paddle safe and enjoy kayaking, it is great fun and good exercise.