4 Steps For Safe Marine Kayaking

Marine kayaking, or sea kayaking as it is often referred to, is an increasingly popular sport both here in New Zealand and overseas. The joy of marine kayaking is that you can do it all year around, and you get to discover and explore so many fantastic locations that other boats can’t access. To make sure your kayak adventure is safe you must do some basic training, have the right clothes, and purchase a few essential items such as navigation and safety equipment. This article discusses four basic steps you should follow if you want to set out on a kayak adventure.

1. Training

Before anyone heads out on the water in a kayak that should first make sure they complete a professional training course. From learning to paddle correctly to knowing how to roll, there is a lot to learn to master the art of kayaking. A professionally run safety course will teach you how to maintain control of your kayak with or without the use of a rudder, prevent a capsize, use a marine water pump, do forward and reverse strokes, landing and exiting, re-entry and rolls etc. These skills are necessary to ensure your safety when on the water, and rescue skills are also important to help you assist other paddlers if they are in trouble.

2. Clothing

It is important to always wear appropriate apparel to keep you warm and safe in the water. Look for paddle jackets that will keep you warm, but make sure they are breathable. Waterproof boots and shoes will keep your feet dry. Gloves should be used in colder months to keep your hands dry and warm, in summer they will protect your hands from sun damage. Spray skirts will help stop water entering the kayak, remember this has to fit you and the kayak. If you are paddling near surf or by rocks then make sure you wear a helmet.

Wetsuits and dry suits are your best friend when you are out on the water for extended periods, especially in colder months. You can also buy thermal tops to use as an under layer, and ultra violet (UV) protecting rash tops.

Of course the most important clothing item is your safety vest – better known as a personal flotation device (PFD). Make sure this fits correctly before you buy, because if it doesn’t fit well it won’t do the job. Also check reviews and talk to someone who can recommend a good model, as some PFD’s may not stay on or float well when you fall into the water.

3. Equipment

With so many options for technology these days you have no excuse not to have a GPS, radio, or cell phone, to use as navigation devices and as rescue aids. A compass and a map are also a good idea if you are going for long kayaks in unfamiliar territory.

Lights should always be used at night, for your safety and so other boaties can see you on the water.

You will need a marine kayak water pump (also known as a bilge pump) for times when water gets into your kayak. These are hand operated pumps that you use to pump water out of your kayak and back into the sea – quickly and easily. All kayaks should have a marine bilge pump on board for safety.

If you are a lone paddler, then a paddle float is another piece of safety equipment that is important. A paddle float will help you keep afloat as you re-enter your kayak at sea – a self rescue skill that you should practice before you go solo kayaking.

A rope bag is an essential item for all kayakers, it can used to tow other kayakers and could help you save lives. If you do get into trouble, flares and a whistle are also valuable items to have on board, as is a medical kit.

Other accessories include float bags and a dry bag. Float bags fit into the stern of your kayak and keep it from sinking should you get separated from it. A dry bag will keep important items dry e.g. cell phone and camera.

4. Check and Prepare

Remember to check the conditions on the water on the day you are going out. Assess your capabilities before you attempt going out in rough conditions. Keep in mind, you must be able to swim if you get flipped from your kayak or if an accident did happen.

Before you head out on the water check your vessel and paddle. Routinely check your safety equipment, make sure your flotation devices work properly. Check you whistle is working and test your marine water pump.

Don’t forget to take plenty of food and water, if you get lost or stranded at sea water can be the difference between life and death. Also make sure you tell someone where you are going and your expected return time.

Following these four steps will hopefully keep you safe when you are out on the water in your kayak.

Buying a Kayak – 7 Things You Should Consider

With many different types of kayaks and canoes available in today’s marketplace, it is no wonder that knowing which one and which accessories to buy can be a real challenge. Make the wrong choice and you could be left with a boat that is totally unsuitable for you or one that you and your ability as a paddler will all too quickly outgrow. Get it right however and you can look forward to many fun and rewarding trips out in your new craft.

In this article I have gathered together what I consider to be the key considerations that you need to be aware of when choosing a new kayak or canoe.

1) What type of kayaking will you be doing?

Kayaks and canoes can be used for many different activities on the water and in many different water environments. For example some are designed for touring, this may involve travelling quite long distances either on a day trip or on a longer expedition. Touring kayaks are designed for speed, efficiency through the water and comfort, so that you can more easily and more comfortably paddle over long distances. Because you are travelling further and paddling for longer, you will need to carry food and drink, and even a tent and other camping equipment. With this in mind, a touring kayak is generally larger than other types, and they are available as single seaters or tandem seats. They are also sometimes called ocean kayaks.

Many people will want to use their new craft for fishing, and with this in mind there are many that are designed specifically with fishing in mind. These will generally have good storage capacity, be comfortable, easy to paddle and stable (especially when stationary). This allows the paddler to silently and quickly enter even the shallowest of waters without scaring away the fish. Good stability ensures you will have no problems when it comes to fighting the fish and reeling them in. Additional features often include rod holders, anchor cleats, extra rigging, bait buckets, a GPS or fish finder mount and a tackle compartment. Angling kayaks are available as a one or two person craft.

For the ultimate thrill of riding the rapids or even a fast flowing river you will want a whitewater kayak. These are small, fast and incredibly maneuverable craft. You really need to be a paddler of quite advanced ability to handle these babies. This type are generally very tough and strong and can be used to perform all manner of outrageous stunts and tricks.

If your looking for a fun, easy to use and very safe boat, then you cannot go far wrong with a Sit on top kayak. As the name suggests, you sit on it rather than enclosed in it. This of course means that this type is ideal for the less experienced paddler or even the total beginner. It is very safe because there is no danger of becoming trapped in the event of a capsize. This fear of becoming trapped in an upturned boat can really put off novice paddlers. The fact that you cannot become trapped also means that a sit on is ideal for use by children. So obviously a touring kayak is not any use for shooting the rapids, and neither is a whitewater kayak much good as a fishing platform, but there is a class of kayak that tries to do all of the things you may ever want, it is the recreational kayak. These are available in all shapes and sizes and at varying price points.

2) How experienced a paddler are you?

It should be plainly obvious that if you are a complete beginner you will struggle with a boat that is tricky to handle at first but comes into it’s own in more extreme conditions, just as it would be pointless to go for an easy handling, gentle craft if you are an experienced paddler. You would be sure to outgrow your purchase very quickly indeed. So it is important that you consider the experience and capability levels of yourself and others that may use the craft, and try and strike a balance and match the handling and performance to your skill levels.

A beginner or an inexperienced paddler is probably going to be happier with a boat that has a good initial stability. This means that when stationary or travelling at low speed, the boat will feel very safe and stable. This initial stability is usually at the expense of performance. A more experienced paddler will have no problem with a poor initial stability, but will relish the feeling of having a good final stability. This is the boats natural resistance to tipping once the boat has been leaned to a point beyond it’s initial stability. Another factor influenced by confidence and experience is the size or tightness of the cockpit. A confident experienced paddler will like a tighter fitting cockpit where they can use their legs and bodies to give them extra control of the boat. However a novice may feel that this will restrict their ability to exit the kayak in the event of a capsize.

3) Transport and Storage.

Unfortunately your craft will spend far more of it’s life out of the water than in it, so you need to give serious thought to how and where you will store it, how you will transport it and also how manageable it will be. There is no point buying a huge kayak that you don’t have anywhere to store, any means of transporting and is too heavy for you to launch and recover. If storage space and transport is an issue, than maybe an inflatable kayak is the answer.

4) Cargo capacity and Comfortable.

Alongside craft made to carry one person, tandem kayaks and traditional canoes are available. These boats are a good idea for couples and families as they allow paddlers of varying experience and ability to paddle together. However many paddlers you will be carrying, you need to consider how much storage space is available within your chosen boat. It is inevitable that you will spend long periods of time sat in your craft, so a comfortable seat and sitting position is of vital importance. Look for a good quality, well padded adjustable seat and also for fully adjustable foot rests.

5) Initial stability verses Final Stability.

By it’s very nature a kayak cannot have both excellent initial stability and excellent final stability, so you will need to choose based on your level of experience and ability. Some craft are able to strike a good compromise between good initial stability and good final stability, and these will on the whole be suitable for all but the most experienced paddlers. It is worth bearing in mind that the stability characteristics will have an effect on the acceleration and speed. A craft with better initial stability, will by design, be wider and slower than a narrow faster boat which has a poorer initial stability but a better final stability.

6) Maneuverability.

How well will your chosen kayak track (hold a straight course) and how well and how quickly will it turn. Again, due to inherent design characteristics your boat will not be excellent at both. In general a longer narrower boat will track better and a shorter boat will be easier to turn, quicker and will generally be more responsive and maneuverable.

7) Purchase Price.

Your final consideration is cost. How much is your budget? Don’t forget the extras you will need. You will need to buy a paddle, a PFD, maybe some specialist clothing and footwear. You may need to buy a carrier for your car. There is a huge variation in the cost of kayaks. You can pick up a cheap inflatable for less than $100, but can easily pay well over $1000 for a more technically advanced boat. The good news is that there are many excellent kayaks available between $100 and $1000, so there should be one to suit all budgets.

By giving careful thought to the above points you are sure to make a purchase which will allow you many years of paddling enjoyment.

Kayak Gear For the Beginner

Kayaking is an extremely fun recreational sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you’ve rented a kayak and already tried your first paddle or are just starting out, knowing what basic gear to have will make you more comfortable and prepared.

Basic Kayaking Gear

  • If you own a kayak you will of course need a paddle. If you are in a solo kayak you only need one double ended paddle. They come in many different sizes and materials but most beginners will start with the most inexpensive paddle which will work just fine. If you progress to the level of kayaking weekly then you may want to invest in a higher end paddle.
  • Next and very importantly you will need a PFD (personal flotation device), otherwise known as a lifejacket. It is mandatory to wear a lifejacket for any type of boating and kayaking is no different. Get a lifejacket that is comfortable for your shape and size and that does not rub or irritate your skin while paddling.
    If you are doing whitewater kayaking it is mandatory to wear a helmet. If you are kayaking in lakes or a calm ocean then a helmet is not necessary.
  • Having the proper clothes will make a big different in your comfort level. If it is really hot out and you are recreational kayaking then you may choose to kayak in your bathing suit (with your lifejacket). For cooler weather however a moisture wicking shirt as a base layer and then insulation on top as well as a waterproof jacket and pants will go a very long way in keeping you warm and dry.
  • In the summer when recreational kayaking any type of sport sandal or water shoe will work fine. If you are whitewater kayaking or kayaking in cooler weather then I would highly suggest investing in a good pair of water booties. Wet feet can equal cold feet and that is no fun.
    If you are sea kayaking you may need a sprayskirt for your kayak. A sprayskirt will keep the water out of your kayak and therefore keep you dry. If you are kayaking through waves and ocean surf, a sprayskirt will be a much needed accessory.

Additional Accessories that May be Needed

Besides the most important gear listed above, you may also want to have a dry bag aboard your kayak. A drybag will allow you to store your essentials like car keys, sunglasses, food, extra clothes, etc. It will keep them completely dry even if your kayak should overturn. A small drybag is extremely inexpensive and a very useful kayak accessory.

The last thing you may want to consider is a safety kit. Most kayak stores will offer some type of safety kit with first aid materials as well as possible rescue equipment. Although we all hope we will never have to use this, realistically it is smart to have one stored within the drybag and along for the ride. Whether you are brand new to kayaking or an experienced paddler, it is always important to be prepared for emergency situations.

For most recreational kayakers, there is very little necessary kayak gear that is needed. Starting off with these few essentials will provide for an enjoyable paddling experience and hopefully many years of paddling fun.