Deciding If Kayaking Is A Good Fit For You
Kayaking is an awesome and stress-free way to get out in the sun and have some fun while getting a little exercise. Don’t worry, you won’t even realize you are exercising because you will be having too much fun. As a matter of fact, you control the amount of exercise you get. If you are not into strenuous exercising you can take a lazy ride down a calm river. That is what we did when we were in Florida last year. We kind of just paddled down the Crystal River and wound up hanging out with some Manatees. They were just as lazy as we were…lol. If you want to learn more about that adventure, check out our Kayaking The Crystal River Page.
This article is for those with little or no experience in kayaking who would be thinking of trying it out for the first time. It is not meant as a training guide for all types of kayaking. For those who would like to pursue kayaking as more of an adrenaline rush type adventure rather than leisurely adventure, I highly suggest you educate yourself on water and boating safety and the many different types of kayaks and their pros and cons. There are separate courses and/or websites you can go to for that. It would probably be a good idea to know a little water safety even for the leisurely paddler.
Lazy River Or White Water Rapids
While deciding if kayaking might be something you would like to do, there are a few things you should take into consideration. Things like what type of Kayaking do you want to do? Do you want to go out all day or short trips? Lazy river style trips or whitewater raging water type trips (see paragraph above if the latter part is you). How much storage do you have for them? How will you transport them from place to place?
If you have never done it before, how will you know if you even like it? It would be a huge waste of money if you ran out and bought a top of the line kayak with storage racks for your vehicle, some water attire, and paddling gear and wound up hating it. You can try out kayaking with a very small investment to see if it’s something you want to jump into.
Hold Onto That Cold Hard Cash
My advice is to spend as little as possible. Chances are you have something in your wardrobe you can wear out on the water. A good bathing suit or shorts with a shirt (all to be non-cotton) will be fine. Waterproof sunscreen and a hat are a must. Some type of water shoes, plastic bags (to keep your stuff dry), a watch (waterproof), and some snacks and bottled water is a great start. Most of these items you probably already own so there is no cost so far.
Now comes the cost. You will obviously need a kayak. My advice is to either borrow one from a friend or rent one. I had not kayaked in a long time and Chris never had before. When we wanted to do a Kayak trip recently, we just rented them. We are considering adding kayaks to our adventures down the road but while we decide if this is something we want to do on a regular basis, when we want to go out now we rent them. Renting them is a great option when you are trying to decide whether or not you want to purchase one. You will also need a proper fitting Coast Guard approved flotation device (life jacket/vest). If you are renting a kayak, the place you rent them from will most likely supply you with the life vest.
When you are doing your research, make sure you try and rent all the different types of kayaks so you can decide which one (if any) are the ones you want to purchase down the road. Sometimes you can get some instruction on how to kayak from the place you rent from. Years ago when I went kayaking with my son, we were with a group of people on one of those cruise excursion packages. They lined us all up on the beach and gave us a ten-minute lesson. We then hit the water and had a blast.
Now don’t get me wrong, you will not learn everything there is to learn about kayaking in 10 minutes but this was a calm water event and it was good enough to get us all to have a blast.
Guided Tours Rock!!!
Going with an experienced friend is another good way to learn. Start out in calm waters and stay local at first. Get yourself comfortable in calm waters before you venture out into a more difficult environment. You can also sign up for guided group tours. These are led by experienced kayakers and are a great way to gain experience.
One of the Florida State Parks we were just at, offered guided tours. What a great way to spend the day. Hiking, picnicking, and a guided Kayak tour. You can check out the park here. Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Many places that rent kayaks also give guided tours.
Meet Up Groups Might Work
If you don’t know anyone who is experienced in kayaking or are not near any place that gives guided tours, there is a great web-based platform called “Meet Up” you can join. Meet Up is a bunch of like-minded people who get together and do trips as a group. It’s a great way to make friends and learn from the more experienced kayakers.
Joining Meet Up is a simple process that costs you nothing. You just create a profile and supply an email address and you’re ready to find a group. Search for things like outdoor adventures, kayaks, or boating and you are bound to find a local group. Some groups charge a nominal fee of $5 or $10 a year to belong. The group will then post trips which you can sign up for. A good portion of the time they will start near or at a place, you can rent a kayak from. Most will say whether or not they are for beginners or if it’s an advanced trip. This way you can pick a more relaxed trip to start and you will not be by yourself out there on the water should anything happen.
Perfect For Snowbirds
I have belonged to the Meet Up platform for many years now. As a matter of fact, with the help of a friend, I actually ran a motorcycle group on Meet Up for a few years. I met some of the nicest people and had some of the best times with that group. As a full-time RV’er, it becomes a bit more difficult to belong to a group because chances are you are only in an area for a little while. If you come back to the same area every year ( let’s say winter) you can probably still join a group. Just tell them you are a snowbird. If you do not go back to the same area, if you find a trip you would like to go on, you can always send the organizer an e-mail and explain the situation. Most times they will let you join in for a nominal fee.
Now that you have either been out by yourself, with a friend, guided tour or with your new Meet Up group you joined and decided you absolutely love kayaking you will want to purchase one. If you decide you absolutely love kayaking and would like to go as often as possible, you will be better off buying your own. If you are only going to kayak on occasion, renting is probably the better way to go.
Take Everything Into Consideration
Let’s say at this point you absolutely love kayaking and want your own. Now you have to decide what type of kayaking you want to do. Lazy river, white water, long day trips, short afternoon trips, fishing, scuba diving, swimming? All these will factor into your decision. Of course there always that thing called your budget that will also be a factor…lol
Two of the biggest differences you will notice about kayaks are that some you sit on and some you sit in. This is the first decision you will need to make when choosing a kayak.
Below is a very basic description of the 2 types of kayaks. Both the sit on and sit in type kayaks then break down into more categories from there such as sea kayak, touring kayak, and adventure kayaks. Those will not be discussed here as they would be a whole separate post just for that.
Sit On Top
Pros– Sit on top Kayaks are wider which makes them very stable and easy to paddle making these a good choice for beginners. They are easy to get on and off and are good for use in warm weather climates. They generally have whats called scupper holes which make them self-draining so there is no need to pump water out if it gets in the Kayak. They are mainly used for recreation in lakes and easy flowing rivers.
Since they are easy on easy off and very stable, they are good if you plan to go swimming or scuba diving from them. They are also good to fish from.
Cons– They don’t have a lot of storage spaces and are heavier than the sit in types.
You will probably get at least a little wet on this type of kayak.
Pros– These kayaks you will actually be sitting in an area called a cockpit. The lower half of your body sits inside the kayak. They are good when the weather and water is a little cooler. Since you are sitting inside, the lower part of your body will be shielded from any wind. Don’t get me wrong, they are great for warmer weather and water also. You can also get a skirt to snap over you which will help keep water out of the kayak.
Cons– These do not have scupper holes so you may want to carry a small pump or scoop to keep water from building up inside.These are also very stable but should you ever flip the kayak for any reason, it is a little more complicated to free yourself since you are sitting inside.
Two more types of Kayaks I want to mention real quick that might be good for RVers are folding and inflatable kayaks. You won’t be doing any rapids with these but they are a good choice for those who want to do calmer waters but have no storage.
Good if you are limited on storage space or need to hike to a location to launch. Good for local trips with calm waters. Takes up less room than a traditional kayak.
These are great for people with almost no storage such as RV’ers. Believe it or not, they are more stable than you would expect. These are definitely meant for localized calm waters and lazy rivers.
Most people will be using their kayaks for leisurely afternoon trips and lazy river type of water. For that purpose, most kayaks will suit your needs fine. If you plan on doing longer trips or more volatile waters, make sure you choose a kayak suited for that purpose. Generally, the longer and skinnier a kayak is, the faster it will go. The wider it is, the more stable and slower it will be.
Some have a rudder that is controlled by your feet to help you steer. Some are designed skinnier so you can use your body for steering and handling purposes.
Don’t Forget You Will Need To Transport It
Don’t forget whatever kayak you get you will need to store and transport it. Rv’s are not known for having a lot of room so think ahead. If you are creative, you will come up with a way to transport. I have seen people install racks on their trailers, towed cars, and even their tow vehicles. I have even seen some people tie them to their rear ladders. Once you are at your site you can always slide it under your rig when you’re not using it.
Well, hopefully, I have gotten the wheels spinning in the right direction for you. Kayaking is extremely fun and great exercise. If you have a kayaking story or want to add a suggestion, feel free to comment below.