Thursday, June 28, 2012

So, you want to buy your first kayak?

Or, five tips to follow BEFORE you buy your first kayak!

During my paddling adventures, folks will come up to me at various put in / take out areas and ask about getting into paddling sports. Here's some advice I learned over several years of paddling kayaks, to pass on to any person thinking about getting into this wonderful sport!

Tip #1: Rent before you buy. Or another way to state it, is to try before you buy. Check with friends, relatives, local outdoor provision companies, rental outfits, and even retailers, to either borrow or rent various types of kayaks. This gives you opportunities to experience what kind of kayak (e.g. sit-in, sit-on-top, recreational, touring, fishing, inflatable, etc.) works best for your specific paddling needs and where you plan to do the majority of your paddling (e.g. flat water, rapids, ocean, etc.)

Tip #2: Experience counts. Beginner or novice paddlers, always seek advice from more experienced individuals - especially on choosing a kayak, gear, and getting basic paddling techniques down. A correctly "fitted" kayak (e.g. one that is chosen based on comfort and on the kinds of water areas you will typically paddle), will "make or break" your kayaking experience! Taking along the appropriate gear with a emphasis on safety is also essential! Finally, effective paddling has more to do with technique than overall strength, but you need to understand correct paddling strokes and learn from experienced individuals who can answer your questions. Additional information on gear selection may be found in Mike's Gear List section. 

Tip #3: Consider buying an "used" kayak. This is especially valid if you are not sure you will "stick with" paddling, as this will help minimize your initial outlay of money for a kayak and assorted gear. I own two kayaks, a tandem Mainstream Escapade (the blue two seat kayak with Rachel and me in it that readers see in the Durhamblogger header photo) and an Aquafusion Liberty 13 (a single seat yellow kayak seen in many Durhamblogger photos) Both kayaks were purchased "used." I bought the tandem and a set of paddles for the incredible low price of $50.00 at a church festival! The Aquafusion Liberty 13 was purchased from Banks Dixon, owner and operator of Frog Hollow Outdoors, at a huge cost savings over retail list price. It was part of an end-of-season sale of some of Frog Hollow's rental fleet. Again, it pays to shop around and look for good deals in used kayaks!

Tip #4: Read up. Durhamblogger has a lot of information and links to various paddling and kayak topics: NC Paddling Resources, and Mike's Gear List.There are also countless trade magazines and books devoted to various aspects of paddling and kayaks that can be found at your favorite bookstore or online (e.g.

Tip #5: Storing and transporting. Before you become the proud owner of a kayak, you better figure out how you plan to both store when not in use and transport your craft to that favorite paddling area! I have a two-car garage, but it's actually a one-car and two-kayak garage that provides a secure and "lockable" storage for my kayak flotilla. Transporting my kayaks, I utilize a truck bed "extender" product, called "Extend A-Truck" You can see various "Extend-A-Truck" configurations here. There are many transport options (e.g. roof racks, trailers, kayak carts - after reaching your put in area, etc.) There are a lot of factors that go into choosing transport options for your kayak. Some of the more important factors include; vehicle type, length / size of kayak, and distance from put in / take out area. Again, since each storage and transport option "solution" will be unique and specific to your individual situation, I can offer only general advice and tips here. 

Hopefully, these five tips will help get you focused on some of the critical items to consider BEFORE you lay down your hard-earned money on a first kayak!


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  1. Good advice Mike! I can relate to every single one of those 5 very important points!

    We had to measure the garage and we fretted about bringing home two 17 foot long kayaks. Now we have 4 kayaks in the garage and tons of gear. The cars sometimes have to live outside!

    And we rented before we bought our own kayaks. My first kayak was used.

    And I'm still reading up on stuff. It's never ending!

    Cheers from Canada.

    1. Thanks Peggy! IMO, it's critical that beginner paddlers are armed with the right information before buying their first kayak. It's those first paddle experiences, either positive or negative, that set the tone for how much enjoyment they'll get out of this paddling sport in the future!


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