Choice of gear

Which kayak

What boat should I buy?

Looking back over the last few years some newcomers to paddling were sold boats that were too 'big and stable' for them, while other members have sold 'advanced' boats which they thought they would 'grow into'. In both cases these choices turned out to be incorrect.

Whitewater boaters 'wear' their kayaks but you need to be able to wiggle about a bit in a sea kayak to be comfortable on a long trip. Too much wiggle however means that you'll struggle to control your kayak on occasions when you might need to.

When starting kayaking it is perfectly normal to be slightly anxious about getting out of your kayak in the event of an unexpected capsize but this is much more about technique than the size of the cockpit and once you have had a little supervised practice you'll be able to slickly exit the smallest of boats. Your sense of balance will also quickly develop and it is amazing how soon that apparently wobbly boat becomes a stable paddling platform.

There are now so many different boats available the first question to ask yourself is what sort of paddling am I want to do.

Most of us have an 'all round' or 'general purpose' plastic boat which we still enjoy using from time to time, despite later investment in specialist white water or sea kayaks. These are good boats for learning the basics and are almost indestructible. What's more, these scratched secondhand boats can often be resold for a similar same price if you decide you just don't like it.

Before you rush out and buy a boat though we would thoroughly recommend coming to talk to club members about the options available to you. There may also be the opportunity to try a few out before deciding.

Do some research online, check out manufacturers reviews or search the UKriversguidebook forum.

After the boat, the paddle is the most essential bit of kit. They come in all sizes and shapes and there is no such things as "one size fits all" and one being sold with a kayak might not be a sound investment. Again, Club members will offer free and impartial advice about the options available to you


What type of paddle?

Which paddle to use?

Before you buy typically questions you should be asking are:

What length?
205cm to 215cm are normal for sea kayaks. 190cm to 200cm for whitewater.

What type and size blade?
There a different blade shapes depending on your paddling style and sizes depending on your level of strength and physical fitness. Too large a paddle blade can cause sore shoulders and strained joints.

Angle or 'feather'?
Two decades ago 90º was the standard. Today 45-60º is typical though sea kayakers typically edge towards a 0-30º feather.

Whitewater paddling demands robust materials to stand up to the riggers of the sport but these can be heavy to use when paddling on a longer journey. Materials vary from aluminium on cheaper models which are typically used by centres to full carbon fibre for elite sportsmen and women.

They can have a straight or cranked shaft which comes in 1 piece or available as splits which are typically 2 piece but are known to exist in 3 or 4 piece variants for travelling.

Some companies provide a choice of shaft diameter. This is useful if you have small hands.

Price?
Expect to pay £100 for a blade of reasonable quality and up to £400 for top of the range models.

Popular touring paddles are the Celtic Kinetix Touring and the Werner Tybee. We would probably recommend a 2 piece 'split' blade as your first purchase as it could always be carried as an emergency spare should you upgrade to a different or better model later.