What to buy?
Many people have asked my opinion regarding what kayak they should purchase. I tell them to consider where they want to paddle as kayaks are designed for specific uses, consider their budget and keep in mind they will need a rack to transport their yak. The longer and sleeker the kayak the better it will track (stay straight). When a person is new to paddling the wider ones will feel more stable, but once one has some experience and practice good paddling techniques the sleek boat will feel stable as well and it will cut through the waves better.
My first kayak, heavy yet still fun!
I loved kayaking on my first outing and knew immediately that I would purchase one. My first boat was a 45 lb. plastic boat, inexpensive, I test paddled six kayaks prior to making my selection. I knew I wanted to do flat water paddling, I looked for a stable yak that was not too expensive as money was a big factor. This boat, which I named the "Banana Boat," met my needs. Without the skeg in the water I would paddle like a drunkin’ sailor, but with the skeg in the water, it tracked nicely! If I hit rocks it was okay, I could drag it if I wanted too, but I choose not to, it was low maintenance! There are no hatches (storage compartments), but with the bungee cords on the deck and a large cockpit I was able to carry all I needed! I used it for a an overnight camping trip and even carried it by myself on the 5 carries trip. Today, I can hardly believe I carried it by myself on the portages! As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages to the plastic boats, so don't hesitate to check them out. The important thing is to get a good fit for your body and your budget. I still have it, it is great for friends that want to try paddling.
My second purchase glides!
A desire to paddle greater distances faster and a prettier boat enticed me to purchase my second kayak, which is a Swift Saranac, Kevlar Fusion, Low Volume, 14’ long, 32 lbs., easier to load as it is lighter and easier to paddle due to the length, shape and weight. It glides even through the waves, it has two hatches and bungee cording. This is one watercraft that you do not want to use on small streams or in rocky areas as it is expensive and can be damaged! Due to the length and weight it would not be easy for long portages; however I have carried it on mile long portages with the help of a friend, each taking an end. I paddled at least a dozen kayaks over two summers prior to making this purchase.
Sometimes a deal is too good to be true, but this deal was good and true! A friend was selling her Hornbeck, a solo canoe, which is made in the Adirondacks. A used Hornbeck is hard to come by! My reasoning for a 3rd boat was my desire to paddle from pond to pond and my desire to participate in overnight excursions! It is 16 lbs., I can carry it over my head or on my shoulder. It does well on small ponds and larger lakes too as you are practically sitting in the lake! Drawback, it is not the fastest, but if you are wanting to do to a lot of wilderness ponds you may wish to consider the solo canoe rather than a kayak, it tracks well, lightweight for portages, strong and well built!
Consider, research and test paddle!
So once you determine the type of kayak you want, do some research and test paddle! I am not talking two or three, I am saying try out as many as you can. I cannot stress that enough. I have seen large people squeezed into small cockpits and little people practically swimming in their oversized kayaks. Visit kayak shops and search the internet, if your money is tight you may wish to consider a used kayak, but again test paddle and make your decision based on what you have test paddled.
You won’t go anywhere without a paddle! They too come in various materials and there are a variety of prices. The length of your paddle will depend on your watercraft and your personal preference. My paddle is not of the highest quality, it is not light weight, but it suits me for all three boats. However, I have seen people trying to paddle with a short paddle and it does not look like fun! You might also want to pick up some water shoes as they keep the sand and rocks out. Dry bags are another optional accessory, they will keep you items dry and safe as you can clip the bag to the bungee cord.
You will need to transport your watercraft, even if you live on the water, I am most certain you will have a desire to paddle various bodies of water at some point. There are numerous racks available. If you look for a 2nd hand one, make sure it will fit your vehicle and also determine how hard it is to install on your vehicle and how easy/difficult it is for you to load your kayak or canoe. I am on my 2nd Yakima Rack, the first one was difficult to put on and take off due to the number of parts and having to use an Allen Wrench. My 2nd one, a Yakima Sweet Roll, is great and easy to put on and take off.
Last summer I purchased a J rack, so that I can carry my kayak and canoe when I go car camping. J racks come in various qualities, mine was very inexpensive and not of not high quality. I only use the J rack for my canoe when I travel short distances. I would be unable to load kayak on the J bar by myself, so weigh the pros and cons of the racks prior to making a purchase.
Don’t forget you need a PFD, try them on to get a good fit. My first PFD was not the best choice for me; it did not fit well. I did regret that purchase, but used it for a few years. I was much more careful when selecting the next PFD. If it is comfortable you will be more likely to wear it. Hats are a great accessory too, as you need sun protection!
In the end, hopefully you will be satisfied with your choices and visit our Region for some great paddling, Tupper Lake is surrounded with water.
Hope to see you on the water!