That’s right folks “learn to seakayak” by RJimlad! Scared? You should be. Whenever I paddle I look out for other kayakers (surf skiers don’t give you the time of day) and try to get a chat up with them. Even if it’s nothing more than drifting by and saying hello it contributes in some small way to ‘community’. I get quite a few good conversations up though and mostly there’s a common theme: they hate paddling alone and where can they go for help/tuition/support. I met a guy on the lake and when we introduced each other he said “hey, you have that website don’t you?” I felt all gooey inside from my 15 seconds of fame. The point is, he is looking around for the next move. He had a nice boat, good kit, a good attitude but didn’t know what to do next. If he’s reading blogs he must want to paddle. He was a regular reader, too, of the club website. Reading but not participating. He asked me for some answers. What does he do now? Did he buy the right gear? He didn’t even know. Hey, I’m the one looking for answers. It seems the more you know, the more you need to know. I’m now Grade 2 and feel more underskilled than ever. But at least I’m making the moves. So this post is a collection of things the beginner should do to get to those levels where the sport has grabbed them and it all just happens. My relative inexperience means the mistakes I made are still fresh in my head and “wish i’d done that” feeling is very acute. So here goes…
Is seakayaking for you? Remember, seakayaking is about going to ‘sea’. If you don’t think you’ll be up to that buy a cheaper flatwater tourer. Seakayaking is full-on. Like whitewater, it is the extreme end of the paddling options. Don’t spend up to $4k unless you are going all the way or your boat will end up on ebay. Go out with a seakayaker first. Not on a date but on a paddle. Hire one from a paddle shop for a few hours. It may save you a lot of money.
Yes, I want to paddle the ocean blue. Great, you’ll need a boat of your own then. Research this well. Have your money ready. In Australia you will need about $3500 to $4000 for good new gear. Don’t just bum around the net looking at pictures. Go to the shops and check them out. Test paddle them but know what you’re talking about before you go. There’s nothing worse than owning a boat you hate, justifying your bad decision all the time. This is the single biggest issue for the beginner. When I bought my boat I had it narrowed down to the Mirage and the Eco Bezhig. When I sat in Eco I knew it was right. I bought Gecko for my wife without checking it properly. Great little boat but doesn’t fit her. Now she want’s a Mirage 530. Costly mistake that one.
Don’t buy a package deal unless every bit is right for you. When I got Eco, I bought the Kokatat Orbit PFD because I thought it wouldn’t restrict movement as much but I hated it so much I ended up swapping it for a conventional PFD with Julie from the club. My spray deck was hastily added and though it’s OK it’s not ideal. I should have bought the AddH2O which fits my boat properly. My paddle is fine. Don’t buy a wing paddle!! Not until you are seriously good. It’s hard to learn bracing with them.
Got my boat, I’m kitted up and now what? Have you thought about how you are going to get it home? Or to the water? Can you get it on and off your car by yourself? Did you buy roof racks? If you don’t have racks you are up for another $400. Get them fitted properly by professionals and get Aero bars as they cut down the noise. All the major brands have them. I had Thule square bars and hated them. They pushed out the windows of my Magna and made a loud howling noise above 6okph. Costly mistake. My Volvo now has Rhino Aeros which are much quieter and fit the car properly. I have both hull-a-port hooks and Rhino kayak carriers and both are good but with hooks the boat sits on its side making it very tall.
Get on the water. Get used to moving it around and feeling comfortable in it. Do it regularly. Get your sea-legs and enjoy being there. However, just doing this won’t get you far. JOIN A CLUB! This is important. If you’ve spent the dough, you’ve made the decision. Joining a club is the next step. Nobody will come to you. Your friends won’t go out there with you just because you pester them. They aren’t going to take it up with you. So I’ll shout this again, JOIN A CLUB!
Do your training. It’s bloody free in the NSW Club. Unbelievable. Great instructors, too. When you’ve done this you are “in”. Keep training. Go to the next level. It’s easier after the first step. You will have connections, get invites, be more daring. My options now are significantly greater now as a result of club participation and training. I paddle with club members, meet up with people and have club events planned.
Finally, engage with other paddlers. If there are paddlers putting in or packing up where you are, talk to them. If you paddle past one on the water, say hello. They’re probably just like you or if they are experienced you might get an invite and your day suddenly looks much brighter. I guess I’ve wasted over $1k on bad buys, more if you count Gecko though I should get back what I paid when I sell it. I joined the club ages ago but only recently did my training. If I did it earlier I’d be grade 3 by now and going on some great club trips planned for the year. This isn’t a cheap sport. You will keep buying stuff and probably have more than one boat eventually. But it’s a great way to spend your life.