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Selecting a Kayak


Kayaking is one of the simplest and safest outdoor recreational activities. Just about anyone can jump aboard, grab a double-bladed paddle, and start exploring. A few years ago, most kayaks were general-purpose boats. Today, there are a variety of specialized designs that have evolved for different applications. To get started selecting a kayak, your first task is to identify the type of kayaking that you are likely to be engaged in most of the time. The following are some of the available categories of kayaks:

General recreation
Recreational kayaks are made for all-around casual use on lakes, rivers and bays. They are shorter and beamier than touring kayaks, so they turn more easily and have more stability, but do not travel in a straight line as effortlessly. If you are new to the sport, a recreational kayak would probably be a good choice.

Whitewater and surf
Specialized boats for whitewater use are often very short in length with planing hulls and lots of rocker (with raised ends) for maneuverability and for handling waves effectively. Waveskis are a type of short kayak designed especially for surf use. They are usually of the sit-on-top style, and are very easy to reboard after a wipeout.

Touring and cruising
Longer kayaks go faster once they are up to speed and track in a straight line better. Touring kayaks are made for weekend trips with the gear that you carry along, and have storage compartments to hold gear stored inside of plastic dry bags. Some of the higher-priced boats are made of fiberglass, and are very long (17' for a single, to 22' for a tandem) including waterproof bulkheads and fiberglass hatches in the deck. Multi-week voyages under near-offshore conditions are possible with the top-end touring kayaks. They are sometimes described by the name "sea kayaks," but are not used only in the ocean. Some touring kayaks have a rudder, connected to foot pedals, to improve steering and turning ability.

Fishing or diving
 Built for anglers or divers, special kayaks such as the Sportfisher Inflatable, Prowler Trident, Prowler 13 and Scrambler XT kayaks include baitwells, fishfinder mounts and transducer scuppers, tackle boxes, rodholders and many other features just for anglers or divers.

Alone or with a partner
A tandem kayak is lots of fun to paddle with a partner and less expensive than two single kayaks, but is difficult to paddle alone (which requires sitting in the back and ballasting the front). Tandem kayaks are also faster than singles, since they combine the effort of two paddlers for one boat. They are good for paddlers of different strengths, who might not move at the same pace in two singles.
Convertible kayaks, such as the Advanced Frame Double, are a good compromise. With seats for two, convertibles also have a center position for balanced solo paddling. Zip on an optional removable deck conversion, and you can turn your tandem into a covered touring kayak with a sprayskirt.

Types of kayaks

Sit inside kayaks
Best for colder conditions, because they provide more protection from the elements, having a small oval-shaped deck opening with a nylon fabric "sprayskirt" that seals your lower body inside, allowing you to stay drier. Your center of gravity is lower, since you are sitting below the water line, so you have greater stability. You can also brace your lower body better, so you feel more connected to the boat, and can handle rough water more effectively. The down side is that recovery from a capsize is more difficult. Practicing an Eskimo roll to get upright and learning how to disengage yourself from the sprayskirt are required.

Sit on top
Great for warm weather fun. Sit on top boats are self-bailing because the floor is above water level and is fitted with scuppers, holes that go through the bottom for drainage. Because of your higher center of gravity, sitting in a molded depression in the hull, capsizing is more likely but self-rescuing recovery is easier, about like climbing back on a surfboard. Since you are not inside a skirted cockpit, expect to get wet, and wear a swimsuit (or wetsuit) because you are exposed to the wind and waves. Sit-on-top kayaks do not give the same feeling of being connected to the boat you get in a sit-inside boat, but claustrophobia is also not a problem.

Inflatable kayaks
Portability is the primary advantage. Most inflatable kayaks fall into the "basic recreational boat" category, but the Advanced Frame models offer a higher level of performance. Their design is a hybrid of a folding and an inflatable kayak, with aluminum frames adding rigidity to the bow and stern. Due to their length and seaworthiness, these kayaks offer performance comparable to hardshells, but are easy to setup and compact to stow.

Your paddle is the most important accessory, and should be sized correctly for you and your boat. You can choose either unfeathered blades (which are in the same plane) or feathered blades (set at right angles to each other). Feathered blades allow the blade that is out of the water to cut more easily through the air. Other items you may need include a cartop rack, sprayskirt, seat backs or bailer.





To start, sit in your kayak. Your backside should be all the way back in your seat and your knees comfortably bent. To find the proper foot well, straighten your legs all the way out and then bring them back one "well." If your legs are too straight, you may find you put strain on your lower back. If your knees are bent too far, you may end up knocking your knee caps when you paddle.

To find your hand placement on your paddle, start with your hands about shoulder width apart and centered. If you place the center of the paddle on the top of your head, your elbows should form slightly less than a 90 degree angle. There should be an equal amount of paddle shaft and blade beyond both of your hands.

Some paddles may have the blades offset, or feathered. A feathered paddle presents less surface area for the wind to catch. However, a special technique must be used to get both blades in the water. If the paddle is a right hand control, (when the right blade is held vertical, the left blade "scoop" is up) the right hand will stay tight and your left hand loose. To learn the process, hold the paddle tight in your right hand and loose in your left. Using the right hand, rotate the paddle blade back and forth; it should slide through your left hand. Now take a stroke on your right, cock your right wrist back (left hand staying loose and somewhat open) and take a stroke on your left, and so forth. If using a left hand control paddle, reverse the process: the left hand stays tight and the right loose.

The basic paddle stroke is a forward power stroke. Place the paddle blade in the water near your toes. Pull the paddle blade back alongside the boat to approximately your hip. Lift the paddle blade and take a stroke on the other side.

If the paddle blade drifts out to the side in an arc, it will force the bow of the boat to swing away from the paddle blade. This is called a sweep stroke and is used to turn the boat.


Ocean Kayak Paddle Tips

Ocean Kayaks are very easy to use and very forgiving. By beginning in calm water, you can quickly get the feel of the boat and paddle techniques, and practice getting in and out of the boat by yourself. A long paddle will allow for a longer stroke, while a shorter paddle will give a shorter, faster stroke. Relax your hands when paddling - you don't need to hold a death grip! Sit with good posture, keep your torso vertical and choose a footrest position that will allow your knees to be slightly bent. For greater efficiency, use not only your arms, but your torso and shoulders as well. Start out easy until you get the feel of the paddle and the steering strokes. Most experienced paddlers use an offset (feathered) paddle, but beginners may prefer to keep the blades square.


There are a variety of ways to get back on a sit-on-top  kayak. One process seems to be particularly easy for  most people. It was developed by Mark Olson, a  representative for Ocean Kayak and is called  Bellybutton, Backside, Feet or BBF.

If the boat is upside down, it will need to be turned over. To do this, reach across the bottom of the boat and grab the scupper holes.Bring your knees up and onto the bottom of the boat.Lean back and the boat will roll over. Then, position yourself so your head is near the  cockpit area of the boat and you are facing the boat. Let your feet float to the surface of the  water by floating on your bellybutton.


 Reach across the boat to the far edge and then  swim up and onto the boat, so your bellybutton  is across the centerline of the boat. (Your belly  should be between the foot wells and the seat.)


 Next, roll over onto your backside which should  end up in the seat. Sit up, swing your feet into  the foot wells and you're ready to go.



Sport Phillip Marine services the boating, yachting & fishing needs of the Mornington Peninsula from Frankston, Daveys Bay, Mt. Eliza, Mornington, Mt. Martha, Safety Beach, Martha Cove, Dromana, Rosebud, Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea on Port Phillip Bay to Yaringa, Warneet, Somers, Hastings, and Flinders on Westernport Bay.

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