Before buying your own kayak there are lots of things to consider. Ask
around at the club - Tash, Geoff, Phil and the other members may all have useful
opinions on what may suit you. Ultimately, it is down to trying a few
and finding out which feel comfortable. There are lots of kayak reviews
on the Playak website and advice pages on shop websites.
comments herein are the personal opinion of the author and taken at your
Short boats are good in surf and river waves but too short
to go far and hard work to paddle any distance. This is because the
speed you can go is related to the length of the kayak/canoe - the
longer it is, the further you can paddle comfortably.
Play boats - <1.9m
long - a specialist boat - good for surfing & play spots. Not
good for river running unless you are very experienced. No good on
flat water and sea trips. Only buy if you are into playing/tricks.
E.g. Liquid Logic Biscuit, Wavesport Project, Jackson Star
River Play/Surf -
1.9m to 2.2m long - less specialist - can river run and play in
river surf and sea surf. Too short for flat water and sea paddling
trips though - really hard work over any distance.
E.g. Liquid Logic Trigger/Lil Joe/Hoss, Wavesport Fuse, Pyrahna Rev,
River Runners and
Creek - 2.3m to 2.6m long - getting more general purpose as they
are good at running rivers and reasonable at surfing and useful for
short flat water or sea trips (Seaton to Beer is about is far as you
would want to go in one of these). Creek boats have more volume
inside (so they float back to the surface quicker) but can sometimes
be a bit unwieldy on slower water. Therefore, creek boats are not as
general purpose as the river runners.
E.g. Dagger GT Series, Wavesport Diesel
General Purpose -
2.6m to 2.8m long - though labelled general purpose they are
obviously at the longer trip end of the range. They can do surfing
(but not the play moves) and run rivers (as long as not too
difficult) and OK for flat water and short sea trips. Again, you
would probably want to limit the length of the trip to 8km or so
(e.g. Exeter canal/river round).
E.g. Perception Whip It, Whip Lash and ARC.
- 2.8m to 3.0m long - seems there is a new range of boats coming
out in this length which are good for touring and river cruising and
some white water. Typical examples are Pyranha Fusion and WaveSport
Ethos - seems to be growing trend at the club...
Touring & Sea Kayaks - >3m
long - Good for the flat water and sea trips of any length. Long
means fast and straight running. Can do some surfing with practice.
E.g. Perception Arcadia and Carolina.
Open Canoes - >3m
long - Good for the flat water and sea trips of any length. Long
means fast and straight running. Can be taken down most of the river
trips as well with appropriate buoyancy bags.
Remember - shops
may have a vested interest and, though their advice may be good, it may
also be tinged by what they want to sell. Ask the club members first as
they have used a wide variety of kayaks and may provide more impartial
advice. There really is no kayak that will do everything, so you really
have to decide which end of the length range most suits your needs most
of the time (or eventually get two kayaks as most members seem to do - one
shorter & one longer).
What Open Canoe?
For choosing an Open Canoe there is an equally complex choice - ask
Tash or Geoff for advice or try the various club ones for size... As a
club we have most recently bought Mad River Canoes - Legend 15 and
Reflection 15 in Royalex with vinyl gunwales.
Also look at the
Open Canoe Association
as they have lots of information, films on paddling technique by Bill
Mason, and organize trips (i.e. the Bob weekend in July).
The great Bill Mason canoe stroke videos are linked from
Here is a good document on one way to fit out an open
canoe - painters, buoyancy, lacing, kneeling twart ->
Open Canoe Outfitting (14MB so it might take a while
A site found by Tom Kealy for help in repairing cracks
in Canadian Canoes:
Repairing a Royalex Canoe with G/flex Epoxy. You can get the G/flex from various
Robbins Timber in
Open Canoe Sailing Rig
Here is an easy method of turning canoes into a
catamaran/trimaran with a
sailing rig - all you need is poling poles, a
groundsheet and few pieces of rope.
Choosing kayak paddles is almost as hard as choosing which kayak - the type and length of
paddle depends on what you want to do. Play boaters tend to use shorter
paddles with bigger (broader) blades to get maximum power, whilst at the other extreme sea kayakers
longer paddles with smaller blades. Basically you get what you pay for
so go for the best paddle you can afford of the type that suits.
Symmetric paddles are cheapest, but they tend
to be less rigid and, due to their symmetry, they may
flutter in your hands in fast water. Asymmetric
paddles are more expensive, more rigid and generally
improve the effectiveness of your strokes. Asymmetric
paddles are better mainly because, as the paddle enters
the water it is not vertical. Hence, with a symmetric
paddle more of the blade beneath the line of the shaft
is in the water than above the line of the shaft and so,
when you pull on the blade, there is more pressure of
water on the bottom half and hence the blade may
flutter. With an asymmetric blade, the area in the water
above and below the line of the shaft is the same and
hence the pressure of the water as you pull is balanced
and therefore more effective.
Reputedly, the more rigid the shaft and blade, the
more efficient, however the downside is it they are less
kind on the arms & shoulders. So, really rigid paddles
are only good for experienced paddlers with good
strokes. So, if you are an intermediate paddler, do not
go for a paddle that is too rigid...
People at the club tend to have (in order of cost) : Originz (mainly
Nevis Bluff) or Robson or Werner paddles for the rivers. All these are
Choosing open canoe paddles - Have a look at
Grey Owl Paddles site and the Open Canoe Association
You need to assume that you will get wet, so even in summer you
can get cold if there is a wind blowing - so you need to be warm and wind
proof. Working from inside to outside:
- Thermal layer: options to suit the conditions are thermal
trousers/top, rash vest/shorts, wetsuit.
- Windproof & waterproof layer: in winter you really need a dry
cag/trousers or dry suit. In summer, a semi-dry cag will suffice on
warm days but generally even in summer a dry cag is useful if intend
getting very wet.
- Footwear: wetsuit boots or wet shoes seem the best option here (much
better than trainers).
- Gloves (optional)
- Helmet: a kayak helmet is essential for most trips and club sessions
for kayaking. On open canoe trips helmets are less necessary but a hat
of some form is essential to keep the sun at bay.
- Buoyancy Aid: again essential for all trips and sessions.
- Always ensure you have an extra piece of warm clothing with you on
trips and a dry set of clothes to change into at the end of the trip