kayaking 101

Tis the season to be…eh…



watching wildlife…

photographing wildlife…

riding waves…

surfing downwind (carry an umbrella for an additional boost)…

going where no hiker has gone before…

wondering whatthehell is attached to those giantass fins that just surfaced by your paddle…

hoping Thor remembers you’re on his side when he starts flinging lightning bolts…

laughing at the people doing expensive maintenance on their motor boats/yachts/jetskis…

Kayaking is easy, accessible no matter what your physical limitations are, and safe (if you use your friggin head).

  1. WEAR YOUR PFD, always, no exceptions. You don’t swim as well as you think you do. Especially in cold water at the beginning of the season. I’ve got an advanced open water SCUBA cert and I always wear the PFD. Get one you’re comfortable in.
  2. TALK TO, AND BUY FROM PEOPLE WHO PADDLE. Skip Dick’s, The Name Says It All, or Gander Mountain or Tractor Supply or Wally World or whoever’s got a couple Buckets That Float out front. They are clueless or worse, reading out of their catalogs, trying to sell you crap you don’t need (though they might be fine for horse feed or fence wire or sandals or something). Research online, go to an outfitter (here it’s Ullers and Shanks Mare). These local businesses are usually small, family owned things. The people there are a wealth of info and will tell you what you really need according to what you want to do in a boat. They also often have used boats on hand. Kayaks never go bad (unless someone’s bounced them off a rock too many). You’d better have researched thoroughly before buying something on Craigslist or other private sales. You need to have the right hull design, cockpit size, length, width and other features that fit YOU and where you mostly want to paddle. A kid who wants to fish (and maybe explore the marsh on the side) might need something different from my long narrow sea kayaks with their small cockpits. Taking your dog along? Maybe you want a sit on top. A wide boat may look stable but it paddles just like a bathtub. A useful boat may seem tippy at first, but, like riding a horse, you learn to balance. A flat bottom (like my Sea Lion) requires a rudder. Some hulls have channels and other features that help them track and avoid weathercocking in wind. A 9 or 10 foot boat is The Bucket That Floats and you will be struggling to get anywhere. An 18 foot boat is fabulous on open water from lakes to oceans but not maneuverable on creeks. A 12 to 14 foot boat is fairly versatile for most things. Do your research.
  3. Research places you might want to go. Most people think of creeks first, but creeks are randomly shallow, rocky, or deep, rise and fall with rain, have strong currents at times (one way trip), have strainers (stuff water goes through but kayaks don’t) and low head dams (deadly). A big lake can give you near shore paddling, wildlife viewing, calm water, or wind waves if you go out in the middle. Bays and marshes are a blast with their abundant wildlife, varied conditions and interesting beaches. Be prepared with tide and weather reports.
  4. diamondbacked terrapin, a saltmarsh resident

    cormorant taking off
    green heron
    snowy egret
    Assateague dawn
    Rock Hall sunset

    Assateague treasure

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