Beginner's Guide to Basic Kayaking Equipment

There isn't a lot of equipment required for kayaking. A kayak and paddle, life jacket, helmet and spray skirt are the recommend basics.

Kayaks for surfing and doing tricks are called playboats. Kayaks for rocky rivers are called creek boats. Traditional river kayaks offer a quick ride and stability. Most kayaking beginners start with the traditional river kayak.
One kayak does not fit all. The size and shape of the kayak is based on the user's height, weight, and the type of water the kayak will be used in. Kayak dealers usually stock demo or demonstration kayaks available for test boating. This allows kayakers to try before they buy.

Used kayaks cost considerably less than new. Good used kayaks can often be found in the classifieds, online auctions and similar venues.

Finding the right paddle involves getting the length, weight, material and blade shape into consideration, along with the user's height, torso size and paddling style. Tall people, those with long torsos and paddlers who like a slow ride will require longer paddles. Shorter people or those with short torsos and paddlers who like to paddle fast and get the job done will benefit from shorter paddles.

Kayaking paddle materials include wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber and aluminum shafts with plastic blades. The aluminum shaft paddles are a good choice for beginners.
Many kayakers are already into other water sports and own a life jacket (also known as personal flotation device). These can be purchased at many discount stores, sporting goods stores and boating equipment stores in addition to online stores and auctions.

Life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFD) are required by law. Choose a PFD rated for the type of kayaking involved. Type III PFD's tend to be the most comfortable for paddling.
Kayaking helmets should be good quality and fit well. Like other sporting gear, helmets have evolved and now are as much about fashion as function. Users can shop for functional, protective head gear or for functional and fashionable helmets in a wide variety of designs, colors and styles.

Spray skirts are used to seal the cockpit during kayaking and keep water out of the inside of the kayak and keep the kayaker dry. Different types of kayaking require different skirt styles. Whitewater spray skirts are usually made of neoprene. Touring and recreational spray skirts are often made of nylon. Sea kayaking skirt styles may include both neoprene and nylon.

All kayaking spray skirts feature a grab loop. This loop allows the boater to break the seal quickly if necessary. Skirt
designs include cords for boat attachment, pockets, and adjustable suspenders and waistbands.
Since the spray skirt fits around the wearer's waist, waist circumference is the general standard of sizing. Kayak cockpit size may also apply.

Optional kayaking gear includes a dry bag, a dry top and a spray jacket. The small dry bag is good for protecting and storing snacks and other small items. A dry top is a water proof jacket good for cold water paddling. Spray jackets are waterproof and available in long or short sleeve styles.
Kayaking gives boaters an opportunity to explore waterways for fun and for relaxation. The size and light weight of kayaks make maneuvering them easy for individuals. Kayaking doesn't require a lot of equipment and doesn't have to be expensive. Most beginners can quickly master the basics but kayaking is a continual learning experience.

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