Beginner's Guide to Whitewater Kayaking Gear

Whitewater kayaking is the sport of paddling on moving bodies of water, typically rivers. The experience can range from a fun float trips to adrenalin charged challenges. Whitewater kayaking requires the same basic gear used by all kayakers. Gear specifics differ due to conditions and other variables involved in whitewater kayaking.

Kayaks built for whitewater kayaking, often called playboats, are usually made of durable and flexible plastic. Lengths vary from around 6 feet to as long as 12 feet, maybe longer. Newer designs tend to run around 6 feet to 7 feet in length. Personal kayak size and shape are determined by the user's height, weight, type of water the kayak will be used in and primary kayak use.

Whitewater kayaks for fun float trips do not need the features that kayaks used on dangerous river rapids must possess. New kayaks can cost from around $600 to thousands of dollars.

Paddles for whitewater kayaking are usually around 6 feet long. Longer paddles are best for fun whitewater trips on creeks or rivers while shorter paddles work better where quick movement is required.

Playboaters can get maximum power from bigger blades while medium blades are fine for creeks and general rivers. Spoon shaped paddles provide power for playboating. Wing blades were designed to get maximum power and require a special paddling technique.

Whitewater kayaking paddles are available in a variety of materials including fiber composites, fiberglass, carbon, plastic, wood and laminated wood. Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses. Boater size and paddling style will affect choice of paddle.

Type III Personal floatation devices (PFDs) include models that are specifically for kayaking. The best PFD is one that can be adjusted to fit snugly whether the user is wearing a tee shirt or a wet suit.
Many experienced whitewater kayakers suggest buying the best whitewater kayaking helmet that the budget allows. Function and protection are important considerations, even before style. For serious whitewater kayaking, there are helmets that look almost like those used in football. They feature face guards and offer more coverage and protection that standard kayaking helmets.

Resistant Neoprene is the best whitewater kayaking spray skirt material. UV rays, abrasions and stretching will affect the wear and lifespan of the spray skirt. Spray skirts must be easy to remove quickly in case of emergency.

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