Paddle sports 101
What to know before heading out on the water
Paddle sports, such as kayaking, canoeing and rowing, represent the fastest growing segment of boating. Whether you’re canoeing or kayaking on a lake, river or ocean, you need to plan your outing based on the environment, and you need to know your craft to make it a fun and safe trip.
Things to consider
When participating in a paddle sport, be smart. Don’t plan to spend all day paddling your first time in a canoe or kayak. Start small, an hour-long 1- to 2-mile trip, and work up to a longer trip. Take a hands-on training course that includes rescue skills.
Canoes and kayaks come in many different designs. The amount of material you can carry varies with the craft’s size and shape. U.S. Coast Guard standards call for at least 6 inches of freeboard when a canoe is fully loaded, including people. Some kayaks have large open cockpits for one or more people. Some allow you to sit inside the hull thus protecting your legs from the elements. Others have an indentation in the top where you can sit on top of the craft.
Regardless of your boat’s design, you should always place heavier items in the rear. As with other watercraft, you want the bow to ride higher than the stern so the boat will move through the water more easily.
All stowed materials should be located as low as possible in the boat providing comfortable room for the paddler. Items that must be kept dry, like food, clothing and sleeping bags, should be placed in double sealed-plastic waterproof bags and placed inside a larger dry bag, waterproof stuff sack, or sealed plastic pail. Everything placed inside or on the boat should be attached to the vessel in case your boat capsizes or takes a wave over the hull.
To learn more, take America’s Boating Course.