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Hello new to kayaking

Hello my name is Craig and I am new to kayaking. I just picked up an wilderness systems tsunami 140, I have gone out on it 3-4 times already on lake st. Clair (anchor bay area) near new Baltimore / fair haven. I got it wanting to do some 1-3 day kayak camping or just getting out on the water near my home. The last time out I ended up flipping it trying to surf some waves. I had about a 10 min swim in cold water back to shore only wearing jeans and a cotton hoodie and my PFD :-( that was not fun by any means. I did not know what I was getting into, I had no spray skirt no paddle float no pump and I had never practiced deep water re entry or shallow for that matter. My foolishness aside, I am looking to learn to how to be a safer paddler. My question are, are there any places to practiced indoor around my area cheaply? Are the any groups / clubs in my area ( I google searched and found few in my area)? I would like to find others in my area that share my new found passion and don't mined helping out a new guy. I mite be done for the fall/winter on the cold lake st. Clair. Any advice on the matter would be most helpful thanks.


  • Check out these places
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 11:32 AM EST --

    That is, assuming you are talking St Clair Lake in Michigan. It took me some hunting around to find one place that had all three names, not uncommon ones.

    But you probably haven't looked broadly enough. I found the following.

    Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte MI, 1 hour drive from New Baltimore, they do lessons etc year round via access to a YMCA pool. Driving an hour to save your life is a cheap deal.
    Link is http://riversidekayak.com/lessons-classes

    The Kayak Connection, Algonac MI, 20 minutes from New Baltimore.
    I don't see any indication that they are a good fit for things like winter pool sessions from their web site, and they seem to be more about kayak fishing, but they do have ACA instructors. So they may offer or know of more opportunities than I see on the web site. Worth a phone call at least.
    Link is http://www.thekayakstore.com/index.php

    I also found an outfit called Black Parrot Kayaking that operates some out of Brighton, but they are a further drive than either of the above and there is no indication on their weeb site that they offer anything for winter.

    Also, FYI right now is a good time to go to places like Northwest River Sports (nrsweb.com) and pick up last year's models of good paddling clothes for a discount. The window will last maybe a couple of more weeks. Consider taking a look - if you are paddling from Detroit and north, dry wear is your future even for three season paddling.

  • glad you made it to shore
    Wow, you dodged a bullet with that capsize! Glad it turned into a lesson rather than a tragedy. At least you've got a good attitude about making up for the shortage in gear and training. (see this local news item down where I live for a similar event that did not end as well last weekend)


    Where did you buy your boat? Having worked for a number of years in outdoor gear sales and education I always made sure that the folks I was selling to knew what accessories and safety equipment and instruction they needed before they left the store with their new toys. Even when I sell a used boat through Craigslist I have a talk with the purchaser about their planned use and advise them on precautions and additional items they need to have. It concerns me that the people you bought it from didn't bring up having a pump at the very least, not to mention a skirt and proper paddling clothes. And they should have recommended basic instruction since you were a novice.

    For any future outdoors outing, even hiking, jeans and hoodies are the worst possible outfit, as you have discovered. The heavy cotton not only soaks up water like a sponge, it will evaporate faster than any other material, causing hypothermia. In cool wet and windy conditions it has actually been demonstrated that you will get colder much faster wearing soaked cotton clothing than being buck naked. Polyester fleece or wool is a better choice, and polyester and/or nylon athletic clothes are preferable to anything cotton. Do some googling on the topic of "cold water immersion" and you will learn that even the most pleasant looking ponds in Michigan can be deadly at this time of year if you are not dressed right -- just like Lake Arthur was to the hapless raccoon hunter in the news item.

    I lived and kayaked in Michigan for 8 years (mainly the west and north). There are great paddling options there and plenty of resources in the state as well as good outfitters (for which Celia has already done the legwork for you in her previous post). Though I usually prefer the smaller independent oufitters, there is also an REI store not far from you in Troy (10-15 miles?) -- check with them on their kayaking class schedules. The one in my town has winter pool sessions. That would be another good place to go for your needed accessories and clothing.

    You might want to check activity bulletin boards, like Meetup.com, to see if there is an active kayaking group in your area. Paddling with some experienced people would be safer on water like St. Clair than being alone.

  • Options
    Many, many kayak shops,clubs
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 12:16 PM EST --

    You're new, and basically just ""winged it"".
    Thought it was easy, no problem, and got a wakeup call.
    October, Lake St. Clair, newbie solo paddle - ouch !

    A simple internet search would yield BOATLOADS of info
    for classes, instruction, groups, etc. but you
    simply didn't make the effort.

    Others have done the homework you should have done.
    Obviously you have internet access but were TOO lazy.

    No pity party for you...You got owned by Lake St. Clair

    Riverside Kayak Connection
    Address: 4016 Biddle Avenue,
    Wyandotte, MI 48192
    Phone: (734) 285-2925

  • Options
    at least he's asking now. Searches don't always give the first hand aspects of which shops are better for someone in his situation. Shops that sell some of this gear unfortunately don't warn and direct people to classes so having such "adventures" happens. Compassion is a wonderful thing.
  • Deep Trouble
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 1:09 PM EST --

    is the title of a book worth reading over the winter.
    It's a series of accounts of kayak incidents over the years. Some involved novices others involved experienced skilled paddlers. It'll give you a perspective of what can go wrong.

  • Not called for.
    That kind of response is not appropriate.
    You would not say that if we were in a room all together.
  • Options
    St. Clair
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 12:56 PM EST --

    You're new, and basically just ""winged it"".
    Thought it was easy, no problem, and got a wakeup call.
    October, Lake St. Clair, newbie solo paddle - ouch !

    A simple internet search would yield BOATLOADS of info
    for classes, instruction, groups, etc. but you
    simply didn't make the effort.

    Others have done the homework you should have done.
    Obviously you have internet access but were TOO lazy.

    No pity party for you...You got owned by Lake St. Clair

    Hey, willi_h20:
    Be nice. They are looking for help, not ATTITUDE !!

  • Options
    Thanks 4 your post
    Celia thanks for the info, I have browsed the Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte MI website and have looked at there rates for lessons $75-80 per. I guess being as new as i am i was hoping there were clubs around that i could pay dues and use a "club pool". That would be a little cheaper of a route. And before anyone flames me on that comment, yeah i know safety is priceless.
    I ended up buying my boat from The Kayak Store in Algonac, really cool people they let me demo 2 other boats before i picked the tsunami 140. They also filled me in on safety equipment, I just had no money left after the purchase of the kayak paddle and PFD. I will most likely stop on by today and talk to them and what they offer as far as lessons.
    Thanks the the link (nrsweb.com), so your saying i should be looking for a dry-suit? Would i use something like that in the summer or just fall/winter/spring?
  • Options
    in addition to formal clubs
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 2:01 PM EST --

    check out www.meetup.com and see if there are paddling groups nearby. Sometimes just chatting with or joining beginner outings (asking first what gear or skills are needed) can give you the lay of the land on classes, gear and local safety issues. Some of these groups/clubs may join forces to get better rates on classes.

    Especially if on a budget you may just have to wait for warm weather to come back for more beginner appropriate outings and classes.

    btw, I think that lessons are better if you have the opportunity to go out with others soon after the lessons to practice what you learned. Otherwise you may need to retake the lessons months later if the cold keeps you in. So another reason you may want to wait out the winter.

  • Drysuit vs Wetsuit
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 1:59 PM EST --

    A wetsuit will work for kayak paddling, and many people here wear wet suits in very low temperatures in the winter. You can get a wetsuit that will be adequate protection until the water freezes for about $160 bucks.
    You can search here for lots of threads on wetsuits that work for cold water paddling. Full surfing wetsuits with flexible arms actually work best. Good brands to look for on sale are Oneil, Xcell,

    Drysuits are very nice, but not the only solution for paddling. Not realistic for those without large bank accounts. Posters on this board with lots of experience in cold water wetsuts are "Sing" and "Wikle" . Keith Wikle is a very experienced great lake paddler and good person to know about training in the great lakes region.

  • Options
    Thanks willowlea
    Yeah your right willowlea i did dodged a bullet on that one, my legs were numb by the time i made it to shore. It was last Wednesday when it happened, the air temps were about 75 deg. in my area and i don't know what the water temp was maybe 45-55. I just wanted to get out there before i called it quits for the fall/winter (due to my lack of cold weather gear). I did end up reading that newspaper clipping, I am coming to grips on the dangers of cold water.
    I am trying to educate my self on the best clothing to have for paddling. And will try to check out that REI store in troy and meetup.com
    Thanks again for your post.
  • Options
    Water Temp help
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 2:17 PM EST --

    It is Michigan after all and residents should know
    the basics of water temperatures before heading out:

  • Time
    There is no substitute for time in the kayak in varying conditions and gradually working up to bumpier stuff. Watch all the videos you want and read as much as you can about techniques and such, but in the end, it takes time and experience.

    Don't be surprised if you get a hankering for a sea kayak rather quickly. Meanwhile, get the best pfd you can afford. Wetsuits aren't very expensive and will work just fine until you think you have to have a dry suit. You will also want a proper quality paddle and you're all set.
  • Options
    Thanks willi_h2o
    Thanks for the helpful post willi_h2o I was looking on other sites with buoy water temp information and the site you gave me seems more strait forward.
  • Options
    Good call
    Thanks nickjc added the book to my wish list. Found it used for $5 mite just pick it up now...
  • Options
    two Yahoo groups w. pool sessions
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 4:47 PM EST --

    EMU paddlers (Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti) 2nd pool session Nov 4 3-5 pm Jones Pool. $10 for this session running now thru mid April. Open to students and nonstudents. Sign up ahead of time so you get directions, how to load boats in, & ground rules for pool sessions. At their first session, everyone must demonstrate a wet exit w. skirt on, and that they can swim width (not length) of the Olympic sized pool. Per their wording "We will teach you how to wet exit but not teach you how to swim."

    GLKayakers will be scheduling pool sessions soon in the Marysville/New Baltimore area. Fees vary per session depending on number of users usually $15-$25/session. sign up now for mailing list.

    Here is a third group that offers lessons in the pool and next summer in fresh water. They are MUCH closer to you - about two hours less drive time - than Riverside Kayak Connection which is in Wyandotte - altho in past RKC has done pool sessions in Southfield which is doable.

    Black Parrot Paddlers partners w. Expanding Horizons LLC for winter pool sessions in Brighton, Fenton and South Lyon approx 2x per month Nov-April. Fees vary depending on number of users for pool sessions. They will also offer lessons for around $80-$90 w. your equipment. Sign up now for mailing list. Here is website for Expanding Horizons: http://www.expandinghorizonskayaking.com/

  • black parrot paddling
    Here's a great area instructor:


    You can also check with Riverside Kayak, posted in the first response above.
  • what an ambassador of the sport!
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 4:12 PM EST --

    Willi - you had better pray you never make a mistake. Because then you'll have to direct your contempt back toward yourself.

  • Options
    cool thanks
    Great just joined the GLKayakers yahoo group. thanks
  • Options
    LOTS of info - readily available
    Look at that, plenty of info, all powered by Google
  • Willi, dry v wet
    Willie must have run out of coffee this morning. To the OPer, you are not responsible for not knowing what you don't know.

    I congratulate you on two things. One is making it to shore wearing the clothing you had on. There is a reason that the Girl Scouts used to make us show we could get off jeans, shoes and shirt (had to have buttons) in the water in under 2 minutes before we could go out in a canoe.

    The other is realizing that the correct solution was to get some help. It can be quite surprising how many people don't do that part.

    As to the drysuit/wetsuit thing... dry suits and good dry wear are pricey as hell and I can assure you that the wetsuit will look a ton better to your budget. And it is correct that a good surfing wet suit (better than the basic paddling farmer john) can get you into pretty cold temps, coupled with the ability to quickly re-enter your boat and with wind blocking layers on top depending on the wet suit.

    Also, cold weather paddling means a hood, better gloves and good booties regardless of whether the basic layer is a wet suit or a dry suit. People who have been paddling a while have acquired all that stuff and tend to forget it. But when you are just starting out, those 20 to 60 dollar items can really add up.

    There are people on this board who do quite well in a wet suit into winter, but if you are considering a major investment it is important to make sure that those recommendations are coming from people with similar habits to yours. So someone who is using a surf ski aggressively, for example, is probably generating a lot more heat than you are likely to on a casual paddle. Someone who is training for racing may be as well.

    You also have to be conscious of the specifics of your environment. If you were to paddle right thru the winter, you are talking water temperatures under 40 degrees in lakes and streams, and I suspect under 50 nearer shore in any of the Great Lakes. Depending on your readiness and interest in discomfort, you could be looking at a perfect sunny day for paddling with air temps in the high teens before any wind chill effect. Everyone is different, but most people you talk with who have tried taking a swim in those conditions are going to come back saying that the dry suit was a much better idea.

    A lot of this comes down to when you want to hang up the kayak. As far as paddling with others, I think you'll find no lack of meetup groups including folks who want to paddle right through the winter. But you may want to set your own parameters about what level of preparation is safe. Our smaller group locally has a no drysuit-no paddle with the pod after Thanksgiving rule. But we see folks out there that obviously do not adhere to that idea - and read about some of them in the newspaper unfortunately.

    Br ready to be surprised a lot, and just take time to check out used sources etc. You haven't even gotten to the foam core paddle part yet - a moment which has sent many people to learn how to use a Greenland paddle that they can make themselves.

    It is a great activity, and you will find you are within reach of some very good kayaking.
  • Hang it up
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 6:27 PM EST --

    The guy is responding much more nicely than you are.

  • Cowboy rescue
    Google it.
  • Options
    soon enough....
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 7:38 PM EST --

    Most classes would start with a paddle float. As awkward as a paddle float reentry is, it is effective in the relatively calm waters a beginner should be in. Then one can progress to putting less weight on the float which leads them to a cowboy reentry. Starting right off with a cowboy may work for a few but most will get very tired quickly trying.

    And of course going out with a buddy or several and getting an assist is way easier yet.

  • Options
    Black Parrots LLC
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 8:39 PM EST --

    Ron and Susie Smith stay down south six months a year including all of the winter months. Pool sessions now run by Rob Taylor of Expanding Horizons who used to instruct w. Black Parrots.

  • Celia is right
    You are being way too aggressive. He is a Michigan paddler. We should be helping him out rather than telling him he is lazy.
  • Options
    How arrogant ...
    I learned ocean sailing without Internet and telephone... Just read some used books about sailing, talked to people, crewed on several boats, etc....
    Did a lot of mistakes, but I had the attitude like demonstrated by the OP.. Admit mistakes and learn from it..
    Oh yes, even 55 years ago arrogant attitudes like this one were not uncommon, however they had no Internet to hide..Hence we dealt with it right then and there ......
  • You survived your foolishness!
    Thank God. The problem is, in the beginning we don't know what we don't know. If I can make a suggestion, order a copy of Sea Kayaker magazine's "Deep Trouble", a compendium of articles from the safety column in Sea Kayaker magazine from over the years. You just learned some important lessons the hard way. A lot of people in your situation have wound up dead. The #1 cause of death in sea kayaking? Hypothermia. Dress for the swim. 3mm neoprene farmer johns, or, in colder climbs, a drysuit. Take a class. Learn a repertoire of "rescues". You (and your wife and kids) will be glad you did! Glad to hear you made it. Welcome to the club. Remember, we're always between swims. ;-)

  • No cotton for cold-water paddling
    -- Last Updated: Oct-31-12 11:35 PM EST --


    You found out the hard way. I also found out cotton can be dangerous even on land, when I was 19 and got caught in a very cold spring rainstorm while bicycling in jeans. First of all, the cotton clothes sag horribly when saturated. My jeans were practically falling off my hips. Second, wet cotton is actually colder than NO clothes whatsoever if there's any wind. Third, even if the sun comes out in full and you're safe on land, wet cotton takes forever to dry.

    Wetsuit or drysuit, or something else--just don't paddle in cotton unless you're in a hot part of the country, in warm water. I take it you were wearing a PFD, because that helps hold some warmth to your torso.

    Back to your question about practicing, you can supplement live instruction with good videos. For not much $$, those can provide really useful advice. I wouldn't rely on videos or books alone, though.

    Good luck finding a pool to practice in. What I'm finding is that many municipalities are so strapped in budget that they are cutting back hours or even closing public facilities.

  • Cowboy rescue and newbies
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 8:48 AM EST --

    I have been out with one group where a relative newbie managed to not only perform a cowboy rescue successfully, but was vertical, dry and skirted faster than anyone who went with a re-enter and roll. It was a recovery exercise off an island in the Bar Harbor area - the coach found some nice swells and ordered everyone into the water for a self-rescue.

    But this guy was a young, truly lithe person. He was far more agile and possessed far better balance than most people, let alone the boomer paddlers that fill out so many classes.

    What makes the cowboy hard for many new paddlers - as was true for a newer paddler on this board who has been sharing his concerns about his fit in a Tempest recently - is the balance it takes to climb from where you can easily get over the boat to get positioned back into the cockpit. So they either start from close behind the cockpit where it is a bear to haul the torso over the height of the boat, or they start from further back and have to make multiple tries because of capsizing. Either way, their first impression of the Cowboy is that it is a very tiring way to self-rescue. It usually takes time and practice to make it easy.

    That said, it is the least accessory-dependent self rescue of the lot, and for that reason alone should be in everyone's skills kit.

  • Options
    Responsibility starts with the person
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 2:21 PM EST --

    Everyone IS ALWAYS responsible for
    "" not knowing what you don't know""

    Why do people think ignorance is a valid excuse ?

    Being personally responsible for our own actions
    is the utmost item involved with being anywhere.

    Kudos to looking for advice, training, lessons,
    - but it was done - after flipping/capsizing,
    not before.

    Nature takes prisoners.

  • Options
    do you...
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 3:36 PM EST --

    check traffic, crime reports and weather before driving to the market every time? One day not doing so could get you in trouble. You may instead use your best judgement then when you learn there are extra issues (more crime in some area than you realized) you take extra precautions.

    I've taken extra precautions from the start with kayaking but only because I've done lots of other outdoor sports and ocean sports. If instead I just saw people having fun and the guy at the store just said "have fun" I might not know.

    Just about every one of us has ventured into something that appeared very benign without extensive research. Normally it is indeed benign and other times we learn a lesson. To this day I often eat at a new restaurant without doing a lot of research first.

    I only fault those that fail to learn anything from their experiences.

    btw, he WAS personally responsible for his actions. He didn't blame anyone. He didn't just assume someone would pull is ass out of the fire. He successfully made it to shore then sought out how to improve.

  • knowing what you don't know
    sounds great in theory
  • Another very strange reply.
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 4:39 PM EST --

    You said

    "Why do people think ignorance is a valid excuse?"

    I can't find a single thing mentioned by the original poster, nor anything said by others in this discussion that this statement might legitimately be applied to.

  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 4:51 PM EST --

    I'll re-post what I said again
    - in case you would like to repeat, again.

    "Why do people think ignorance is a valid excuse?"

    Ignorance doesn't cut it in a court of law,
    on the water, on land or in the sky gliding/flying.

    Some might say:
    You survived your foolishness!

  • Pushing 50 and way to fat
    watched a pnet video and it took about half a dozen false starts before I got it. Wife did it in her tsunami 140 on about the third try.
    Of course in my ignorance I wasn't paying anyone to tell us we couldn't learn it that way.
  • Oh, good grief
    According to you, anybody who wants to paddle should take all the safety lessons first, before going in the water at all.

    What a turnoff! That's not how people get hooked on the sport. They need to FEEL what paddling is like themselves, not go through pedantics first. With that catch, the sanest thing is to paddle in the easiest conditions, and not in cold water. OP made a mistake but he obviously learned about cold water in a hurry.

    You, however, haven't learned that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
  • Options
    I've known some other first timers who did okay too. But many I've seen trying even after having few days of paddling under their belt don't have the balance yet. If they do succeed on the initial climb up they almost certainly flip trying to get their legs into the cockpit. I do advocate learning it very early, but think that first learning the paddle float gives you a way out when you get tired and can be used as a stepping stone for the learning process.
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