61 year old male wants to get into Kayak Racing

I am new to Kayaking. Not even in shape and need to lose weight. But I would like to get into racing. I’m hoping to start in about a year, but I know I won’t be trying my first race in a year. I would appreciate any advice on getting started, exercises, training or how to buy a racing kayak.



I would start by seeing if you could find the racing folks in your area and starting to make contacts there. They may have clinics or clubs or the like. Let us know where you are and we might have suggestions of local resources.

Along with fitness, you will also need form. You could start taking classes. Given you are new to kayaking, I’d start with basic kayaking class before getting into race specific classes.


Where do you live

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NE South Carolina. Lots of lakes around here.

Thank you very much!

Indeed, where do you live?
Where are the races, generally? (exposed ocean, protected bay, small river, large river, etc)

You can realistically start racing as soon as you feel mostly comfortable in your local conditions. You wont win or be fast, but who cares? Go out for a personal best each time. Or just go out and enjoy the competition.

Fast boats are skinny, and skinny is tippy. But if you’re not trying to finish on the podium you can paddle almost any legit kayak and have a good time.
How is your balance? and how much desire/tolerance do you have for swimming (while learning to balance?) Many beginners start off in a 24"+ beam boat then work their way down to 19-20". Below 20" does not add much speed to most people, as most people are balance constrained before they are V02 constrained. (and technique constrained for that matter).

Your first goals, IMO, should be -
-Find a local club and go wit with them. You will learn the most from other experienced paddlers.
-Find a boat you are comfortable in. No Rec boats (only 1 hatch). get a legit sea kayak (2 hatches) or if you dont like being inside a boat, a beginner surfski offers a stable sit-op-top platform (such as the Epic V5 or Stellar S14S or S16S)
-Focus on developing your balance (on choppy water) and stroke technique (watch videos on youtube, attend a class, paddle with more experienced people and ask for feedback)
-Get comfortable capsizing and remounting. You will never be good if you fear a swim. Knowing you can recover will give you a lot of confidence.
-Respect cold water (cold means anything below 60. and even below 70 if rescue is not imminent). This means using prudent judgement and wearing immersion protection (wet suit) as needed
-To maximize your work-out and speed, go straight for a wing paddle (like an Epic small-mid wing). If you’re in a sea kayak this will make rolling hard or impossible. In a surfski its the only paddle to use. Either way, wing is the best work out and highest efficiency paddle.

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The USCAK is who licenses many of the state run racing affiliations. You could call and ask if there is such a group in your state. In Florida it is the FCPA.

Fitness is a personal thing and I have seen good racers with ugly bodies. That is because they have technique that works for them.

Boats, racing boats are expensive, and hard to find, but any state racing group will have a newsletter with a classified section. Best place to buy a racing boat is from a racer.

If you want to try a fast and stable boat look for an Epic 18x, or a Westside EFT. Both are good for figuring things out. It takes different muscle grouping to paddle at racing speed than for anything else, so get a boat and work at it, it took me a couple of years to get competitive

Since I am 65, it seems to only take a week for it to all fall apart.

J, too bad you are in NE SC. We have a good group of paddlers @ Greenville Sea Kayakers on Meet up. We don’t have a lot of racers but have a few high level certified trainers.

jfelrod, I suggest you attend a few kayak races first and chat with participants both at the starting line and at the finish line. Ask them about their boats their gear, and how they got into competitive paddling and what they’ve learned.

You’ll have an important choice early on: surfski or decked kayak. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Pay attention to the various race classes and what boat specifications fit into each class. As a new kayaker you are not going to be running with the top, elite paddlers any time soon, so be realistic about the class or division in which you might be competitive and then start looking at kayaks that fit those specifications. There is almost always 1 or 2 or 3 top boats in each division. You need a boat that’s fast enough, but then it is the person in the boat that makes the difference. BUT, choose the wrong boat and you will never be competitive. You’ll probably be starting in a recreational or touring class and once you fall in love with the sport you can move up from there, both in terms of skill and equipment.

Don’t aim too high initially. Nothing will turn you away from the sport faster than buying an extremely fast, extremely tippy boat that you don’t have the skills to master. It will just lead to frustration. Work on your balance. Work on your stroke. Work on torso rotation and learn how to use a wing paddle.

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Welcome to the neighborhood, Jeff.

If you’re truly serious, there’s a good book that will be of help: Canoe Racing, the Competitor’s Guide to Marathon and Downriver Canoe Racing by Peter Heed and Dick Mansfield. Same principles apply to canoes and kayaks; the book has a great section on training.

string I’m sorry. I meant to say NW SC. I’m in Pickens county. Still on the clock here. I had a few minutes to break.

This seems like a great community. Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate this very much. As far as racing goes, I’m just looking for the excitement. I know I have to take things slowly.

J, when you said lots of lakes, I suspected you meant NW SC.
The Greenville Sea Kayakers take full advantage of Hartwell, Keowee, and Jocassee. And the coast. We’re not very active now but in March we’ll be cranking up.
We have a member who arranges a local race in the warmer months. I’ll send you my contact info and we can talk paddling all you want.

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That would be great!

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Thanks for the link! :slight_smile:

From email from Bill Gardner


SEPSeries 2022 Race and Event Schedule

The 2022 SEPSeries Race and Event schedule (see below ) is growing. Andrew Surles just added two exciting new events: the March 9 -16 - Southeast Paddle Sports Paddling Clinic FL (Palm Bay, FL) and the March 25-27 - Southeast Paddle Sports Beginner to Ocean Clinic (Anna Maria , FL)!

If you want to get a jump on the paddling season, improve your skills and have a good time in sunny warm Florida, you should go!

2022 SEPSeries Schedule

January 1 - Polar Bear Plunge-N-Paddle (Olympic Park, Gainesville, GA)

March 9 -16 - Southeast Paddle Sports Paddling Clinic FL (Palm Bay, FL)

March 25-27 - Southeast Paddle Sports Beginner to Ocean Clinic (Anna Maria , FL)

April 9 - Paddle Bender (Dreher Island State Park- Prosperity, SC)

April 22/23 - LCKC Regatta (Olympic Park, Gainesville, GA)

May 7 - May Paddlefest (Hunting Island State Park, SC)

May 20-22 - Southeast Paddle Sports Spring Training Camp (Gainesville, GA}

July 1-3 - Southeast Paddle Sports Summer Training Camp (Gainesville, GA}

June 11 – Paddle Mania (Olympic Park, Gainesville, GA)

July 16 - Bear Town Paddle Battles (New Bern, NC)

Aug. 20 - Bon Temps (Lake Wylie, NC)

Sept. 10 - Low CountryBoil (Hilton Head, SC)

Sept. 17 - SUPCAK (Don Carter State Park, GA)

Oct. 1 - Paddle Splash (Lake Jocassee, SC)

Oct.15 - Fall Paddlefest (Olympic Park, Gainesville, GA)

Oct. 29 - October Paddlefest (Hunting Island State Park, SC)

SEPSeries.org will be updated shortly.

Stay well, train hard and have fun!


For fast answers to questions, contact:

Bill Gardner, SEPSeries Marketing at williamg50@aol.com

Joe Vinson, Series Coordinator at joevinson2327@gmail.com


Thank you Overstreet!!! :slight_smile:

You fall in the “master” class. You will be competing against other seniors. Of courser at many races they define master class as 50 and older. I thought about complaining about that once, but in the race I was beaten by a couple of guys 10 years older than I was. :roll_eyes:

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Here in NY class for 50+ is master, veteran is 60+ and super veteran is 70+

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