Getting into kayaking, how to?

I’m just kind of curious about how other people have gotten into kayaking. I go canoeing a lot but have never been in anything rough, other then when the lake waters start to get choppy. My buddy said we should just buy some kayaks and start out on calm lakes and rivers and slowly step it up but I’d rather try and find somebody to help show us the ropes. Are there places that offer classes or possibly try and find a club or group of people that would be willing to help us out?

can anyone from TN weigh in?
I got started through fmaily when I ws a kid. But my suggestion would be to ask around at paddling shops, talk to other paddlers and search the internet for vendors who also have a rental or “demo” option. Ideally, take an introductory course (although many of us never did).

This way you can find out what you like and dislike about it before spending a lot on a boat you may not like or in which you may reach the top of the learning curve quickly and get bored with it.

Kayking in Tennessee
One place to start would be the groups in your area. Your Pnet profile doesn’t say exactly where you are located but here is the link to some kayaking groups and outfitters near Tennessee Ridge:

Also, any good kayaking outfitter (NOT the big box sporting good stores like Dick’s or Dunhams, you want an independent outfitter – they often also sell backpacking and climbing gear) will be able to steer you to people that can give you instruction, maybe even offer classes themselves. There are many rivers in the Southeast where you can do whitewater trips with an outfitter – usually with rafts as a beginner (whitewater kayaking is a bit more challenging and you should have some experience with rapids in a group boat before attempting a solo canoe run.)

How do you want to spend your bucks?

– Last Updated: Mar-16-11 11:26 AM EST –

Your buddy is correct that a lot of people have started with very basic boats on flat water. The up side of that is that even if you go on to more later you have a "guest" boat of sorts that you can put non-paddling friends into and go somewhere flat and calm, since that fist basic boat is usually a rec boat that is terribly stable on flat stuff.

The down side is that you can easily spend dollars on something that is so basic you want out of it by the middle of the first summer. If you went to Craig's list or similar and picked up a used beater for $100 this is not a painful decision. But if you spent several hundred dollars on a new boat, you may have to sell that (at a usually disappointing price) in order to move up. That's why people here often recommend that new paddlers start out with a used boat - many or most have had the experience of wanting more boat after a bit of time on the water.

You didn't say where you are in Tennessee, which may play into your decision. You could be near some pretty good whitewater. If that interests you, I (and many here) would strongly recommend that you spend your first bucks on some basic lessons. New paddlers just about always underrate the challenges of whitewater, and there is a surprising array of criteria for choosing a whitewater boat that won't make much sense until you've had a few runs down a river. A couple of lessons can clear up a lot of those questions, and WW boats are often easy to find used once you know what you want.

If it is long boats you are thinking of, things are kinda the same but for different reasons. People coming out of flat water often start with 10 or 12 footers because they feel more stable, then find a paddling club or meetup group to go out with that is loaded with people in longer, faster boats. The new paddler has a not so nice experience because they are struggling to keep up. And by a few weeks that very stable boat is way more stable than you need, and the extra width to length ratio is just getting in the way of how fast you want to go.

AS someone above said, it'd help a lot to hear more precisely where you are in Tennessee, as well as what kind of paddling you think you'd like to do. That would help get better answers to your questions.

BTW, we did start out in Swifties ourselves, but were paddling in ocean bays where the limits of these little boats became quite apparent. So we eventually went out and got sea kayaks and the skills that go with them, because those were the demands of where we were paddling. We tried transition boats ourselves, 13 footers that were halfway between rec and touring, and it lasted all of one rough day in Maine to realize we had the wrong boats. We were lucky and were able to turn them around used for one of our plastic sea kayaks, but we had an unusually accommodating guy in a kayak shop. We would normally not have been able to manage that.

Right now I’m in the middle east, but I’ll be back in TN around the summer months. I’m just trying to get as much info and help right now so I can kind of have a path to get on when I get home. I’m located in Clarksville, Tn. Its about 2 1/2 hours from Chattanooga and 4 hours or so from some places in NC that my brother goes on group rafting trips on. I did plan on taking some group rides when I got back before I bought a kayak to make sure it is something that I really want to do and pursue. I’m in the army and we do have a place on base that has about 40 kayaks that you can rent for about 5 bucks a day, all different styles and brands and I plan on using that resource first.

ACA for canoe and kayak
Since a kayak is just a covered canoe - one name ACA

Look here
It’s a web site of an outfitter in NY, but this section is excellent on exposing you to the basics of paddling. Don’t get misled by the Expert label - it’s really a all around About Kayaking section.

Depends on what kind of paddling floats your boat :slight_smile:

Quiet calm flat water? open sea paddling? white water?

We do quiet water paddling so we pretty much jumped right in. We just had to learn where all the launch spots where in our area. Most of them we scouted out prior to making a trip. Many clubs have web sites which have tons of info. Here in NJ one club has an online map and details of hundreds of put ins. Also a couple of great local books described places to paddle in great detail.

Search on web for local canoe & kayak clubs in your area. Paddle shops in your state may also have links.

Yeah, rent those boats for a while

– Last Updated: Mar-16-11 5:11 PM EST –

If you rent them frequently enough, you can probably skip buying the typical first kayak, a wide rec kayak that many people--including myself--outgrow (in terms of desire to do more with kayaking) within a year or so.

If you do buy a rec kayak, it has a simple and basic advantage of allowing you to get comfortable on the water. Big mental plus there. But since you already have canoeing experience, maybe you don't need this. Renting the kayaks will let you figure that one out.

If you can rent some longer, narrower (sea) kayaks, that'd be better. It sounds like using those on calm water would be a good place for you and your buddy to jump into the sport. So, assuming your comfort zone allows you to start by renting sea kayaks, lessons will help you with the skills side. You might as well learn a good forward stroke right from the start, instead of doing the natural thing (arm-paddling) and then having to break that habit later on.

If you want to do ocean paddling, Tybee Island is about 8 to 9 hrs' drive from Clarksville. (I drove through Clarksville on my way home from Tybee.) There, you can take lessons and rent kayaks from Sea Kayak Georgia, Their location gives you a range of water from protected sloughs to wacky waves.

Kayak Info Animation - Rewind Replay

– Last Updated: Mar-16-11 5:31 PM EST –

Spend some time at : -

an actual animated tutorial about kayak paddling.

Click on the British flag for the English version when you get there.
It's not just static cartoon pictures, but high video quality,
short snippet like movies explaining kayak techniques.

It is a great visual aid on teaching situations and an excellent introduction.
These guys did an amazing job of capturing the essence of kayaking
in a wonderful media format allowing the user to replay each section
of the lesson over and over again.

We are so blessed with many huge lakes here and few people really take advantage. I’m assuming you are not doing whitewater because you mentioned lakes. If you are same info below applies except for boat type recommendations.

Your profile says south east Tn which I’m assuming means chattanooga. If so head down to rock creek outfitters. They have three stores but the one down by the river is the one with the boats. In Tennessee your choices will by limited to fat rec boats and entry type sea kayaks. Plastic will be your only choice. I’m sure they rent boats for you to try. I would suggest something in the 14 ft range. I think it helps you feel like your going fast enough and gives you enough room for over nights. If you have a small budget it is hard to find used but not impossible in the chattanooga area. I have seen some on Craigslist.

As far as groups. The ones I know about are mostly whitewater. I’m sure there is some locals down there in chattanooga who meet up. Chattanooga has a healthier paddler population then where I live. They will know at rock creek.

Also if you are comfortable in canoes why not look at a narrower solo canoes. You wont find any around here but you can find a ton on the internet. If I had looked that direction when I started I may have gone that way. They can give you more versatility for our varied water ways.

I live more toward knoxville but always love to paddle anywhere if you want to paddle when you get some gear just send me a message. Good luck. Write me if you have any other specific questions.

Ryan L.

Stay away from Kayaks…they’re the evil spawn of Satan’s water demons…where as the canoe is the boat created by God and given unto man as the perfect holy watercraft. Stick with canoes, and get your kayak recommending friend an exorcism.

Joun a club
Kayak clubs have some great assets and the group knows stuff.

Be careful what you read and believe. Any fool can post on news groups, Hey I am here. is the news group for our club but we are in Newfoundland Canada so your circumstances will likely be different.

and if nothing else
it makes a better trash receptacle.

Or a better trash-talking receptacle.

Second Joining a club.
Try to find a local club or if not a real kayak club look for a group that paddles in your area.

Amen, pilgrim…

Take an ACA Intro to Kayaking Class…
Canoe strokes are entirely different than kayaking. Trust me from experience. I urge folks to take the ACA Intro class before even venturing out in a kayak. BEFORE you develop bad habits.

Then follow-up with more classes.

I started out not being able to swim, terrified of the water, and only canoe background.

Look at me now. Lots of instruction and practice and I surf long boats, like being in the ocean, leading trips, can’t get enough of being in the water and so much more to get better at and learn.

Bill Guiffre

now from Charlotte, NC

but I would rather be from Charleston, SC

Dagger Alchemy(S) courtesty of Subaru of America.

Learning the ropes
Almost all stores that carry kayaks have an affiliation with people who teach and possibly clubs and more. Renting is a great idea and try some different boats. Coming from canoeing, you will really enjoy the speed and effortless way a double ended paddle works in a kayak. Generally kayaks are narrower and less stable than a canoe so learning some of the a basics like a wet exit and rescuing yourself are important.

I got into it before there were recreational kayaks and rented one. Then I was hooked and bought a plastic Hydra-sports sea runner. 16 ft.

Tennessee paddling clubs
Your profile says you are from southeastern TN but you said you live in Clarksville, which isn’t really in SE TN.

I would check out the major paddling clubs in central and eastern TN. While these all tended to originate as whitewater canoe and kayak clubs, they all have subgroups that are more into flatwater canoeing and kayaking, or even mountain biking and other outdoor activities.

They all have spring paddling schools which are coming up soon. It sounds as if you have some inclination to try out whitewater paddling. This would be a good way to do it in a relatively safe manner, and you may be able to borrow or rent a boat and equipment to take the class with. This would allow a good introduction to kayaking on moving water without spending a ton of money.

The major Tennessee clubs are Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association (TSRA) centered in the Nashville area, close to Clarksville:

Tennessee Valley Canoe Club centered around the Chattanooga area:

and Chota centered around the Knoxville area:

Check out the links for the spring paddling schools. The clubs all tend to have their spring classes on the Hiwassee River in Polk County, TN at the little town of Reliance. They have classes geared for complete beginners.