Getting Started-what do I need

Hello Everyone!

I’ve decided that I need a new hobby…I’ve always been interested about kayaking so I thought I would do some research and go from there. I know that I will need a lot of equipment to start…but I have no clue what all of that is. I’ve been lurking around trying to see what everyone is posting but was wondering if any of you could provide me with a list that is longer than




If there are any specific things that you have had good or bad experiences with I would like to know that too. (types, brands, specs…etc)

I guess to start I will be a one girl show on calm waters of a private lake up by our camp as well as the lake my apt is on…baby steps I guess.

Thanks for your help!


Where in NY
What part of New York are you located in? There are a lot of great paddling clubs throughout the state and I would recommend starting with one. You will get up to speed much more quickly and won’t have to unlearn bad habits.

What To Do…
First of all. . . . congratulations on your enthusiasm to get yourself into a great relaxing and healthy sport! I hope that you will take and absorb the next few words of wisdom to assist you in your search for the perfect yak and gear.

First and foremost . . . find an honest, experienced, and preferably “independent” dealer in your area. This can be easily done by asking other paddlers for their recommendations. Also go out to your local lake, river, or up to someone with a yak on top of their vehicle and ask, ask, ask. We are very friendly folks who love to share our sport, knowledge, and experience with others.

I personally (but quietly) become unglued listening to perfectly nice, but totally unqualified and unknowledgeable sales people giving faulty advice about products that they have only seen on the racks in their big box stores. Your best bet is with an independent dealer who can give you experience-oriented advice to help you get the best bang for your investment. Way too many people have purchased due to bad (maybe a better word would be “unqualified”) advice and are miserable from the start and never learn to completely enjoy this fabulous sport. You might possibly pay slightly more but let me assure you that you will be many dollars ahead with the “value added” personal service and advice that you will receive from an independent.

Secondly . . . TAKE YOUR TIME. Don’t rush into a hasty purchase just because it looks pretty on the store floor. A good dealer will have a vast assortment of demonstrator yaks and will offer many opportunities for you to take some time and give each one a good personal test. Be sure and test the yaks that appeal to you but also stay objective with the dealer’s recommendations on his suggestons for a better fit for you. Don’t be surprised if your search takes several months because in the end . . . you will be the much more happy with your final decision.

You will probably be barraged with recommendations from others about specific brands to try. This is all given with good intentions but it will only be one person’s opinion. I’m only sorry that you are not in the Dallas area because we have the best independent dealer in the country . . . but . . . I’m sure that others exist too! Maybe some other p-netters in your area will recommend good dealers in later threads.

Happy hunting!!!


If you look to the left of the message board at the guidelines category you will probably find some very useful basic info regarding equiptment you’ll need and equipt. you may later want to acquire. As I am sure others will tell you, when it comes to appearal—NO COTTON. Once wet, stays wet and will not keep you warm on cold or even cool days.Made this mistake once(okay twice-slow learner}Nylon and dri-lock are good choices for a start. A lot will depend on the type of paddling you focus on-- recrational, touring, multi day trips or a combo. Keep watching these boards, as a fellow novice I can tell you there is alot of wisdom to be garnered from the more experienced paddlers here. Again welcome and paddle safe.

Outside of the kayak, pfd, and paddle. I would recommend this list to get you started.

If you are looking at a sit in kayak.


2.paddlefloat (two chamber)


4.if your first kayak does not have bulkheads, then you will want to buy float bags for the front and rear of the boat. This will minimize the amount of water you will need to pump out in the event you capsize, which will also aid in re-entering the boat.

I’m more the cautious type, so I always carry a spare paddle, & my cell phone ( in a water proof container).

5. Clothing. This is where as other posters have stated, that a beginners class will truly help. You need to look at all the conditions you are going to be paddling in to choose the correct clothing. Sometimes shorts & tanktop, sometimes neoprene, and sometimes a drysuit. Water temp, air temp, conditions, distance you are traveling, type of paddling. These are all things to think about.

What really helped me in the beginning was on the left side of the screen, find Features, then click on Weekly articles, then scroll down and find In The Same Boat: The Weekly column of You will find so much info in there it’s unbelievable. After reading for a while and a beginners class you will really have an understanding of the basics of paddling. Sorry for the long post, I normally do not post here but feel that after two years of paddling myself I feel it’s time to give back to someone who is newer to this activity than I. Good luck and stay safe.

And learn how to use it
How to ensure your pfd is giung to be effective; how to use that nice bright yellow paddle float (and not use it to paint a ‘yellow rainbow’!); how to paddle comfortably… there are quickstart courses available which will run through the basics, plus more dettailed courses focusing on paddle strokes and/or rescues. Typically for not much more than the cost of a bilge pump and paddle float! The lessons can be great fun, too!

re: paddle float
I have a two chambered inflatable paddle float, but after many trials with new students, real world practice, etc., our club is now recommending the foam variety. Actually we specifically liked the Northwater variety ( as the paddle pocket is extremely easy to use and has a great grip on the paddle. I have used my inflatable a few times and in cold water, blowing up that paddle float takes a lot longer than you would think as you are sometimes breathless and gasping from the cold.

downtown boathouse pier 69
I beleive it is on , probably a ways for ya , but a good place to try a # of boats as well as a wet exit , assited rescue and a bunch of others things already mentioned . is the yonkers paddling an rowing club , they are on the water (Hudson) and run a # of trips w/alot of helpful folks , just remember that people are people and the chance of ya hookin up with someone that may NOT be safe is there so it will be up to YOU to ask questions and inform them of your skills , theirs and such .You just missed a yakin sympossium and a demo (camp marriah ,and white plains silver lake ) Paddle as many as ya can afore ya buy . Way too many people buy because of the colour or a "good deal "-Metro Sports a free publication has a listing of paddle events and clubs . is the huson river water trail assoc. with a bunch o links that are helpful . WELCOME—BE SAFE -HAVE FUN----LIFE–MArk

A boat, a paddle, a PFD & a friend…
That is it. Then after you are familiar with the basics, depending on the type of kayaking… Go for a class.

Paddling is only as expensive as you want it to be.

Paddle easy,


It is not at all uncommon for women to have more trouble w/a paddle float re-entry because compared to guys we usually have less upper body strength, more (ahem) ballast down below to haul out of the water, shorter arms and often a lumpier upper body to get over the back of the boat. This combination alone can be a lot tougher to manage than the books will tell you, add in a high rear deck on your boat and it compounds the issue.

You may try it out and find out that it is quite easy, in which case you can stop reading. But remember that if you have to do it for real there is a good chance you’ll be more tired than when practicing. If you find this re-entry to be fairly tiring, you should incorporate a stirrup. Basically, it is a strap that you sling over the paddle shaft and/or around the boat to give you a place into which you can insert your foot to help get you over the boat.

Not at all recommended for lumpy water because of entrapment concerns, but for truly flat calm water being able to use the stirrup beats the heck out of a long swim to shore.

perhaps borrow a boat
or demo several to find what suits ya. I’m sure from your reading here, you understand there are sevral types and prices ranges for boats. I would suggest a used boat to start, until you are sure ya wanna stick with the sport. Good luck and stay safe.

From another one-girl-show
I also paddle solo on flat lakes and rivers. It occurred to me during one trip on a river with a bit of current (with other boaters few and far between) that if I should hit something submerged with my paddle while I was gawking at the scenery with a loose grip and it ended up out of my hands (I have a vivid imagination, I know), I’d be, well, “up the creek” in a literal sense. The other responders here have given you great advice for the major basics–once you get them, I suggest a paddle leash to tether the paddle to the boat. Very handy to have.

Enjoy the new hobby–you are going to love it!

take a class.

there are 4 levels of consciousness as we learn a skill:

  1. Unconsciously incompetent (you right now) you don’t even know what you don’t even know.

  2. Consciously incompetent- you learn what you don’t know and NOW you take a class from a qualified instructor to become…

  3. Consciously competent. think about it and you can do it.

  4. Unconsciously competent. where we all wanna be.

    Remember: Practice makes PERMANENT. teach yourself wrong or learn from someone who teaches you wrong and you have a bunch of bad habits to break!!!

    my advice: take a good lesson or three and your learning curve will be much steeper.


Sorry it has taken me so long to write anything back…but work sometimes gets in the way LOL

Wetzool-I am in Syracuse NY. I live on Seneca Lake-which I believe is relatively calm. We also have a camp that has a private lake and I have never seen much for activity on it…

I’m figuring that I will need a small less than 50 lb yak that I could handle by myself.

I agree…I may need a lesson or 2.

Flatpick…I love your 4 levels of con…very true…and I’ve gone thru all of them with different things now and again.

This has really helped.

One of my co-workers is into this and we have been talking some…guess its time to start with books and videos!!!

I’m definately going to have to get one of those tether things for my paddle…I can see that happening. yikkes

I really like the thought that this is a sport that relies on one person…me. That has got to be amazingly self rewarding.

Thank you for all of your input and I look forward to talking with you all again!


con mucho gusto
"I love your 4 levels of con…very true…and I’ve gone thru all of them with different things now and again."

in reality we ALL go thru these levels with everything we do. It’s a way to describe how we learn.

i like your understanding of the solo-responsibility aspect. It is a pretty solitary sport and who better than YOU to be responsible for the learning of it!

good luck



Welcome …
I’m down the pike a piece in the Albany area. Check out the Adirondack Mountain Club in your area (Onondaga Chapter).

Looks like they have some regular local outings. I hooked up with the Albany and the Glens Falls chapter’s paddling groups and have learned a lot, receive discounts on lessons and get discounts at my local kayak shop on club days (usually twice a year). Well worth the yearly dues.

Don’t know much about local shops in your area, but I would check out Camillus Kayak Shop. Support the local guys as much as possible - it is worth it in the long run.

My local dealer usually does not hold demo days. Instead, he rents kayaks for the local Tuesday evening club paddles (ADK - Albany Chapter), including delivery and return. You get a two hour +/- test paddle with some free instruction and helpful tips from club members, etc. It’s a great way to try out several different boats over the course of the summer. A two hour paddle tells you much more about a particular boat than a 20 minute demo. Here is a link to the website with some additional info.

Look under ‘Evening Tours on Local Waterways 2005’. I would look for something like this in the 'cuse area.

If ever in the Albany area drop me a line.

Welcome to the sport and …



light paddle and pfd
don’t buy anything else for awhile,I keep thinking most folks should get one of these Futura15 before getting a closed deck sea kayak. It’ll give you all the opportunity to develop good paddling technique (no barcolounger seatbacks) and the efficiency to hang with folks who’ve been paddling for a couple years. Also being a SOT you’ll acquire clothes appropriate for the water so should you chose to transition to a closed deck kayak you’ll already know what it takes to be safe in cold water.

check out the Futura 15 sport.

Can’t go wrong with this list
Northwater paddle float


paddle leash

storm whistle tethered to your vest

PFD that fits you so well you don’t know you have it on

good leash for sunglasses

a good hat that floats and protects your head from burning and sheds light rain

sponge to mop out crud from cockpit

that’s the short list to get started

AND now the most important…take a lesson and you’ll never regret it!!

Lovin’ The Insight!
Hello again!

Thank you for all of the insight! This is great. I’m glad I am taking the time to “research” this prior to jumping in with 2 feet.

I have found a couple of my co-workers are into this sport and are willing to take me out and let me play (supervised) to see if I like this…however, from what I understand…I like the thought and just being on the water in real time will make me fall in love with it instantly. One of the woman I work with told me that she wants to go back to school to find a better paying job so that she can “work less and kayak more.” I like that thought!

Another guy I work w/ wants to get back into it. So, to work on self rescues we are going to put his yak in his parents pool and flip over! (must get video!) A nice safe enviorment…well-kind of.

I found a 9’6" yak…that seems to be just my size-but I will wait until I get to play a little!

Thanks Everyone!