More advice for the rank newbie?

Alright, so I managed to get in the water (ahem, literally ~ video link at the end), have about 6 hours of time on the water under my belt now and a whole host of new questions.

First issue is strictly comfort related. Since I’m a big guy (well, 6’4", 240~250lbs, size 13 foot), I had to find a bot that’d accommodate me. The Dagger Blackwater does that well, I can get my legs under the deck, but I’m having issues with my feet. The first time I got in the boat, I did so bare-foot… OUCH! those pedals/footrests are downright painful on bare feet… at least to someone who only goes barefoot in a house maintained by a clean-freak. 2nd time I wore my Keens and found my feet cramped and it put me into a weird seating position that made my left knee/hip hurt. What kind of footware do you use in water that’s comfortable to swim in? Hoe about water that’s too cold to comfortably swim in, but fine for wading through/splashing in?

Staying on-topic with the footrests, what part of your foot goes on those? Since I’m a motorcyclist, I put the balls of my feet (pads where the toes join the foot).

When it comes to paddling, I’m trying to do the whole twist-at-the-waist thing. In a recent 4 hour river run though, my upper back, right on either side of the spine just where the neck hits the back, became tight and pinched. Poor technique or just new muscle use? I wasn’t’ sore anywhere else (and tend to have issues with those same muscles anyway). Similarly, with my skeg up, I’m zig-zagging all over the place… technique? Skeg down and I’m straight as an arrow though, very nice.

My kayak has “dry storage” behind me that is, quite frankly, pretty wet. Looking closely I can see that the grey, rubbery (silicone?) sealant used to fill the crack between the keel and foam bulkhead. Looks like I’ll be needing to fix that, what’s a good product? Normally I’d just toss some kitchen and bath silicone in there, but thought I’d ask… cause I’m the clueless noob. :stuck_out_tongue:

On to being prepared. Our first outing (my wife and I) we a) missed our take-out (low water made a berm that we couldn’t see from the boat ramp where we parked), b) didn’t have any food with us, c) didn’t have any sort of map/gps and d) were as clueless as could be about being prepared. Thankfully it was a shallow river (heh, I had to walk the boats a bit as they were dragging, ankle-deep water), the temps were warm and weather clear, and we were in a populated area with boat-ramps every couple of miles. So we took out 7 miles further than intended, were a little hungry and had to wait an hour for our rescue vehicle to show up. It was a learning experience to say the least, and I’m working on Fixing those mistakes. More food and water, a small emergency survival kit w/ first aid on the boats, and buying a GPS. Having seen the “would you refuse to paddle with the unprepared” thread in another section, what Other things should I be looking to include so that I’m prepared? Keep in mine that we’re on wide/slow/shallow rivers, air temps in the 80’s (and no lower than 70) with water temps in the 70’s and no white water. Not exactly high-risk scenario, but I spent a couple months as a Boy Scout before the rampant theft and bullying ran me off, I want to be prepared.

And, as a little thanks for the advice… here are a couple photos:

My partner in, well, everything (family CFO, aka ‘the wife’)


And, as promised, me going in the drink. Wanted to see what a “wet exit” felt like… bleh, stagnate pond water:


Float Bags - keep water out

– Last Updated: Sep-20-12 8:17 PM EST –

Video showed indications of lots of water.
Float bags displace all that water; making
paddling life a lot easier in capsize.

Heh, yeah, I was swamped…
Float bags are on the ‘list’ (for my wifes boat too). That was a PITA to drag on shore too… so a bilge pump is Also on the list. Just forgot to mention those… :slight_smile:

good for you

– Last Updated: Sep-21-12 12:11 AM EST –

There is a lot going right in the video. For example, it is good to see that your PFD fits well. Many people have them loose, so they float up over their heads when they actually hit the water.

On the float bag - your boat does look like it stays high enough out of the water that you could get back in (with a paddlefloat or cowboy scramble). Adding a float bag up front would help keep the nose higher, and you'd also have less water to drain.

On sealant, I'd probably go with a decent silicon sealant. Apply it liberally. I use the stuff you can get out boating stores, but perhaps the household stuff would be just as good.

Your wife has a great accent. We don't hear accents like that much out here in California.

non silicone sealant
To seal the foam use a non silicone sealant as once you use silicone it is impossible to get anything to stick to it when it leaks again. Suitable sealants include 3M 5200 and sikaflex.

Your support stroke failed because you tried to raise your body before you had the boat completely upright. It’s counter intuitive but your head needs to be the last part to come up,roll your hips to bring the boat upright first, it’s the same with rolling.

As you suspected the tight muscles is probably caused by not being used to paddling for four hours.

Looks like you are having fun.

2nd brace probably also failed…
…because the boat was half-swamped from the First attempt. I remember watching the water pour in, pushing against the water (and yes, better technique would help), thinking that I Could get it back until the boat sank away from under me.

heh. I’ve been thinking about one of those warm-weather splash skirts as the kayak is remarkably stable and easy to recover (I about dumped myself on the river too, while messing around), the main thing that seems to get in the way is the water coming into the boat. If you can postpone that a little, there might be more time for recovery. Plus, it’d keep a lot of the water that’s coming off the paddle from getting in the boat. I had probably about 2 liters worth from 4 hours of paddling.

Thanks for the reminder that Silicone tends to be a one-shot deal unless you can completely remove it. Not sure how I’d do that from foam… I’ll see what I can find locally. Not too worried as I pack everything in dry-bags anyway (lesson from motorcycling, funny how even a light rain will find it’s way into anywhere at 65mph), but would rather that little extra security too.


NRS Shoes

– Last Updated: Sep-21-12 9:03 AM EST –

I prefer these until it gets really cold.
Year round. Chota makes a similar product with a thinner sole.
Wool socks maintain some amount of warmth even wet, work fine under these.

Then I go to mukluks, mine are actually diving dry boots.

I find sandals to be quite uncomfortable for paddling. Either the sole is too thick, or they are so flimsy that the straps can catch on the pedal (dangerous).

Make sure that you just drop your legs and feet and physically relax sometimes while paddling. Many newer paddlers actually go for a position that is too tense and locked in.

Hip/leg angle is personal. The one I prefer is a back killer for many for example. You may have to play with the seat and thigh braces for a while. Some also find that they need to continue the support under their thighs beyond the edge of the seat, by adding in some shaped minicell. You can tell if this would help by sticking a partially inflated paddle float under your thighs.

If it is two of you, you should learn and practice rescues asap, while the water is still warm. You have a significant advantage because you can count of doing assisted rescues. Done right, a smaller woman can use the boat to help get a much heavier guy in by the way.

Just get dry bags for anything you care about. Plastic boats tend to leak some around the hatch, it's just a question of how much and where.

Bulkhead sealent
There is a brand called “Lexel” that’s carried at Lowe’s and Home Depot. That’s the stuff to use. Best technique is to think of it as applying it to the hull with the bead against the bulkhead instead of trying to apply it to the foam with the bead against the hull. A minor difference that can make it slightly less messy.

My wife and I have learned to carry an extra two qt canteen we call big red. We take all the water we think we could possibly need and then add in big red. A water purifier would probably make more sense but they are not cheap.

While you’re in the hardware store pick up a sponge from the tile grout section, that’s for the paddle drip accumulation that a bilge pump won’t get.

They also make a splash deck, which is kind of a half skirt that doesn’t go around your waste and does not seal the cockpit behind you. Keeps out paddle drips, lets you reach things in the cockpit, doesn’t interfere much with air flow. Does not help though if you flip your boat. A low angle stroke will help keep the drips out of the boat, but mostly I’ve found it’s just a matter of getting use to it.

Second the foot covering thing
Kayaking involves walking/sitting around “protected”.

Feet on foot pegs play a major role in paddling.

Protecting from friction on heels, ankle bone, etc. matters.

Getting out/in kayak slippery ramps, sharp rocks,

hot sand, twigs branches poking exposed toes, etc.

all make for uncomfortable experiences.

I like REI and shop my local store when possible

While I’ve watched video on both self and assisted rescue (or, more accurately, kayak re-entry), that’s something I’m going to leave to a dedicated instructor next year when things start happening again. For now, we’re going to stick with places where “rescue” is more along the lines of just standing up. :slight_smile: Both rivers we’ve done and the one we’re planning on doing a weekend trip down (Blackwater in FL) are all very, Very mild. Easy enough to drag the boat to shore, drain it there and then re-board and carry on. But there’s also Very minimal chance that will be needed. Heh, my brother-in-law got to do it on the Ocmulgee a few weeks ago (before we bought kayaks, were in a borrowed canoe and loved the experience) when I ‘helped’ him push away from us after exchanging a camera, and my help was a little… er, vigorous? I’ll not live that down anytime soon (since I also kinda kicked my wife out of the raft while doing some white-water a few years prior).

Thigh braces… I don’t have anything of the sort in either Kayak. I’ll have to look into adding some foam and see if that helps. I did shift positions a couple times, but my feet were always getting in the way of each other. Or, more accurately, the hard sole of my Keens were getting in the way. I only went bare-foot the one time at my in-laws man made pond.

And we do have dry-bags (plus buying more), just trying to limit the water from something the dry-bags would be floating in to something that’ll splash around them. I never expected the ‘dry storage’ to be perfectly dry which is why I put our keys/phones/wallets in a waterproof box inside the dry storage area.

Again, many thanks. I’ll give thanks to anyone in person (I’m just north of Columbus, GA) with fresh, home crafted beer… :wink:

Your forward stroke is fairly low. Try a higher style. It is more efficent and may help with the side to side motion (or it could be the boat – the shorter, the more prone to tracking issues).

You are getting the idea on the low brace but I think are a little too enthusiastic about rolling the boat over. Here’s one way I like to practice. Start with your paddle held horizontally in a nuetral position. Slowly lean your boat over and continue to lean farther and farther. You will reach a point where the boar trys to capsize and then slap down hard on the water on that side while twisting with your hips. As noted, the head follows – not leads. I like this exercise because it helps you feel how far you can lean until capsize and the capsize itself is always a suprise that hones your reflexes. Mostly, don’t forget to have fun because technique will come with time.

tight and pinched
"my upper back, right on either side of the spine just where the neck hits the back, became tight and pinched"

This sounds similar to what I’ve experienced. It really got me occasionally in following seas. It would take quite a while to come on, and then would slowly intensify. I figured out that I could eliminate it by doing less work with my shoulders, and more with my lower torso. Pulling pretty hard with my shoulder extended too far back doing repetitive stern draws for directional control seemed to aggrevate it the most. For me, concentrating on keeping my shoulders in place and rotating from lower down is the trick. I first thought it was maybe a sore muscle, but time seemed to indicate to me that I’m susceptible right there to repetitive overuse. So I adjusted my form, not my paddling time. Much safer for my shoulders, and stronger form in the end.

I don’t know if my experience is exactly the same, but it sounds pretty similar.

So I might suggest deliberately demobilizing the flex in your shoulders, even if it means shortening your stroke. The shoulder flex I’m talking about is the shoulder movement you can do without moving your opposite shoulder or the rest of your body at all - the way you can flex it back within its own socket. You could try controlling that and see if it helps.

Not claiming to be a doctor - simply sharing what sounds like a similar experience and my personal solution.

more advice
you are holding your paddle upside down. turn it over

LMAO… you’re kidding, right?
Sheesh. Good thing I have some tough skin.

So, the longer portion of the paddle should be on Top?

Not kidding - blades orientation
There IS a proper way to hold a paddle

If you can’t read the print , label, manufacturer

-blade is probably upside down and backward

That might explain the failed brace…
Sorry on my part - I hadn’t taken the time to look at all the clips you posted. Yeah, a dihedral blade has a distinctly leading edge and it is particularly challenged to work right when the leading edge isn’t (leading).

Elbows Up on Brace
First, I want to commend you for practicing and seeking advice. As you indicated, some formal lessons will help, too. On a low brace, your arms should be in more of a push-up position, elbows up is the way I remember it. This not only provides more power to the bracing action, it better protects your shoulders from injury. Last, I want to say, I’ve swallowed my share of yucky water, too. We all do.

Looks like you’re getting some good advice!

The Comm-3 that was recommended is a good one. FYI, there are several shoes on sale right now that are even cheaper.

The Desperado Sock has the thinnest, most flexible sole. It’s a favorite of whitewater kayakers in those tiny playboats.

The Sasquatch Shoe has a little beefier sole but is still quite flexible. It has a wider toe box, good for those with wide feet.

The Desperado Shoe has a sole with similar thickness to the Comm-3.

These shoes are on sale because we’re making some styling changes on them for 2013.

Congrats on the new boating!



Blackwater Owner Advice
This is a good site with paddling animations to learn the basics, such as how not to use the paddle upside down.

Everyone I know who learned how to kayak on their own seems to hold the paddle upside down – I even had friends who “had been paddling for years” hold their paddle the wrong way.

I am also a big, “muscular”, guy with big feet and own a Dagger Blackwater and Axis. It is a good choice for those of us looking for something between all the kayaks made for sticks and the almost a canoe cockpits.

As far as foot placement, I place the ball of my foot on the foot pad with my ankles resting on the bottom of the kayak – so my feet kind of make a V. Don’t wear sandals, they get stuck on pads, hurt your feet and usually get lost in the mud. I also like the NRS paddle shoe for the extra ankle pad on the outside – . For the way I rest my feet that extra padding really helps. I have tried foam pads in the kayak but they never last long.

Regarding sitting in the Blackwater. You want to sit with your knees bent up so that your legs make contact with the thigh/knee pads under the deck. At your size you should really fill up the cockpit and easily be able to contact the kayak with your thighs or knees. The Dagger Axis has similar cockpit dimensions and they make a thigh pad kit for it, which should fit the Blackwater. If you are thinking of getting this let me know and I can check out my Axis thigh pad against my Blackwater.

Also for the Blackwater seat consider dropping the backrest down as low as it goes. Also you may want to detach the bungee that pulls the backrest forward when you aren’t in the boat, as this makes it a lot harder to get back in the cockpit. The ratchet band on the right of the cockpit does a good job of keeping the back rest from going back to far and popping under the combing.

I would also recommend placing something under your thighs to support them in the knee up position. A towel, pool noodle, or a kayak thigh rest all do the job.

The Blackwater with the skeg up can really spin. It makes it very maneuverable when needed. Once you learn more how to paddle you will easily be able to track the kayak straight. On lakes the skeg is more useful but on twisting narrow streams you will love the kayak with the skeg up.

I have a pre-packed emergency dry bag for every trip. Small med kit, bug spray, Swiss army knife, compass with mirror, couple of power bars, matches, manual flash light, and a towel (always bring a towel). Usually in the cockpit have throw bag (which is used almost every quiet water lake trip to tow someone back to shore who screwed up), a paddle float (never used outside or practice), water bottles, and a dry bag with snacks, waterproof camera, waterproof binoculars, and cell phone in waterproof box/bag. The a manual bilge pump is good to have but most of your trips now should be on mellow protected water near shores (the Blackwater should never go out to sea) it is usually easier just to go to a bank, flip it, and then use big car sponge to get the extra out. You might just want to get one of these for mellow trips as it can be used as a pump if needed and water gun when not.

Seems like all the good GPS units are very pricey.

Since you can now save maps to the Android phones, the smart phones are a lot more reliable as GPS units. I have used Google Maps and My Tracks many times on river trips to make sure I found the takeout. I don’t think I would count on them if I was in the boonies but they are good enough for paddling near civilization.