New to Kayaking


I am new, very new. Kayaked on St. Croix in MN a few times. Also small day trips on the Minnehaha and Lakes around Minneapolis.

My deal is that my only son has gone off to college. I am single, and I guess somewhat free. I am looking to the next phase of life, and want to include kayaking as it has been a goal for many years.

A life in MN has been unbearable really, hate winter, love water. It’s great for 3 months!!

I am really looking to get into kayaking on the cheap. What suggestions do you have for training, (CPR), books or informationals, any advice on a 3 year plan to move the heck out of here, to ocean kayaking, with finally touring and teaching.

Thanks a bunch for just being here.

Welcome to North Carolina
Let me be the first to welcome you to paddling paradise. Come on down!


– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 9:53 AM EST –

Before looking at gear, I strongly suggest taking a class or two, especially if sea kayaking(Great Lakes?) is your goal. Look for a class that uses sea kayaks. One example:

When you do start looking at gear, remember that fit is critical. Boats, paddles, pfds, etc. all come in a range of sizes, and it's important that they all fit you. Used gear is a fine way to get on the water.

Check out these folks:

A list of events:

Don't pass up a good whitewater class if you find one. It's a great way to expand your skill set, and great fun.

skills & resources

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 10:45 AM EST –

Local resource:

The Guidelines here have a lot of good advice.

Animated instruction here:

Another resource page:

Sea Kayaker magazine;

As with many other sports, it's good to the most work with the biggest muscles. That means doing less with your hands and arms and more with your core.

CPR & basic first aid are good for anybody.

Compass & map/chart skills are good to have, easy to work on. Knowing basic knots is also good.

How's your swimming? Are you comfortable being underwater?

Regular stretching will make everything easier. Strength always helps but flexibility is more important.

Read up on the nautical rules of the road.

Pay attention to weather. Start looking at bodies of water in different conditions and think how you'd deal with it.

Instructing: There are two main paths: the ACA and the BCU

Nearby resources
You might want to keep track of the training and symposia that the West Michigan Coastal Kayakers group does every year and plan to attend them once you get some basic skills under your belt. I have yet to participate but have heard great things about them:

Also look into the Ladies of the Lake, a women’s sea kayaking group based in Michigan’s upper peninsula. They have their annual gathering in Grand Marais Aug 17-19 this summer. Scroll down to find the announcement (I am hoping to make it myself.):

Door County Sea kayak Symposium:

Great Lakes sea kayak symposium:

Been there a few times (many years ago), had a great time.

Also went to the WMCKA symposium and enjoyed it.

on the cheap

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 3:36 PM EST –

Used gear is one option. Borrowing is another. You might have skills you could barter for instruction.

If you have some skill with tools -- or have helpful friends -- you can build some of your equipment.

A Greenland-style paddle can be made from a cedar 2x4. If you have someone rough it out with a bandsaw you can finish it by hand.

Building a skin-on-frame boat can be inexpensive:

Or you can take a class and come home with a boat:

Stitch & glue kits are more expensive, but can make a beautiful boat:

But only build if you WANT the experience of building. If you do it just to save money you'll resent the time taken away from other things you enjoy.

Ocean Kayaking Goal
If you want to end up doing ocean paddling, you might save up and spend some time taking classes from some of the best teachers on the coasts. There are some good instructors in the pacific north west. Check into Body Boat Blade, In California Jen Kleck runs Aqua-adventures and they have lots of classes and training opportunities. I know also of a company in Savanah Georgia. North East coast I am not so familiar with. Do you have an idea where you want to end up?

In the midwest there are symposia and training sessions. Keith Wikle who posts here is very involved with training seakayakers in Michigan and I would suggest contacting him back channel about the best events to attend and the best teachers.

Kayaking is not cheap, so I would concentrate on getting training first so you know what you want in a boat and then buy used equipment.

if teaching is goal
If teaching is a goal, check into what is required in the geography you want to teach at. Many outfitters use either American Canoe Association or British Canoe Association certified instructors. If you find this for your area, you won’t want to skimp on the classes. Both of these associations have their way of doing things, so you will want to take classes from certified instructors who can teach you the way.

You can save money on gear, especially boats, by buying used.

Many clubs offer “classes” where the intention is to practice a specific skill, often followed by short tours of the area where the group was training. Generally, these are informal gatherings, cost nothing, and allow you to get into the water and pick up skills. You can also check message boards in the area and find people who are going out on day trips and the like and who are looking for additional paddlers. Some retailers also are staging points for groups to meet and go on local paddles at no cost.

Used gear is often available and, often, retailers offer lowered prices on rental gear (not as cheap as the used market, but often in pretty good condition after only a year or so of use). Sometimes, if you build a good relationship with the retailer, better discounts can be obtained.

Good luck and enjoy the time you have to paddle.


a couple of ideas
With the long term goal of teaching or guiding, start by investing in a weekend or week long class. With that, you will have enough skill to at least test paddle used boats properly and get an idea of what you can do with a kayak. For long term planning, the BCU route is considered much more rigorous and seems to dominate out here in the NW.

Get books by kayaking books Hutchinson, Foster and Lull

If you want to combine some vacation with learning to paddle check out this:

If you can’t find a good used boat in your area, Pygmy boats has some nice plywood kit boats for around $1k. Though, the only ones I would recommend are their new murrelet models. All the rest have much too high a volume cockpit.

Getting to teaching

– Last Updated: Jun-13-12 7:24 PM EST –

I would strongly suggest that you spend some time in intensive situations like multi-day symposiums on sea kayaking, look around at the teaching, ask the coaches what it took in time and money to get their certs, then decide on that part. You may decide after that to look for a state with state level certifications for guiding rather than messing with the pure kayaking certs.

Some states are quite tough on their kayaking requirements (like Maine Guides) and others are obviously not. I've been in classes with certified guides from other states and had more than one chance to put them back in their boat after yet another failed brace or roll. (And I am hardly a coach.) But - they have a somewhat predictable income doing what they like and none of them had lost anyone yet. They just stayed in very quiet, safe water for leading paddling trips. If retirement income is a plan, this may be a better idea than the cost of time, travel and training to manage a higher level cert thru one of the kayak only organizations.

Also, as mentioned above, look to where you will be living longer term. BCU training is very hot in some areas and a very expensive trip to get to it from others. You may find something similar with ACA when it comes to long boat rather than WW training.

The path to a really respectable certification in either the ACA or the BCU can cost enough in time and money that, unless you end up being a star coach, many find that earnings barely pay back the investment if at all. And travel may be required to get an opportunity to regularly earn a check.

It is well worth it if paddling interests you to start with enough to want to share it with others. But you may want to gauge how that feels for you as you are learning yourself. There are a lot of ways to help people get on the water and be safer that don't require a full blown certification. You can show them simple stuff like basic rescues, let them try your boat or paddle, that kind of thing. It is surprising how easy it can be to improve the experience of new paddlers by sharing really simple stuff. With luck, many will go on to really pursue skills after that.