Newbie Paddle and Gear Questions

-- Last Updated: Jul-17-15 10:41 PM EST --

Okay, so I just got into kayaking this year.

I have taken quite a few rafting trips in the past few years on the Ocoee, TN and Gauley WV. Every time I would go I would see the kayakers and think "dang that looks like fun...maybe one day I'll do that". The main problem was I had never set foot (or butt) into a kayak. That all changed this summer when I decided to give it a shot.

At the time none of my friends were kayaking so I didn't have one to borrow, nor was I near an outfitter. I finally found some friends who were interested in starting, so we went ahead and bought a cheap recreational kayaks and paddles at Dicks to give it a try. So far I have loved paddling around on flat water lakes and calm creeks, but I can't lie, I still have a hankering to eventually try whitewater. I know that is probably further down the road, after I get some more practice on flat water under my belt.

I'm already looking to possibly buy a new paddle. The one I have is fine for the most part, but I would like to have a spare, so I might as well upgrade.....but paddles aren't cheap.

My question is: If I want to try to get into whitewater in the next year or two what kind of paddle should I buy now. Whitewater? Touring? Another Cheap one? I'm 5'7 and have a fairly wide rec kayak, and seem to prefer a more high angle stroke. What legnth would you recommend? I have a 210 now, and at times it feels a bit short due to the width of my kayak. I used a friend's 240 and it felt WAAAAY too long for me. Should I try to find a used one, or are they generally beat to death by the time someone wants to resale?

I currently have a Quest Chute. Probably want to spend $75-$150 on my next paddle. I had looked at the Carlisle Magic or Werner Tybee....any other suggestions?

Also, any advice on how to ease into whitewater kayaking? How much can my current $250 rec kayak most likely withstand? Should I avoid all moving water with it or can it go down class 1 or 2 rapids okay?

take a WW class

– Last Updated: Jul-17-15 11:42 PM EST –

Before buying a paddle, I would take a white water class (at least a day long - a weekend may be better). Might involve going to some place away from you that has rivers and outfitters and spending a weekend there. This will give you a lot of information that will help in future gear information.

The rec boat you have wouldn't do well even in class II rivers.

The paddle for the rec boat is very different than what you'd want for a white water kayak. Not likely you could get one that works for both.

It is fun

– Last Updated: Jul-18-15 12:06 AM EST –

And there's really no reason you need to "ease into" it. Paddling on flatwater in a rec boat really isn't going to be of much use in preparing you for WW boating. I'd venture to guess that most WW paddlers had little to no experience with kayaking of any kind before they started WW paddling.

I second Peter's suggestion to take a class. The easiest option (although likely more expensive) is to take a formal class with a kayak school/outfitter, as they will almost certainly have kayaks, paddles and other necessary gear for you to use. Some may even let you borrow/rent gear while you are considering if and what to buy.

Another option if money is tight is to look around for a local WW club. Some clubs will offer informal instruction for little to no cost. However, you'll probably have to either provide your own gear or ask to borrow some from a club member.

And yeah, your rec kayak is probably not going to be well-suited to anything Class II+. Your boat will likely not explode on contact with a rapid, but if you are running rivers with multiple rapids of that level or higher, you are going to want a boat with appropriate features -- proper hull construction, outfitting, and compatible with a neoprene sprayskirt. As for paddles, WW paddles tend to be shorter. 191-197 is pretty typical.

Whitewater is fun

– Last Updated: Jul-18-15 1:02 AM EST –

Like the others said -- take a class first. I wish I did as I learned many bad habits teaching myself to paddle flat water and easy whitewater.

It sounds like you live near areas that are popular whitewater locations. If so check craigslist for those areas as whitewater kayakers frequently sell used kayaks pretty cheap.

The Jackson webpage has a nice app that can give you an idea what kayaks you should look at.

You would want a whitewater paddle and not a touring paddle if you are doing whitewater. You don't want it to be a takeapart but instead a solid shaft. You would probably use a 194. The Werner Rio, AT Titan, and AquaBound Shred are under $150.

join a club
Paddling clubs are a good way to become introduced to local rivers, different boats and gear, and offer the chance to make connections with folks which will be important for safety, shuttling, and other logistical issues. Most clubs also offer some type of instruction (usually a weekend spring paddling clinic with follow up supervised river trips) as well as pool sessions throughout the year which afford an opportunity to learn how to roll in a safe, warm-water environment.

As whitewater kayakers have moved to shorter boats in the last few decades, many have hung onto older, longer boats and club members might have a boat and gear to loan you initially. These older boats require a bit more work to properly outfit but can work fine as and introduction to general river running.

The Bluegrass Wildwater Association has an excellent reputation:

In Tennessee there is Chota in the Knoxville area:

and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association in the Nashville area:

Thanks so much. So the general consensus seems to be to hold off on the paddle and see if I can take a whitewater class somewhere and to join a club. I had honestly not even thought to go that route because I figured I needed a few years of flat water first, but it seems that may not be as important as I had initially thought.

First Ask Yourself
What are you really looking for.

Rapids are fun. Though if you get a WW play boat you will limit yourself. What do really want?

Personally you couldn’t pay me enough to join a club. I just don’t care for their politics.

It isn’t…
most clubs I’ve interacted with offer “classes” (generally rather informal groupings where a knowledgeable paddler offers insight and instruction) to novice paddlers. Since membership in clubs is rather fluid, it pays to invest in new blood on a rather regular basis.

Classes are a very good idea before making any purchases. What you buy as a novice will likely not be what you want even after only a few months of experience on the water. Take your time, invest your money wisely.


start with a class and on paddle
Just get a basic class or session, drive if you have to, will save tons of time in trying to prep. And worry about the paddle after you have spent time in a ww boat. You can get a very decent used ww paddle from lots of sources, but they are different critters than tbe basic paddle you find in a big box store.

People on this board regularly take rec boats down class 1 and 2 water. But they know how to stay of trouble, manage the current and may even put on a helmet. This does not likely describe you right now.

You will find it can be a very fast adaptation if you really like. The warm weather is on us now, hopefully you are within reach of controlled releases so the white stuff is available all summer, take the opportunity now.

Think about it…

– Last Updated: Jul-18-15 6:54 PM EST –

You can outfit yourself with the best whitewater kayak, whitewater kayak paddle, pfd, helmet, throwbag,
river shoes, and suitable clothing for whitewater kayaking that money can buy.

Take all that fancy, expensive gear to ariver that has whitewater, and you still won't have the slightest idea of what you really need to know. It is likely that you will end up in some situations you're rather not be in, or situations where you may be seriously injured, or worse.

Taking a guide led raft ride down a whitewater river will do nothing to prepare you for being alone in a boat on whitewater, making your own decisions.

Best money you'll ever spend is on a whitewater kayaking class. Not only will you improve your paddling skills; you'll have a much better idea of what gear you "really" need. You'll have a much better idea of what you don't know, and what you need to know, before you paddle whitewater.

Another option is the "just go for it" school.
You regularly read about these people in the local newspaper. They got rescued, or drowned when the local creek or river came up into flood stage, and they just "went for it" in their rec kayak or sit on top........

Make a "well reasoned" decision; you'll be glad you did.