Touring Questions

I recently moved from northeast Georgia to Portland. I was a strong WW paddler once upon a time, but now want to try my hand at touring (new state, why not try a new kayaking style?). Problem is, I have no clue where to start - I think that renting a boat, loading it with my camping gear and seeing what happens is a terrible idea.

When I started WW kayaking I jut called up my buddies that paddled, but I don’t know anyone out here that does any kind of touring. Anyone have any tips/hints on where to get started?

Also, how much I the technique I have from WW will transfer? I figure I will have to change my roll, but strokes should be similar?

Follow up
I should add - I plan on searching the site when I get reliable Internet access (since I am sure these type of questions have come up before) but I am on my phone right now - which isn’t really search friendly.

As a final, pretty random, question - why the cradles/j-towers for touring kayaks? Why not just towers like WW paddlers use?

check out the local clubs
Portland is bound to have a couple. If no one here chimes in on clubs check out local shops and ask about clubs or do an internet search.

Based on a few WW paddlers I know that tried their hands at sea touring I think you skills will transfer fine – maybe even give you an advantage over some others without WW. I’ve heard getting used to following seas and surf takes a little effort, though not as much as a complete novice.

Don’t worry about camp touring until you’ve done same day trips, but when ready adding camping isn’t a very big deal.

If shopping for a touring kayak you might see if local shops do demo days (often a monthly thing for some shops).

WW to Touring
Congrats on taking up a new section of kayaking. As a sea/touring kayaking to dabbling in WW kayaking, here is a list of things that may help:

  1. Your boat will be longer and building differently. This is the primary reason for putting J bars, cradles or blocks on these boats (especially fiberglass). The cradles and blocks I find are easier to use with the long boats. Although, you can still transport the plastic touring boats using stackers, it is a bit more tricky to tie down by your self.
  2. Your roll should transfer but will be a slower motion in a long boat. Most people in this area learn to roll in a WW boat in a pool and then transfer that to the long boats.
  3. You will lean the opposite direction to assist in turning your boat.
  4. Wet exits, general safety,paddle strokes, etc should all transfer nicely.

    There are several good paddle shops in your area that do classes and courses which may be a good way for you to get the basics. Kayak academy and Alder creek are two that come to mind.

    Good luck, have fun and be safe!


Start out easy
Try some casual daytrips first, just to see how you like SK touring in general.

Then pick someplace close to home for a shakedown cruise where you can try overnight kayak-camping. If you find it sucks, you can easily pack the car and go home, with little lost but some time. Maybe there are some nearby state parks on inland lakes or ocean estuaries where you could try this?

You’ll probably find that it’ll take some adapting to fit all your camping gear into a sea kayak, so practice packing it at home first. Here’s a packing list and some tips you may find useful:

Once you’ve enjoyed your first couple overnighters, it’s nothing to add a little extra food and water and go for a week, or more.

If you enjoy the backcountry, and easily covering a lot of miles each day, even with a loaded boat, there are few better and cheaper ways to spend your vacation, for little cost other than your gear and gas.

Good Luck!

Lots of company out there
In addition to the outfitters mentioned above, you can find lots of company.

Oregon Ocean Paddling Society -

Oregon Kayak and Canoe Club -

and I am sure more than didn’t show up in a Google search.

As to skills, you’ll be fine. A roll is a roll, in fact most WW folks I’ve seen roll a reasonably narrow sea kayak the first time window shade it. For some reason they figure that the long boats have to be harder to roll, and have to be a barge. Then they try a decent sea kayak and get it. You’re still only rolling what is around your hips, and especially in the newer low decked designs, what’s around your waist is a lot less boat than in WW.

One thing you should do is go to the shops mentioned and demo lots of boats. I suspect you’ll find that they can be more responsive and fitted than you expect.

I was formerly only a WW paddler
Now I do both but mostly sea kayaking. My experience is that rolls transfer completely. Forward strokes done correctly transfer completely. Loose hips, braces transfer completely. Sweep strokes are different. You need to edge a sea kayak to turn it and edging is the reverse of what you do in a WW kayak. Correction strokes are the same except sea kayaks edge to the outside of the turn. All this is actually pretty easy. A little time on the water and you will be good to go. I find that if I am going down river I do fine. If I am cruising around in my sea kayak the switch in my head works. Welcome.


As a WW paddler, you might be happier with a more maneuverable touring boat. Tracking won’t be an issue if you could paddle a WW boat straight. The Valley Avocet or the new Wilderness Systems Zephyr might be fun for you.

The paddling skills all transfer, but you’ll be learning a new environment – tides, currents, fog, wind, shore and bottom contours, shipping rules, navigation, etc. If you’re honest about what you don’t know, and use reasonable caution, you’ll do fine.

Look up Ginni Callahan

Welcome and enjoy

– Last Updated: Jun-06-09 12:23 AM EST –

As one of the cohort in my area who are primarily sea kayakers and started ww a couple of years ago, your skills will transfer perfectly with only a few minor tweaks.

I happen to find my sea kayaks roll easier than my ww boats. Long boat time is a bit different. I find if I've been running ww, my sea kayaks seem slow to react and fast across the water - as a matter of fact I've blown through a few eddys in my sea kayaks I meant to catch.

One other thing I have to remind myself when moving between ww and sea kayaking is edge AWAY from current and edge INTO waves.

We carry our boats on stackers both our sea kayaks and our ww boats. Your racks for your ww boat(s) should be fine for sea kayaks.

Touring vs WW
I too have more of a ww background and I agree with the others about your roll and most of your paddling strokes should not be a problem.

I use a lot of my backpacking exp to figure out the overnite aspects but you can carry a lot more in your boat.

I think in touring, the weather, water temps and how remote of an area you,re in are real concerns.

Coming from a short boat the glide is the one thing that made me want to buy a touring boat.

If Portland Oregon
just stop by Alder Creek! You’ll get all the contacts you need right there. Portland Maine? I dunno.

Thanks to all the tips/encouragement. I figured that with my extensive paddling and hiking experimce I would be starting out pretty good - sounds like I was kinda right.

I will stop by Alder the next time I have a free afternoon and try to figure out where to go from there.

Portland Maine?

– Last Updated: Jun-08-09 11:42 AM EST –

Though the OP is referring to Portland Ore. If in or near Portland Maine - Maine Island Kayak (MIKCo), Tom Bergh, on Peaks Island is the ultimate.

wind, rolling
In my whitewater boats, I don’t think the wind ever pushes me around, just the water. In my long flatwater boats, a crosswind will push my stern and try to make the boat turn into the wind. The longer the boat the more difficult it is to keep straight in a crosswind, thus the need for rudders and skegs.

As far a rolling, sea kayaks are easier for me because they tend to be narrower and rounder than whitewater boats. Outfitting is the key, just like whitewater boats. Any boat can roll if it fits snugly, and any boat is difficult to roll if I’m flopping around in it.

In my younger days I was addicted to whitewater and adrenaline, and flatwater was to be avoided. Now I’m addicted to exercise, and the sea kayak is my health club. It was not a difficult transition.

Out there…
…ya got some sweet surf to get addicted to…or pummelled by.