Want to start kayaking

I’ve kayaked a couple of times in my life (not recently) and was thinking of trying to pick it up as a hobby. Does anyone have any advice on how to get started?

I live in North Florida, do you know of any good places to start? Are there any kayaking clubs around here?

This is a good place…
…to start. Read the links, click on the sponsors and start to learn.

What kind of kayaking?
Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?

Kayaking Question Reply
Probably fresh water to start off. Rivers, lakes, etc. If I were to buy a kayak, what should I expect to pay for one ($300-500?)? Should I get new or used?

Are there good areas to start as a beginner? What are the little things you need to remember to bring with you (water, life jacket, phone, pocket knife, etc?)

I would most likely start with trips that only would take a few hours as opposed to ones where you have to camp over night.

I live only about 20-30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, but from one I’ve learned you need a totally different kayak for the ocean. Are there good places on the St. Johns river to kayak?

You live in and near some of the
best paddling in the country. Where in north Florida?

I would def. recommendy buying somthing used until you know that your going to continue to do this. If you plan on being versitile and paddling both Ocean and Rivers get a touring kayak. Make sure you paddle a kayak @ least 30 min to an hour before you buy it. So you can be sure that it’ll be comfortable. As many paddlers will tell you, what is comfortable in the first ten minutes may not be shortly there after. I would recommend 16ft plus in length. Try to get a vessel with a lot of stability as your first kayak. That way it’ll build your confidence. If you get somthing to tippy you run the risk of getting frustrated and giving up on the sport… before you really know what joy it can bring. As for gear you listed the jist of it. Phone, VHF, PDF, extra paddles especially if on open water, paddle float, signaling device, whistle, map, compass, gps, etc… the list goes on and on depending on what type of paddler you become.

Welcome to the sport!!! Enjoy as we all do!

From Eastern NC,


Buy for the future
You sound like you’re aspiring paddle on the ocean as your skills develop, so I would definitely look for a boat that will let you learn open water skills safely. Don’t buy a “beginner boat” because you’ll be selling it as soon as you decide you’re sick of being a beginner.

I’d suggest that the best way to learn about equipment and to get started kayaking is to find people who are doing what you want to be doing in a couple years, and learn with them. That could be a club, if there’s a good one in your area, or that could be a kayaking school in your area. The problem with starting with a club is that you will likely need your own boat and equipment first, and also you’ll not have much idea of the quality of guidance you’ll get from your fellow members. Starting with a lesson is a great way to get your feet wet, because you’ll learn first hand what to look for in a boat and equipment, and have a chance to try various boats so you can get an idea of what to look for in the used market. You can also look for credentials from a school (BCU or ACA instructors), so you know that you’re getting quality professional information. Then you can take that foundation and find a club to do your paddling with.

Resist the temptation to go out and buy yourself an entire set of equipment before you’ve learned anything about paddling. You’re likely to make some purchases you’ll regret in the near future.

Getting Started
I have to drive 14 hours one-way to paddle where you live, but it’s worth it, and I do it several times a year. Admittedly, I do it for the fishing too, but the paddling alone is great.

Depending on what I’m doing (fishing, cruising, river-running) I use either a Phoenix 140, Tarpon 100, or Epic V10. My favorite paddling is in the Keys, but in your area I like the Mosquito Lagoon, the St. Johns River, the Wekiva River, and surfing if it’s mild enough. However, there are a zillion opportunities in N. Florida.

Per other posts I would recommend getting something used, and something you can resell for almost what you paid for it. Just getting on the water will confirm (or not) your interest in paddling, and getting some water-time will help you decide what boat you ultimately want.

While recommending an inexpensive first boat, I would not recommend skimping on a paddle, as it will make a significant difference in your paddling enjoyment. Get the lightest paddle you can afford, and use something like the Werner size guide on their website. There’s a lot more to paddle design, but initially weight will be the key.

Last, you have to have a PFD, and though not required by Florida law to wear it, you should. The reason I mention it is the obvious Florida heat, which discourages wearing a PFD. I ultimately settled on the Astral V8, which is vented and really comfortable.

Regards, Mike


– Last Updated: Mar-08-10 8:32 PM EST –

There's a wealth of information here -both from the folks who frequent these boards, and from the site itself. As suggested, read thru the guidelines and see where you ft into the scheme of things paddling-wise.

Start here: http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/
This is basically a Table of Contents.

Next, try http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showCategory.html?category=4

This will provide you with broad, general information and introduce you to most aspects of paddling you'll want to know about.
Next, go to http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showCategory.html?category=13
This covers a lot of ground re choices and how to go about making them, as it provides a lot more specific information.

Next -if it's really kayaking -go to http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/

Then go to http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showCategory.html?category=9

Reading through the various entries will give you a fair background, and allow you to begin making some decisions about the size and type of boat you want, for the paddling you think you'll most likely do most frequently.

Then… the fun starts: buying a boat and gear!

Remember, too, that you're not just getting a boat. You'll get that, of course, but a paddle as well, plus a PFD. That's the bare basics for paddling.

Then you'll need to think about what you'll want to bring along, and whether you'll need easily-accessible, in-boat (as opposed to in hatches) dry storage for things like wallets. keys, cell phones, and cameras, among other things.

And then you'll need a boat and gear transportation system -racks, or a trailer are the usual candidates, and there's a world of options there as well.

And used equipment is quite often a good option as well as new -if it's in decent shape.

And finally, there's you.

Are YOU ready to pick up a paddle and hop in a boat and shove off? If so, gung ho! If not, think about renting or borrowing a boat to see how well it suits you and your probable paddling needs/expectations/capabilities. If there's a local paddling club you might see about joining and reaping the benefits of local experience, perhaps some guidance and even instruction, and, maybe, borrowing boats for test-drives. Talking to people in shops -outdoor shops, if not kayak shops -can get you started as to places to paddle, conditions, and what kinds of boats might work for you there. And 'Demo Days', often held by shops and stores as paddling season starts (usually Spring) are also a very good way to 'get your feet wet', so-to-speak, and try a variety of types of boats, if not brands.

Well, this is a start… Good luck, and may you find the right boat to (at least START to) happily


-Frank in Miami

Where in North Florida?
Two shops around North Florida that have Demo Days for their kayaks are:

Black Creek Demo http://www.blackcreekoutfitters.com/blackcreek/

Introduction to Kayaking

When: Sat, March 27, 10am – 11am

Where: On Skinner Lake behind the shop (map)

Description: Introduction to Basic Kayaking An extension of our Kayak Demo Program with a one start/one hour of exposure for the interested paddler and friend. Family group will have to sign up separately unless limited to # and age. Basic intro with basic paddle strokes and boat entry and exit. Very basic safety considerations. 15 minutes on land; 10 minutes to load up group and 20 minutes paddling and 15 minutes to get everybody off water. RSVP at the store because space is limited.

Up The Creek located in St Marys Georgia has Demo Days also. Contact the store for their next one. http://www.upthecreektrips.com/site/

Paddling Club http://www.clubkayak.com/fska/

If you live around Jacksonville drop me an email and I will let you try out some of my kayaks (sea touring, SOT and whitewater)