Where do I start?

I want to get the downer part of my intro out of the way first. This week, my fiance died at the age of 37 from brain cancer. I have been her caregiver for more than a year, and now I wish to move forward and fill this empty space.

I have decided that it is time to pursue my desire to start kayaking. I’m 36 years old, in decent shape and will be getting in better. I am currently off from work on a leave of absence, and I want to use this time to take my first kayaking trip. I thought that at this time of year, big bend national park in Texas would be a good place to start.

But I really have no idea how to start. I could walk into one of the sporting good stores in my town, but I’d be overwhelmed and not able to protect myself from bad buying decisions.

Ultimately, I know that I would like to do still and whitewater kayaking, something to excite me - but I’m not a true “danger” seeker. I live in Central Colorado and there are lots of places to go to kayak, including small lakes in town just to practice.

I need to know a couple of basic questions:

What kind of kayak should I pursue and how

Where in January can someone travel within the US to have a good first time experience kayaking?

I’m willing to drive anywhere on my leave of absence to give this a shot, and to take a trip down some river somewhere and to fondly remember my lost love, and to show her that I am going to be okay.

Dane Patterson

Colorado Springs

Sorry about your fiance.

– Last Updated: Dec-18-04 4:13 AM EST –

There really is no bad way to start kayaking. You can pick up a rec boat at a sporting goods store or local outfitter. My advice is to pick up a used "old school" whitewater kayak. They can be had quite cheaply. They are usable on local rivers, easy to learn how to roll and really help develop a decent stroke on flatwater. I would suggest anywhere in the Southern US such as Florida or Southern California. In January, the Gray Whales are migrating off San Diego. Try Aqua Adventures http://www.aqua-adventures.com/ And to start off, sign up for lessons with your local outfitters. Good luck and my sincere condolences.

Take A Vacation…
go somewhere with an outfitter so you can take lessons and go on short trips (long trips and learning skills at the same time can be challenging).

While she is gone, a part of her will always stay with you. Best wishes.


agree with sing
I agree with sing. Booking something with an outfitter is a great way to be introduced to the sport and pick up the necessary skills. On top of that, they will provide the gear (except for the clothing, and they can help you figure out what to buy). Very easy and relatively low-stress way to get into the sport.

It’s a good way to get a solid introduction to the sport, while skirting a lot of the stress of trying to sort out everything on your own. When you come away from a well guided trip you’ll know much better what you want to do, what you need to do it, as well as having developed some of the skills needed.

And I’m incredibly sorry for your loss. I don’t really have the words to express my sympathy, but know that I will keep you in my prayers. Be strong, brother.

Here on New England (in summer)

– Last Updated: Dec-18-04 10:19 AM EST –

Some Folks like to go up to Maine Island Kayak Company (MIKCO) and do a week long fast track course. I believe they have courses designed to take a beginner and shoot them up the learning curve, basically a sea kayak crash course, paddling for long hours, books to study discussions to have. (I begged my wife to take an extra year before she got pregnant so we could spend a month there, but she wanted to have a child immediately if possible.)

If flatpick or some other outfitter can offer you the equivalent, you might come away with some mad skills.

Google Sea kayak italy. Perhaps a couple of weeks there and daily private instruction might be really nice. I bet the price would surprise you, (less intense and engaging than MIKCO).

I am sorry about your lady, and her and your sorrows. I wish you strength and peace.

I agree even if I were planning a trip on a warm flatwater lake, at least 6hours of lessons and two weeks of big time practice would be in order.

First, so sorry about your fiance, but it sounds like you’re trying to do the right thing for yourself and for her memory.

Second, Florida is beautiful for paddling now. It’s a little chilly in the panhandle, where I live, but south Florida has nice winter weather and fewer insects than in the warmer months. Also, the manatees are coming into coastal waters now so manatee contact or sightings can be an added treat.

I recommend you check out Florida Bay Outfitters in the Key Largo area.


Keep paddling.

I can relate
I am sorry for the passing of your fiance. My participation in kayaking came immediately after the passing of my mother. I had spent everyday with her the final 6 weeks and came away with the need for a recharge and soothing of the soul. A healing that comes from a realtionship with nature and water. I think you have chosen a good way to begin the process. Since you have the opportunity, I would agree that a trip with an outfitter could jump-start your paddling. Possibly somewhere where you can feel the warmth of the sun, the peacefulness of water.I wish you well.

Another Option

– Last Updated: Dec-20-04 9:33 AM EST –

First, condolences on your loss.

Another option is just to purchase one of the very good recreational kayaks (Perception, Wilderness Systems, Dagger, etc.) amd just take it on quiet water and see if you become bitten by the desire to be on the water as often as possible. After a year or less, the natural tendency will be to want to advance; at which point you have the choice of purchasing a more advanced kayak suited to your enhanced level. This is the way my wife and I wandered into yakking and it worked well for us. We both work long hours and learned our techniques (although a long way to go) through books and videos.

Good luck whatever path you choose and welcome to this site.

sorry for your loss. My kayakin’ Mom died last New Years day.

Take a vacation somewhere warm/comfy and learn to kayak with some lessons. you’ll walk away knowing what you want to do and have a tan.


A couple of warm options




Also,check with your local paddling store(s) and/or college(s) to see if they have pool classes this winter.

really sorry about your loss
my hat is off to you for wanting to turn things around and get back into your life again. That’s tough and you seem to know what you want.

I love kayaking in the ocean at this time of year. TChuck is right, it’s gray whale season and they come in so close you can see them from the shore on a good day. San Diego is beautiful (haven’t kayaked there yet) and the Monterey area in Ca. is also beautiful. They have a really good kayak shop there where you can take a lesson or go out with a guide as well. Monterey Bay Kayaks.

My husband and I bought our kayak from them, it was one of their rentals and it’s been great, I have no regrets and we’ve used it on the ocean, in rivers, and on lakes.

If you let us know when you are going and where you might just be able to meet up with some people on this board. That in itself is a great experience.

Best Wishes to you,


Thank you
I’m really touched by your showing of support.

I’m not sure which way I’m going to go yet. I really want to get on a river and paddle down and feel the rhythm of life on the in-between of water and earth.

I may very well take a trip to San Diego to see how that kayaking with the whales goes. I have family in California who want me to come back. If anyone has a direct way for me to research that, I’d be very appreciative. Save me a little time, and help me schedule everything that’s going on a little better.

I have a visit planned to the local kayaking store on Monday to help figure out where to go.

There’s a lot of hurt involved in what we’ve been through, but I did promise my love that I would take care of myself, and getting into a boat (do you call them boats?) and floating with the pulse of the river really will be keeping one of the most important promises I made to her: To take care of myself.

Warm water in January

– Last Updated: Dec-19-04 1:10 AM EST –

Only a few places in the U.S. where you can get that. Hawaii jumps to mind. The water will be warm, the weather summer-like, and the setting so very, very different from CO that it will be a welcome change in mid-winter. But you can't drive there.

HI is where I decided to buy a kayak, after paddling a SOT for an hour or two in crystal clear water. We saw turtles and reef sharks.

You can also enjoy warm, clear water in Florida: the Crystal River and the Homosassa River, where you are likely to see manatees. Rentals can be had at reasonable cost from Dragonfly in Dunellon.

Southern California would be much closer to CO than FL. While the water is not exactly warm in winter, it's not frigid, and the weather generally sunny and mild. Aqua Adventures in Mission Bay has lots of good rental kayaks and offers lessons and daytrips. The only catch is that staying in a motel there is $$$.

It's hard to say, without knowing you, whether a full-on suite of lessons or a looser paddling experience is what would help you heal best. (Structure and distraction, or introspection?)

As for Big Bend, I have visited there 13 times (seems to be a place I need to go at turning points in my life, as well as just being a great winter escape), none of them for paddling. Daytime temps in January run in the 60s. Judging from the ads for rafting float trips, some sections are fairly flat. There is at least one outfitter in Study Butte. Contact the Park Service (or visit their website) and ask them to send you the park visitor newsletter, which lists outfitters, campgrounds, motels, etc.

If you do decide to go to Big Bend, e-mail me and I will send you a long message copied from one I sent to a friend asking for info. I have at least one extra park visitor map I could send you, too. Since I also live in CO, I can suggest auto routes and other things to see on your way down.

Good luck and post back here as you make your way into the world of kayaking.

Big Bend gets very crowded during Christmas week.

a bit of advice from a stranger

– Last Updated: Dec-20-04 9:36 AM EST –

Very sorry to hear about your loved one.
You may by way of accident find a way to deal with your loss while paddling. You may find solace in the people you meet and through the experiences you have while pursuing paddling; but I don't think you can replace a person with a hobby. There is no way to fill that void with paddling. I have met a lot of people through paddling, some of whom have been dealt a blow like yours, and ultimately they dropped out of paddling. Mainly because they came to understand what I said above.

That said.
What interests you about getting on the water? If you live in colorado is it white water? Or is it touring, or both?

Good start
You are off to a good start in every way you mention.

As far as a warm place to go, I defer to the other fellows. I paddled with my wife and daughter in the Fla Keys one February. I will never forget my daughter’s fear as we paddled into a mangrove forest, nor her delight as we chased a small sand shark around a lagoon.

For me, paddling is paddling. I too love ‘the river’, whichever river it may be. However, everything I learn about paddling on flatwater is directly useful on the river. Of course, there’s much more to learn when there’s current. Perhaps an nice intro to paddling on some flatwater like the Fla Keys and applying it to moving water in your own area in the Spring. In the meanwhile find a local club and get involved. The outfitter can help you with that. Folks in the club will lend you boats and help you get started. River people are like that. You’ll find conservatives, liberals, born-again Christians, pagans, the reformed, and the not-so-reformed, and they’ll all share a love for the river. They’ll all look you square in the eye, share your pain, and share their passion. That’s river folk. You can’t beat them. Paddle their boats. See what you like. Get that. You’ll pass it on when it’s your turn.

  • Big D

Sorry to Hear Of Your Loss
My Dad passed away last month, and I am spending my first Christamas without parents. I quess that is a natural part of life. Lossing a mate at such a young age is not…

I am in Northern California. It gets a little too cold for beginners here, but southern Califonria is not so bad… I hear good things about Aqua Aeventures… They can hook you up with whaterver you need. Personally, I turn to the ocean for perspective in times of loss…

Howdy Dane
Well I think you got some good advice so far, though as far as Big Bend goes you may want to get take a guided trip, there can be some serious white water and it is very remote, no place for a beginner to try. Check out the local outfitters and see what they have to offer, canoes are another option as well. Maybe a local paddling club is a good way to seek some info about the local paddling scene?

I am sad to hear of your loss. Cancer is a terrible afflication on mankind. I work at M.D. Anderson in Houston and know all too well of the destruction this disease causes. I think you are on the right track, keep strong and seek happiness. Peace.

How About A Pool Class
That’s heartbreaking. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I think you’re doing the right thing.

With that said, if there is a place nearby that offers winter pool classes, I can vouch for it being very safe, lots of fun, and maybe it will fill that empty place with some new paddling friends. I’ve found paddlers to be really nice people.

A good journey ahead…Lou

Start on the net
Florida has been suggested and is a good winter option because we enjoy warm weather here. Check the website of Adventure Times in West Palm Beach and Jackson’s in the Tampa area as well as the one already mentioned in Key Largo.

You might also see what is available in Southern California and Baja, which also have nice weather now and would be easier for you to reach from Colorado.

I suggest that you start with a skills class and then go on an outing or two with the company that you pick. Your first outings might be half or whole days, then a weekend, and finally a week or ten days with an organized tour. Don’t buy anything until you figure out what you like and what works best for you.

Next summer repeat the process in Colorado with a river outfitter. Then decide what to buy. If you want to do it all, you are going to need at least 2 totally different types of kayaks.

Finally, remember to relax and have fun. My heart goes out to you. I hope you recover successfully from the ordeal that you and she went through together.