Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring into Kayaking

Spring has sprung on the Mendocino Coast.  The Alders and Willows along the banks of the Noyo River are awash in brilliant hues of green and the song birds have started singing their songs of spring.
Doggie Paddle on the Noyo River
For those who don't paddle year-round, spring is often time to start thinking about getting out on the water.

For some this means paddling locally, planning a vacation(s) that involve kayaking, or taking a class.  Some even start to thinking about purchasing a kayak.

Here are a few tips for those looking to get on the water this spring or summer:

Check out your gear.  Some things to consider are - Your life jacket (pfd) - Are the buckles and zippers working?  Does it fit snugly and stay in place?  Your kayak(s) - make sure that your craft is sea worthy and suitable for where you plan to paddle.  Are there any holes or dings that need to be fixed?  Are the deck lines in good condition or fraying?  Is it comfortable?  Is your paddling attire in good condition and does it fit?  Are your roof racks on your vehicle secure?

Check out your skills.  Maybe it is time for a class to tune-up your skills.  A forward stroke class is extremely valuable as it is the stroke that we use the most and one that even the most skilled paddlers are always working on perfecting.  A class will help refine your skills to paddle new areas - rock gardens, surf zones, or whitewater.  Taking a BCU training or assessment is a good way to determine where your skills are and develop a plan for developing your skills.

Explore your local waterways.  Look around, we bet you can find a place to kayak less than an hour from home.  The days are getting longer and evening paddles are a great way to unwind from the day (and a great time of the day to see wildlife).  Getting in a regular paddling habit is easier when you find a spot that is easily accessible and close to home.  It is also good for the heart and soul and helps you build up seat time for when you want to do longer paddles.

Explore a new area.  If you are planning a vacation around kayaking and don't have much kayaking experience, contact a local outfitter.  They will help you assess your skills and interests and decide on the best paddling venue for your trip, best time of the day/conditions, and appropriate equipment.  Areas like the Mendocino Coast have estuaries that are best planned around tides and coastal areas that are best planned around ocean conditions and paddler skill levels. 
Paddling past the Pt Cabrillo Lighthouse
For those with experience and your own equipment, you might want to connect with a local paddling club.  Often the paddling club's website will have helpful information for planning your trip or even trips that you could join.  Check out the Bay Area Sea Kayaker's Planner is a very useful tool.  Sometimes paddling clubs host special events to share their local waters with others.  Our friends at Explore North Coast are hosting a sea kayak social weekend May 3-6.

Also remember that it is fun to explore an area on one's own, but one will often see more and get the best experience when going with a local guide who knows the area like the back of their hand.  Most of us aren't in the kayaking business to get rich but because we love sharing the waters, wildlife, and wonders of the outdoors with others.
On tour in Trinidad Bay with Hawk Martin of Humboats.
For those looking to purchase a kayak, be sure that you know what you want.  Knowing this involves identifying what your skill level is and where you are going to be paddling.  Two mistakes that people often make are buying a boat because the price is right (even though it is the wrong boat) or buying a boat that they don't have the skills to use.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.  Do you buy a car without taking it on a test drive?  You can research all the bells and whistles but until you paddle the boat you don't really know how it will handle with you paddling it.  We recommend that you determine what type of kayak is suitable (sea kayak, recreational kayak, whitewater kayak, surf kayak, fishing kayak) and then get out and test paddle as many different models within that classification.  Check with your local outfitter for demo days and demo programs.

Regardless of your paddling goals and plans our best paddling advice is

DO IT!!!  Be safe and have FUN!!!

We hope to see you on the water!!!
Ahhhhhh . . .

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