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The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Kayaking for Dummies

Kayak in Crane CreekI am a complete newbie to kayaks. I've been going out in my Gheenoe on the St. Johns river for years and years, but it is an extremely steady little motorboat - not a tipsy little pool toy I have to paddle!

Counting the time I took the kayak trip at the zoo, I might have had a total of an hour in kayaks. Then I met The Alligator Princess, who traveled solo in her kayak for the entire length of the St. Johns river. (She filmed a documentary of her trip, and a preview is available on her website.)

Michelle and I went camping together and she told some great stories and made kayaking sound like a LOT of fun. I started looking for a used kayak to purchase. For over a year I asked everyone I knew, but no one who had a kayak was willing to sell. I did a lot of research online to determine the best boat for me, and finally when I couldn't stand it anymore I ran to a local shop screaming "Charge it!!!!!" and made my purchase!

If you are as new to kayaking as I am, let me share some very basic stuff to get you started.

What are the basic supplies I will need?

With a canoe or kayak you don't need tags, trailers and all that. Assuming you have a car able to haul your boat, your basic requirements are pretty simple:

  • a kayak or canoe
  • life vest
  • whistle (for signaling for help)
  • paddle
  • a white light

It's also good to have:

  • a paddle leash
  • dry sack to carry your stuff
  • rope (to tie up the boat)
  • shade hat
  • sunblock
  • water
  • first aid, snack, cell phone, mp3 player, camera, etc.

What kinds of kayaks are there?

1.) There are two basic kinds of kayaks - Sit-In and Sit-On-Top

The Sit-In kayak has a hole that you sit inside. If kayaking in rough water or bad weather you can put a skirt over the hole to keep it from filling up with water. If it rolls over it can be tricky to flip back and get into.

A Sit-On-Top kayak has a seat and foot pegs, and you sit on top of it. You are exposed to sun, wind and water, but the boat won't fill up and sink. Easier to put upright and get back into. (In theory - I haven't tried it yet!)

Single person sit-on-top kayak
Two person sit-in kayak
Single person sit on top kayak.
Two person sit in kayak

2.) Then you have Single or Tandem

Will you be riding alone or with a buddy? Singles will only hold one person, or one person and a child or dog. Tandem kayaks are built for two.

3.) Short, long, wide or narrow. Short and wide will give you stability and maneuverability in tight spots, long and narrow will give speed and distance.

Kayaks vary wildly from this point out. There are every kind of configuration of hatches, deck space, foot pegs, seats, paddles, pedals...it all depends on how you plan to use your boat. Click here for a Product Review of the boat I selected.

How do you transport and secure your kayak?

Kayak blocksIt helps if you have a roof rack already, because then you have something to strap your kayak to. If not, there are other options. You could purchase a roof rack or a surfboard rack, or you can just use foam blocks and tie downs.

Most people just strap their kayaks onto their roofs and go. So do I, but I also have a Lasso Security Cable. The week before I got my boat I met a man who had left his two kayaks strapped into the back of his pickup truck while he went into a bait store. In five minutes he came out and one of his boats was gone.

kayak on roofThis lasso has a steel cable running through it, a combination lock and/or a key lock. I feel better for having it!

I don't have a garage for storage so I use the Lasso to lock my kayak to a tree in the backyard when it isn't in use.

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