Your gear is an important part of your kayaking experience. It provides critical protection and helps keep you comfortable in a harsh environment. Your safety gear could save your life, so don't cut corners. Here is a quick run through of the basic gear that is required to take the Whitewater 101 class. Some of the listed items are optional, but if your paddling is going to move forward we urge you to consider adding this gear to your collection. It will increase your comfort and your safety on the water. If you have any questions or need specific recommendations, drop us a line and one of our instructors will be happy to help.
As a novice boater, getting the right boat can make a real impact on your comfort and success on the water. Whitewater kayaks are divided into primarily 3 different styles: river runners, creek boats and play boats. There are a lot of things you need to think about when getting a boat. Picking out the right boat can be a difficult and daunting decision, but it doesn’t have to be. Understanding the basics can help guide you down the path to getting the right boat for you. Let's start off by talking about the anatomy of kayak.
A personal flotation device—also known as a PFD, life jacket or life vest—gives you more buoyancy to help stay afloat. The two most important things to consider when selecting a PFD are safety and comfort. PFDs provide two types of protection: flotation and padding from impacts. When selecting your PFD consider the amount of flotation and design.
Type III: Flotation Aids. These are suitable for most paddlers where there is a chance for a quick rescue. They offer freedom of movement and the most comfort for continuous wear. Type IIIs are designed so wearers can put themselves in a face-up position, but they may have to tilt their head back to avoid being face down in water.
Helmets are a key piece of your safety gear. This is not the place to cut corners. While some helmets (i.e. bike helmets) are designed to absorb a single traumatic impact, kayaking helmets are designed to take repeated impacts. Because of this, using other types of helmets is not a good idea. One key features you want in your helmet is a ratcheting rear strap. This prevents the helmet from being pushed back and exposing your forehead to rocks.
We have included a a couple videos on helmet selection and fitting.
Selecting a paddle is one of the most important gear decisions you will make. The paddle creates your interface with the water. It moves you through the water, controls your boat and provides balance and stability.
Paddles are composed of two parts, the shaft and the blades. The shaft comes in two varieties; straight and bent shaft. Straight shaft paddles are the traditional configuration. They are often lighter and less expensive. They can result in increase fatigue and discomfort if proper form is not used. Bent shaft paddles have a more ergonomic design. They are more expensive, but they reduce pain and wrist fatigue from paddling. Blades come in a variety of shapes and size. These differences affect your power, speed, and control on the water.
When choosing a paddle, there are several factors that you should consider: paddle length, shaft diameter, blade shape, size, and material.
Spray skirts have one function, keeping water out of your boat. Whitewater spray skirts are made neoprene. Spray skirts are composed of four parts; the tunnel, the deck, the rand and the grab loop. The tunnel is the part that goes around your torso. The deck is the portion that that stretches over the kayak cockpit to keep the water out. The rand is the edge of the spray skirt. The rand goes over the comb, or cockpit lip, and holds the skirt in place. There are two types of rands, bungee and rubber. Bungee style rands are easier to get on, but rubber rands form a stronger seal. The final piece of a spray skirt is the grab loop. The grab loop is used to remove the spray skirt in the event of a wet exit. When buying a sprayskirt you will need two measurements, tunnel size and the cockpit size. To locate your cockpit size, compare the manufacturer's specifications for your boat to those for the skirt you are considering purchasing.
Immersion Research has a great web site for finding the cockpit specification for your boat and recommending a skirt for size.