fitness · kayak

Return to kayaking: paddling and learning things

As many of you readers know, I bought myself a new-to-me kayak in honor of my 60th birthday in April. It’s a used (but in beautiful condition) Epic GPS Ultra– 12 ‘ 11″ (3.3 meters), weighing 27 lbs (12 1/4 kg)!

In case you missed it: me, sitting on top of my kayak (on dry land).

This weekend marked my debut outing with my very first boat. Seasoned kayaker and good friend Janet met me at the boat ramp on the Concord River. But first I had to load the boat on top of the car by myself. ACK!

I had taken pictures of all the places the boat was tied down when Janet and I had previously loaded it on my car. We used foam blocks and straps tying the blocks to the car and the boat to the blocks. Also there was a bow line, connected under the hood of my car. This was the setup I was to reproduce.

tl:dr version: it wasn’t pretty, but it happened. I managed (with three phone calls to Janet) to load the boat and get it to the launch intact. I had loaded it backwards (stern to the front), which made Janet smile. Thing #1 learned- always load the kayak with the bow facing front. It’s apparently a kayaker superstition, which I’m happy to respect.

Unloading the boat was easy, as was getting it to the launch– did I mention it only weighs 27 lbs? Then comes a hard-for-me part: getting in (and then out of) the boat. I have always had a hard time getting in and out of kayaks without a lot of help (even with help, honestly). It totally stresses me out. I’ve tipped over so many times, it’s no longer surprises anyone who paddles with me. For you kayakers out there, I’m the queen of the shallow-water wet exit and solo rescue…

Yes, there are loads of techniques for getting in and out of kayaks, and I’ve had 1) a lot of instruction; 2) a lot of experience kayaking off and on over more than a decade; and 3) a lot of help and tips from friends. And still it feels scary and embarrassing.

Which leads me to thing #2 learned: getting in and out of my boat is something I can practice, both on grass and in the water. After all, I have my own boat now– why not play around with ways to deal with this so that I can avoid throwing a conniption fit every time I go paddling?

I did some googling (as one does), and discovered I’m not the only person who has trouble getting in and out of a kayak. One site suggests that, if the water is warm enough, just tip over and roll out of the boat (which in fact I did– twice– during our paddling outing). It worked fine, other than getting me wet. But, as Janet reminded me, kayaking is a water sport… Still, it would be nice to have drier options.

Once we got on the water though, the fun began.

We paddled easily down the river, chatting and looking at the many birds. We even saw a happy yellow lab fetching sticks in the water. I was getting used to steering this boat, which has no rudder or skeg, and also is flat on the bottom (as opposed to angled in a v-shape). Also I was getting used to paddling again after a hiatus of at least 3 years (wow). Which gets me to thing #3 re-learned: I love being on the water in a kayak! I hadn’t actually forgotten, but I had been away from it for a long time. It’s so great to be back! I’ve already made plans to kayak with some friends next weekend, and will keep it up this summer.

But of course there’s still the issue of loading the boat on my car and unloading it. Twice. All by myself. Enter thing #4 learned: there are some super-cool gadgety kayak carriers out there for every price point and preference. Janet recommended, and I ordered an inflatable roof rack that will carry my boat easily, and has built-in D rings for tying my boat to the rack and tying the rack to my car. It was delivered just as I had loaded the boat onto my car using foam blocks (a fine low-cost way, but this is much better). I took the package with me, and Janet and I tried it out for my boat’s trip back home.

Inflatable roof rack secured to inside of car, with boat tied to rack. Handy and dandy.

It is easy-peasy to use, inexpensive and simple to store. Perfect.

As we were able to depart, Janet told me that she keeps a notebook to log her paddling trips, noting location, distance, conditions, etc. But she also writes about things she’s learned or needs to learn based on that trip. She suggested I do the same. I like this idea. So, for the last thing, #5, I close with: note my experiences and what I learned from them, and what I can change or add or subtract for next time. This will prepare me for future trips and help me enjoy paddling even more. I’m down with that.

Readers, what have you had to remind yourselves about or relearn when coming back to a sport you were away from? Has it been fun? How have you dealt with the stresses and changes? I’d love to hear from you.

3 thoughts on “Return to kayaking: paddling and learning things

  1. I love this post! Nice boat! The superstitions article is amusing.

    I used an inflatable rack with my kayak for a decade, the only issue is it will scuff your car’s paint (especially if sand is involved) but I’ve never had a car where I cared. I liked being able to put two boats on it and drove thousands of miles like that.

    Google for hood anchor or hood loops for a cleaner method to tie your bow line than going under the hood.

    Yes, practice getting in and out. My first kayak, now my “spare” is only 22” wide with a round bottom and many friends have tipped it over getting in and out. I rowed on a crew team in college and after being in a rowing shell with 8 others a kayak just doesn’t feel very tippy to me, but it’s all relative.

    As for loading boats onto the car, I have slings on the ceiling of my garage that suspend and store the boats and then I can just lower them onto the car. It’s perfect.


  2. Thanks for the post and tips! I do have hood loops for bow and stern lines, but I didn’t know about the sand issue with the inflatable rack. I’ll try putting a towel or something down and keep an eye on it… My boat is 25″ wide (with round bottom too). Not very tippy, but it’s going to take practice to reduce non-wet entrances and exits… Will be reporting back. And cool on the slings– great system!

  3. Look like a great place to kayak and absolutely incredible snips Catherine!

    This reminds me of an incredible kayaking journey on ‘River Mahaweli’ I took on the beautiful island nation of Sri Lanka. We kayaked in the day and camped in the river bank in the night and it was undoubtedly a little piece of heaven on earth.

    I didn’t forget to log it under my travel memoirs in here >>

Comments are closed.