Equipment

What will you need to start paddling?

Essentials

In the summer, it is possible to paddle in shorts, t-shirt and a cap to protect you from sunburn. Light thin layers of synthetic clothing are best as they keep you warm, dry quickly and can be added or removed depending on the weather; jeans and cotton clothing is not suitable. For warm weather paddling consider:

  • Buoyancy aid
  • Quick dry shorts
  • Quick dry tee shirt
  • Trainers/beach shoes
  • Light weight top (e.g.shell top or fleece etc)
  • Light weight wind & splash proof top

In cold weather, it may sound obvious but the key is staying warm. Its important to have an insulating layer – which can come from several thin layers rather than one single thick layer. More dead air is trapped in and between thin layers than in one thick layer. A wetsuit can form part of this insulation, and so can synthetic thermals and fleeces.
Simply increase or decrease the layers until you feel comfortable. For cold weather paddling consider:

  • Buoyancy aid
  • Tee shirt (long or short sleeve)
  • Tracksuit bottoms (not cotton)
  • Trainers/beach shoes/wetsuit bootees
  • Thermal vest
  • Light fleece
  • Thermal top or warm fleece
  • Light water-proof bottoms
  • Wetsuit or dry-suit & thermal leggins or paddle bottoms
  • Paddle-top

 If you are looking to be more adventurous & want to have a go at White Water then the following will be needed:

  • Helmet (Choose one which can be adjusted to fit your head so that it doesn’t slip back or forward, covers your forehead and has a strong chin strap. It should be made of a durable material and float. Helmets should be CE approved - CE1385.
  • Spray-deck (The spray deck is an elasticated ‘skirt’ that prevents water from entering the kayak through the cockpit area. In rough water it is an essential item and in cold weather it helps keep you warm. The quick release strap must be accessible, in case of a capsize. Spray decks can be made of tough fabric (cheap but not 100% waterproof) or neoprene (expensive but more watertight. Also harder to release)).

So you're dressed to paddle, whatever the weather, and you ready whatever type of water you'll be paddling on. Other items to consider if you are not paddling through your local club.

  • Kayak Paddle (see below for more details)
  • Canoe Paddle (see below for more details)
  • Boats (see below for more details)
  • Transportation for your boat (see below for more details)

 

Paddles

  • Kayak

Kayak paddles generally have their blades offset. This means you have to swivel the shaft in your hand on each stroke cycle. This is done by gripping with one hand and ‘slipping’ with the other. Whichever hand you choose to grip with will determine the ‘handedness’ of the paddle. Right-handed people usually prefer right-handed paddles and vice versa (although many left-handed people paddle with right-handed paddles).

For a beginner, a general-purpose cheap and durable paddle might have a plastic or alloy shaft paddle with molded plastic blades. If you become more specialized you may prefer a lighter-weight paddle. Different disciplines have different shaped blades and use different length shafts.

Paddle lengths vary. A short paddle can accelerate your boat quickly (useful for freestyle and river running). A long paddle will be slow to accelerate but will make  long distance paddling more comfortable (a good idea for sea-kayakers and marathon paddlers). Paddles for use purely on white water might be 190-200 cm while those used for flat water racing or touring might be 210-225 cm.

Kayakers use a double ended paddle i.e. a blade at both ends. There are loads of different materials that paddles can be made from, and they'll suit all budgets, ranging from plastic to carbon fibre. It is important to ensure the paddle is the correct size for you. The type of paddle you use depends on the type of paddling you will be doing (a river / surf paddle is shorter and a touring paddle is longer), and the age and size of the user.

Junior kayak paddle 170 cm – 190cm
Adult kayak paddle 185cm – 220cm
Polyethylene paddle from £15
Aliminuim paddle from £18
Wooden paddle from £40
Fibreglass paddle from £120
Carbon Fibre paddle from £140

  • Canoe

Canoeists use a single ended paddle i.e. a blade at one end and a handle at the other end. There are loads of different materials that paddles can be made from, and they'll suit all budgets, ranging from plastic to carbon fibre. It is important to ensure the paddle is the correct size for you. The type of paddle you use depends on the type of paddling you will be doing (a river / surf paddle is shorter and a touring paddle is longer), and the age and size of the user.

    Junior canoe paddle 90cm – 120cm from £30
    Adult canoe paddle 130cm – 150cm   from £40
    Polyethylene from £15
    Aliminuim paddle from £18
    Wooden paddle from £40
    Fibreglass paddle from £120
    Carbon fibre paddle from £140

 

Boats

All canoes and kayaks should contain built-in flotation material. This must be sufficient to float the fully swamped boat at the surface in a horizontal position.The flotation usually takes the form of solid, plastic foam - it must be held securely in place or it will be lost or displaced by the boat’s natural flexing.
Kayaks should be fitted with an adjustable footrest system and a grab handle or toggle at both ends of the boat.

  • Short Playboats

Good for whitewater playboating, park and play, freestyle competitions and playing the river.
Between 1.5 - 2.5 metres in length
Flat hulled for planing and easy spins
Hard edges for wave speed and carving
Slicey ends for easy vertical moves
Central volume for stability and balancing on end
Very slow in a straight line
Not built for: comfort or going long distances

  • Fast – Turning Kayak

Good for: whitewater; slalom racing; surfing; shore sea trips; general use for all kinds of paddling.
Between 3 and 4 metres in length
Designed for rough water
A curved keel-line
Relatively slow in a straight line
Not built for: racing in a straight line

  • Straight – Running Kayak

Good for: flat water touring; beginners; sheltered lake and coastal trips; wild water racing; marathon racing.
Holds a straight course easily
Long non-curved keel-line
Between 4 and 5.5 metres in length
Not built for: playing in rough water or steep rivers

  • Open Canoe

Good for: family canoeing; canal and river touring; beginners with special needs; (disabled, blind, very young); carrying more than one person; wilderness canoeing; carrying camping equipment.
Single bladed paddles are used
Reasonably manoeuvrable
‘Open’ meaning no decks
Between 4.5 and 5.2 metres in length
Not built for: paddling on the sea

Transportation

  • Roof Rack
  • Canoe Trailer

 

  • Roof Racks

Most canoes can be carried quite easily on a car roof rack or in larger quantities on a canoe trailer. Some modern playboats even fit inside the car!

Spend time, and maybe a little extra money in buying a decent roof rack. A roof rack needs to be strong to carry canoes and kayaks safely. Those comprising of two separate bars are the best. Place the bars as far apart as possible and make certain that the securing clamps are tight. Tie boats on using strong rope across each bar or, better still, self locking straps, available from retailers. Tie the ends of the canoe or long kayaks to the car as well.

'Uprights' and 'J-Bars' are also available additions to a roof rack to allow the boats to be placed upright on the rack or within a cradle.

 

  • Trailers

If you need to transport a large number of canoes, or you don't want to use a roof rack, then you may need to consider a trailer designed specially for the purpose. These can be purhased for a single canoe right up to multiple canoes.

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