You have been on the water a few times, gotten some instruction and now ready to take the plunge into the sport of whitewater kayaking. So, what’s next? One of the most common asked questions from a newbie kayaker is how do I find a boat? I see a lot of Fresh off instruction kayakers in boats that aren’t going to optimize what they have learned, and that will possibly make it harder to progress in the sport. Here are some points to remember when looking for that first plastic piece of goodness.
1. Buying new is like giving a 16-year-old a brand new car.
You’re going to dent up your boat, have it swim through gnarly holes and bash it up against rocks. I’m not saying this won’t happen to experienced kayakers, but as a new boater it tends to happen much more often. You also don’t know what type of car you prefer driving at 16; so, in the same regards, a new boater may not know the best boat for them. Buy something used because the reality is, in a year or so into the sport, you will need another boat and that’s when you may want that shiny new one.
2. This isn’t the antique road show, so don’t buy super old
There are many classic boats out there that the seasoned paddler loves taking for a spin to get that different feel of the water. Classics styles that are fun for those throwback days on the water with your friends. For a beginner though, this can impede learning as some of the older boats are super unstable and narrow for a beginner. Buy a boat made within the last 7 years is a good way to go.
3. Don’t buy something just because it looks pretty
Sure the outside may look great, but what about the outfitting. Make sure that everything on the boat is functional from the back band to the bulkhead. These components are what is going to give you your control of the boat, so, you want to make sure they are in good working order too.
4. Buy for your current ability not what you want it to be
There are many different forms of whitewater kayaks; creek boats, river runners, play boats etc. stay away from learning on the playboats or the full-on creek boats. Playboats will not enable learning and much of the time you will be battling the boat. A creek boat on beginner whitewater is like a tank. You don’t learn how to feel the water and it’s response to input as well. Find a nice solid river runner that is a good in between.
5. Craigslist is not the place to buy a kayak
We all peruse the Craigslist and Facebook marketplace from time to time. They are excellent resources for your general items, however most experienced kayakers wouldn’t even think about selling on these sites. Why? Because there are Facebook pages and sites made specifically for kayaking and outdoors gear to sell. You will have much more of a selection to choose from and the likelihood of the seller knowing what he is talking about is far greater. Find a local Facebook page, such as in North Carolina we have WNC gear swap. There are sites out there too such as boatertalk.com and moubtainbuzz that have a buying and selling page.
6. When in doubt ask
The whitewater kayaking community is overall a very helpful one. We take new boaters under our wings and help guide them. Pick someone with a lot of experience that you trust and ask if a particular boat is right for you. I can’t stress enough how taking instruction in the beginning and talking to an instructor about gear selection could help substantially!
SEE YOU ON THE RIVER!