With spring upon us, maybe you're ready to get out on the water and kayak in a way you never have before. If you're used to single day outings, maybe you're in the mood to up your game with a multi-day trip. If you're used to paddling lakes and flat water, maybe you're ready to hop on the river and tackle a small current. Stepping it up from normal can feel a little scary, but just think how rewarding it will feel after accomplishing what you set your bearing to. Here are some broad guidelines to think about when attempting to challenge yourself on the water.
Have you thought deeply about where you're at in terms ofkayaking skill level? Different resources will givevarying check lists about which skills mean you are a novice, intermediate or expert. As the governing authority in the U.S. on all things paddling, theAmerican Canoe Association is a great resource for obtaining a technical skills assessment to determine what level of paddler you are. In addition, they can help paddlers improve and teach paddlers new skills through their many classes, clinics and coaching throughout the U.S.
If you're looking for a more casual skills talk, team up with a couple of more experienced paddle buddies and ask them what they think. Paddle with them a couple times and then ask them what skill level they feel you're at. Once you understand where your skills are at, you can better pick a kayak adventure that sets you up for success, yet challenges you to learn more.
Whatever adventure you’d like to embark on, map it out in detail. Start with ordering a topographic map or guide book. If these aren’t available and the area is uncharted, read section one again, know your wheelhouse and perhaps reconsider.
Another variable to dial in is conditions and whether they will be favorable for your excursion.Check the weather report with a trusted source everyday up until the launch. Is it windy, cold or hot? What layers or considerations should you make for the weather conditions?
If you're looking to explore a river, checkAmerican Whitewater’s endless listing of trip reports for rivers and links to gages for cubic feet per second measurements which reveal river flow rates.
Be sure you know the distance you will be paddling and have supplies for the duration of the trip, and ,worst case scenario, supplies to last if you were stranded for a day or two. Check your map for a bail plan. If things do sour, is there a nearby road you can reach to stop traffic for help? A trail you could walk out on? Most paddlers become more brave the more secure their bailout plan is. If there’s no bail out plan available, tread lightly.
For a kayaking pack/checklist, see REI’s suggestions
Adventure Paddlers has a helpful list on how to prepare yourself for a bigger kayaking adventure.
If your adventure feels like a reach, be sure some of the buddies you are bringing along are better paddlers than you. Ask the most expert friends you know to come along. Post the trip on a community forum and be clear about the skill level of invitees.
A shake-down is when a knowledgeable friend talks through your whole trip with you. Tell them about the trip from start to finish. What you're packing, how long you’ll be gone, what the conditions are meant to be like, etc. Ask them for feedback. Listen and be willing to modify. You will learn a ton from having a more experienced paddler shake-down your trip. Over time, ask light-weight backpackers and other crossover outdoor sports enthusiasts to shake-down your trip plans. Perspectives of high performing athletes in other arenas can lend to great tips and tricks for packing, planning and execution. While you're at it, leave specific notes with one of these individuals on your whereabouts so they can rally the troops if anything happens.
After your trip, sit down and make notes about what went well and what could have gone better. Perhaps there is training you wish you had. Perhaps an injury occurred which enlightened you as to an additional item to keep in your first aid kit. Think about what you learned from the trip and what you might do differently next time. Implement these notes on your next expedition.
Pro tip: If you're looking to step-up your skills with a course, class or clinic, use our "Find A Dealer" tool to find a paddle shop near you. Often the shops selling Eddyline products also offer kayak instruction.
Tag Eddyline in your trip reports and photos! @eddylinekayaks