Sunday, September 02, 2007

First time Kayaking

I like doing something new all the time. Have been playing tennis for about 2 years now. Picked up pool and squash, play racket ball, started taking swimming lessons last fall(still can't swim, is irrelevant), do a bit of skateboarding to get from the bus stop to home, office and college. Kinda of pleased with myself for it!

Latest addition to the above list is Kayaking. Thanks to my tennis buddy for getting me out there.

I loved it instantly. It was only in the Tempe Town Lake - So no real wildlife or the wilderness - but its a neat place to get started. I am big on techinque - I need to know I am doing things as prescribed as the way to go by all the people out there. So, I did research a bit on it before venturing out there. If nothing, its always good to get yourself familiar with the terminology. You tend to think more about the things you do, when you are reading about them and not actually doing them. We are far too involved when actually doing it to reason while at it - anything that gets it done then, goes.

So, to summarize:

Types of Kayaks
There are two of them:
Sit-on-tops - These are real easy. And this is what I have been in. Obviously enough, there is no getting into a cockpit like area. Its between a board and a boat - theres a depression on top and you sit into it. Getting in and out of these is quite easy and there is not too much of a worry of it toppling; no special water exit technique needs to be learned.

Sit-ins - I haven't seen one of these in person. But these seem more of a challenge to ride in. You would need to slide your feet into the kayak and your upper body would peep out of the cockpit. Seems like these could topple rather easily, and hence you need to know your ways with making a water exit.

Life Jacket:You would usually be required to wear a life jacket. It might be a good idea to wear one thats quite bright so that in an unfortunate event you can be easily spotted. Blue/Green would make you hard to spot. Something like a bright orange is the way to go.

Shirt: A comfortable shirt/tee should do. I like dry fits.

Shorts: Your shorts are bound to get very wet. As you paddle, one end of the paddle rises directly above you in the kayak and water will drip onto you and collect inside the kayak also. So your shorts will get wet all around. Getting board shorts is a good idea. These tend to be long and dry quickly. Long in that they usually cover up to your knees. If its very sunny, that might be good.

Footwear: Slippers should be ok. Typicaly bare-foot is good enough. But you would need them to get from your car to the kayak and typically you wont find a place to stove your footwear, so carrying light, water resisting slippers is good.

Watch - If you would be renting kayaks, its a lot easier to check with your watch, than with your cell phone tucked inside a ziplock

Things to carry/do
Weather - Check the local weather for winds/rain etc
Always good to carry on a sunny day: Sunglasses
Sunscreen (might be best to apply before you get to the kayak. Travel as light as you possibly can.
A water bottle/energy drink would be greatly refreshing
Zip lock bags - for your cell phone/wallet etc. Shorts will get drenched. These will help keep your stuff dry.
Towel/Change of clothing for after you are done. If you don't want to get your car seats al wet, carrying a towel like thingy for the seats is a good alternative to a change of clothes.
Camera with ziplocks
A bag - for the water bottle/camera and other stuff you need to carry on the kayak. Small is sweet. Not much space there.

How to sit: I found gettin in and out from the deck onto the kayak kidda awkward. Once you are on it, find a relaxing position to be in - Keep your back straight. the knees need to be bent slightly. You dont want them too bent - if you do you'll keep knocking against them as you paddle. Typically, stretch you feet all the way. And see which (rung like thingy) it comes against. Bend your knees so that your feet are now one rung nearer than before.

How to paddle:
I loved the tutorial where Lloyd reeves tells you how to paddle and not go swimming.
  1. Start at your feet and paddle until the paddle has come in line with your hips. No more. Take it out and paddle on the opposite side.
  2. Your upper hand should never cross an imaginary vertical line right in front of you. This keeps your weight balanced on the kayak
  3. Make sure as the paddle enters the water and goes through it, the surface is perpendicular to the surface of water. If is its an angle, depending on the angle, you either likely to just brush the surface or at the opposite angle, knife under it(I guess for sit-ins).
  4. Use you torso, shoulders and let your hand transfer the power. Be sure to relax your muscles every time you get a chance. You should really need to exert force only when the paddle has completely gone into the water and while it is still in it. Between dips, relax all the muscles.
  5. To check if you are holding the paddle right, hold it horizontally slightly over you head. You elbows should make acute angles with the shaft.
How to turn: Steering is very simple. Paddle either harder or just on the side opposite to the direction in which you intend to turn. If you want to turn right, keep paddling on the left(for complete turns) and paddle harder on the left than on the right, for smaller corrections to the directions. If you already have some forward momentum going, there is a cooler way to turn, just immerse the paddle IN the direction in which you want to turn, NOT the opposite. I would think that the angle of the paddle with the surface will determine how sharp your turn will be.

Lloyd Reeves - Kayaking Basic for Beginners