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Sea Kayaking

Lessons Catalog The Basics


Sea kayaking is another gear intensive sport. A check list and separate gear bag is a good way to keep it all organized. Except for clothing and life jackets, kayaking equipment is unisex.


There are a lot of boats on the market. When shopping for a boat you'll quickly become familiar with the basic boat design terminology. The length of a kayak effects its speed and maneuverability. The longer it is the faster it goes. The more volume a boat has the more buoyant it is. The boat's rocker refers to the upward curve of the bottom of a boat. Less rocker provides better tracking or enhances the boat's ability to move in a straight line. More rocker will help the boat to ride over waves. A wide boat adds stability.

Beginner boats are great to have around. They're fun for the kids and friends to play around on. But they don't perform well. If you're looking to do some long distant trips, say 10 miles, you won't want to be in a beginner boat. Beginner kayaks are about 12 to 14 feet long and around 25 to 27 inches wide.

If your committed to the sport, it is usually recommend that you start with an intermediate, plastic (polyethylene) boat. The boat should have a solid design for the water conditions you'll be paddling in. A plastic boat is much more forgiving than a fiberglass or composite boat. You'll be able to drag it on to a beach or cause much less damage if you drop it. If you plan to do some over night camping trips, look for a boat with waterproof bulkheads.

The best way to try lots of boats is at demo days provided by kayak shops and manufacturers. Dates are usually published in Canoe & Kayaking Magazine and other kayaking publications. Also, most shops will allow you to try boats for a fee. They're usually willing to apply the fee to a purchase. You can also rent sea kayaks. This is a great way to get a feel for the boat, since you'll be paddling it all day.

P.O. Box 3412-C
Boise, ID 83703 USA
Tel. 1-208-344-7506
Web site:
Manufacturer of inflatable kayaks.

Dagger Canoe Co., Inc.
P.O. Box 1500
Harriman, TN 37748 USA
Tel. 1-423-882-0404
Web site:
Dagger Logo

4-1244 Cartwright Street
Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6H 3R8
Tel. 1-604-681-8437
Web site:
Manufacturer of folding kayak and kayak accessories.
Featherlight Logo

Necky Kayaks
1100 Riverside Drive
Abbotsford, BC Canada V2S 4N2
Tel. 1-604-850-1206

Ocean Kayak
2460 Salashan Loop
P.O. Box 5003
Ferndale, WA 98248-5003 USA
Tel. 1-360-366-4003
Web site:
Manufacturer of sit-on-top kayaks.
Ocean Kayak Logo

Old Town Canoe Co.
58 Middle Street
Old Town, Maine 04468 USA
Tel. 1-207-827-5514
Web site:
Old Town Canoe Logo

111 Kayaker Way
Easley, SC 29641 USA
Tel. 1-800-595-2925
Web site:
Perception Logo

We-no-nah Canoe Inc.
P.O. Box 247
Winona, MN 55987 USA
Tel. 1-507-454-5430
Web site:
We-no-nah manufactures Current Designs and Pacific Water Sports kayaks.
Wenonah Logo

Wilderness Systems
PO Box 4339
Trinity, NC 27263 USA
Tel. 1-336-434-7470
Web site:
Wilderness Systems Logo


Being too hot or too cold will drain your energy. The right combination of clothing will make all the difference, but can take time to find. Layering your clothing will allow you to shed layers if you begin to overheat. Some of the best technical fabrics are used for kayak clothing. Look for waterproof and breathable fabrics like Gore-tex.

5350 Ericson Way
Arcata, CA 95521 USA
Tel. 1-800-225-9749 or 1-707-822-7621
Web site:
Kokatat Logo

Tel. 1-800-663-7740 or 1-604-251-1756
Web site:
Navarro Logo

111 Kayaker Way
Easley, SC 29641 USA
Tel. 1-800-595-2925
Web site:
Perception Logo

Stohlquist Colorado Kayak
P.O. Box 3059
22495 US Highway 285, South
Buena Vista, CO 81211 USA
Tel. 1-800-535-3565
Web site:
Stohlquist Logo


For extreme cold weather and water a drysuit will be safer than a wetsuit. Drysuits also come in handy for whitewater kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. Try to get one the meets all your needs.

As the name suggests, a drysuit is a waterproof jumpsuit that will keep you dry if you go for a swim. The suit has rubber seals around the neck, wrists and ankles that prevent water from getting into your suit.

Life Jackets or PFDs

For kayaking a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is mandatory. The great thing about a kayaking PFD is that they're so comfortable, you'll wear them for other sports. They're perfect for dinghy sailing or working the foredeck on a sailing boat. The kayaking PFD is cut high and has large armholes so it won't hinder your mobility. They also have well positioned cinch straps to get a secure fit. Some of the better manufacturers are now making women's models, which offer an even better fit and more comfort.

Pockets are an important feature of any life jacket. For sea kayaking you'll need to attach some key safety items to your PFD. At the least you'll want to have a whistle and flares secured to your life jacket. Make sure you're able to attach these items to the jacket you choose.

  • Extrasport
  • Kokotat
  • Lotus
  • Perception


There are a lot of aspects to a paddle and by no means is it a simple purchase. You need to consider length, materials, weight, feathered or unfeathered, shaft, and blade shape.

Sea kayaking paddles are much different than whitewater paddles. For sea kayaking you'll need a longer, lighter and narrower paddle. Touring paddles range in lengths between 210 and 240 cm. The taller you are the longer the paddle you should use. The weight of the paddle is important, because you're paddling over a long period of time. A heavier paddle will take more effort to use. Additionally they found that narrower blades are more efficient and economical with your energy.

Paddles come either in one piece or two pieces, which you can take apart for easy storage and transportation. Your extra paddle should be a take apart paddle. That way you can store it on your back deck so it's accessible yet out of the way.

The other aspect of paddles is the degree in which the blades are feathers. A nonfeathered paddle is where both blades are in the same position. The blades on a feathered paddle are in usually 60 to 90 degrees rotated. Paddleing with a feathered paddle requires that you have a control hand and a slip hand. The control hand rotates the shaft so that both blades enter the water smoothly. Some people believe that this repetitive movement can cause tendinitis. Others feel it's a natural movement. It is strictly your personal preference. You can get a take apart paddle that allows you to set it in both the nonfeathered and feathered position. This way you can work out for yourself which style you prefer. Feathered paddles also come as right-handed or left-handed paddles.

You'll be surprised at the cost of paddles. They're expensive. But a good one is worth it. The price of paddles usually coincides with the materials it's made with. The high-end paddles are usually made with Graphite because it's light and incredibly strong. These paddles will cost between $200.00 and $300.00 but are as light as 2 lbs. Other materials include fiberglass, wood and aluminum. Aluminum paddles are the cheapest and heaviest. The low-end aluminum paddles start around $50.00.

For women with small hands, Perception makes a paddle with a smaller diameter shaft called the Zephyr.

Aqua-Bound Technologies Ltd.
1160 Yew Avenue
Blaine, WA 98230 USA
Tel. 1-604-882-2052
Web site:

Lightning Paddles
22800 S. Unger Road
Colton, OR 97017 USA
Tel. 1-503-824-2938
Web site:

Nimbus Paddles
233 Tyner Street, #6
Port Coquitlam, B.C. Canada V3X 2Z1
Tel. 1-604-941-8138

Sawyer Paddles and Oars
299 Rogue River Parkway
Talent, OR 97537 USA
Tel. 1-503-535-3606

True North Paddles
1100 Riverside Drive
Abbotsford, BC Canada V2S 4N2
Tel. 1-604-850-1206

Werner Paddles
Tel. 1-800-275-3311

Safety Gear

There is a while range of safety items available to a sea kayaker. You must carry at least the minimum; life jacket, whistle, flares, bilge pump, paddle leash, paddle float. Along with the flares you might want to secure a strobe light on your life jacket. A new device to locate people in the water is a long bright orange streamer. It extends about 40 feet and floats on the surface. Because it floats up over the swells it makes it much easier to see and therefore find you. Similar to the streamer is a dye marker to be used in the water. And a similar concept to using flares is a bright orange smoke signal. You can also equip your boat with an EPIRB, emergency locator beacon. This sends out an electronic call for help. Another good item to have is an extra paddle.

If you're going to be participating on extended trips, the more safety items the better. Keep in mind that your safety gear must be easily accessible. This means having all safety items secured to the deck. If you can't get to it, it won't help.


Finding the proper sprayskirt isn't always easy. It must properly fit you and the boat. The skirt is designed to keep water out of the boat, so it needs to provide a solid seal from water. It is also important that it releases quickly when the pull strap is grabbed. Remember the pull straps must be easy to grab and not be caught inside the skirt. Double check this before you launch and every time you resecure your skirt. For cold days you'll want a neoprene skirt and for warm days you'll want a nylon skirt.


A wetsuit will allow you to extend your kayaking into the winter months. Wearing a wetsuit is an essential safety item while paddling in cold water. It only takes a few minutes in cold water to become hypothermic. If you capsize, a wetsuit will help maintain your core body temperature longer enabling you time to get back into your boat and warm up.

A sleeveless farmer john style wetsuit is preferred. The full sleeve styles are too constricting around the arms making it uncomfortable to paddle.

Women's wetsuits are available, which are much more comfortable than squeezing into a man's shape. However few shops stock a wide variety of women's styles, and they're usually more expensive than men's. Several water sports require wetsuits so check out scuba, windsurfing, surfing, boating as well as kayaking shops.

Body Glove
Tel. 1-800-678-7873.
Web site:
Body Glove Logo

Burton, Vermont, USA.
Tel. 1-800-538-0764.
Web site:
O'Neill Logo

111 Kayaker Way
Easley, SC 29641 USA
Tel. 1-800-595-2925
Web site:
Perception Logo

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