Kayaking for Newbies: Utah Edition

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So kayaking has caught your interest. Now what? We decided to visit the Sports Chalet in West Jordan, Utah, and ask some questions on this popular sport. Jamie Gill, the assistant manager and a former white water guide, provided us with his expert advice and some kayaking 101 tips on what a newbie needs to know.

First things first; what kind of kayak does a newbie need?

There are a lot of basic kayaks from recreational to touring, which aren’t going to be too much for a newbie kayaker to handle, Gill says. These are not the type of kayaks you’re going to be taking out on the white rapids, though. These kayaks are intended for what’s called a flat float, or still water. Recreational kayaks are not going to be able to take the same beating as a white water kayak option would. To get started, Gill recommends first deciding what kind of kayaking you’ll be doing. Are you going to be out leisurely enjoying the lake with family or friends, or do you have the need for speed and want the rush of rapids.

Paddle On

The next thing on your list is finding the right paddle. The touring and recreation type kayaks come with three different sized paddles. The options are a 2/20, a 2/30 and a 2/40. The 2/20 is good for shorter kayaks and smaller people, while the 2/30 and 2/40 tend to be better for taller people, and people possibly doing some long distance kayaking.

Appropriate Kayaking Apparel

Gill says, start with sunscreen! Make sure you take all the sun protection you can. Polarized sunglasses work really well, because they prevent the glare from the water and you’ll probably want a hat. Getting wet is part of the plan, so you’ll also want a long sleeve quick dry shirt. Gill recommends something synthetic, and even says going with a piece that has a UPF in it is a great idea. A good pair of quick dry swim trunks is a must and you’ll definitely want a great water sandal. You won’t want to use a heavy wetsuit. The function of a wetsuit is to use the water that’s trapped inside to keep you warm and since you aren’t fully immersed in the water, “you’ll bake before you’ll freeze,” Gill says. You want to keep your apparel lightweight.

Kayak with Kids

When purchasing a kayak for a child, Gill recommends buying the 6 ft. kayak built for children ages 10-12. Children any younger should not be using their own kayak. Kids wanting to ride along can easily do so with an adult in a two-person kayak. Since the single seat and double seat recreational and touring kayaks are the same size, you won’t be paddling that much harder with a child on board.

Picking a PFD

Aside from the kayak and the paddle, a personal flotation device is a kayaking essential. Using the term life jacket is no longer the norm, because a life jacket doesn’t necessarily save your life; it’s meant to assist you in what you’re doing to stay afloat. A good rule to follow is: as soon as the water is ankle deep, get a pfd on. You never know what’s going on under the surface of the water, whether it’s rocks or entrapments. There are specific pfd’s for kayakers that are wider in the shoulders so as not to constrict you while you’re trying to paddle. They’re also not as bulky as some of the other water sport options.

Getting Your Kayak From Here to There

Roof racks that are kayak and canoe specific are the way to go! If you don’t want to get into an advanced roof rack system, there are more economical foam kayak rack systems. They allow the kayak to nest inside and you simply tighten with a few straps. There are a number of different options, from a full roof rack system to something simpler, depending on your specific needs.

Great Starter Locations for Newbies in the Salt Lake Area

Newbie kayakers have some great lakes to choose from. The Jordan River is a nice flat float and there are some really good sections on it for beginners. As far as lake kayaking goes, Gill advises going to Little Dell Reservoir up East Canyon. They don’t allow motorized boats, so somebody that might be a little anxious about motorized boats coming around while they’re trying to learn, wouldn’t need to worry about that.

Timing Your Kayaking Adventure

What’s the best time of time to go kayaking? “Boy, anytime of day,” Gill says with a smile. He says early morning and early evening are good. But, if you don’t mind the heat, mid-afternoon is good as well. If you are planning on going after dark, it’s a good idea to get to know the boating laws in the area.

The Peaceful Way to Exercise

One thing’s for sure, you’re going to get a workout. “I used to be a pretty skinny kid when I was out guiding,” Gill reminisced. It’s a great arm workout and can be great cardio depending on the distance you’re going. You also do a lot of side-to-side movement, which is great for tightening your core. What better way to workout, then out on a peaceful lake rowing!

Plan ahead with our kayaking 101 checklist below.

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  1. If you are thing about taking up kayaking this article points out some very important points. You need to have the right kayak to start with one that fits you and is comfortable. Also keep in mind the length longer is better, width is important the wider the kayak harder to paddle but very stable, if you are going to paddle for mileage you want a narrower one. The paddle is the second important thing weight of the paddle lighter is better and the right length.

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