River Kayaking and Equipment
Backcountry lakes and slow-flowing rivers
River kayaks are made for paddling down slow-moving rivers rather than white water or ocean paddling and are specially designed with these conditions in mind. Kayak design has improved significantly in the last few decades and when choosing a kayak it’s important to think about the types of uses you will need it for. If you’re planning to just mess about on the river now and again your needs will be very different from a paddler planning a long distance river trip.
River kayaks generally have a good balance between speed, manoeuvrability and stability. Longer, narrower kayaks track better and are generally faster than shorter wider kayaks but are they are difficult to manoeuvre. River kayaks attempt to get the best of both worlds and are usually between 10 to 13 feet long - longer and narrower than white water kayaks, but shorter and more manoeuvrable than sea kayaks.
However, it’s also important to consider your size, weight and abilities when choosing a kayak. If you’re a beginner with little confidence a sit on top kayak might be the best bet as it will get you over the fear of being trapped in the kayak should you capsize. You can then build up your confidence and your stroke techniques before moving onto a more sophisticated design.
Sit in kayaks offer better design and more storage space and are really the only option if you’re serious about river kayaking and planning a long river trip. Kayaks with a larger cockpit are easier or enter and exit but finding a kayak that feels comfortable when paddling is a greater concern. Optional seat pads and a back rest can be helpful on long journeys.
How do I get started?
The best way to start kayaking is to take lessons, you’ll learn proper techniques and efficient strokes and you’ll get a solid grounding in river safety. Kayak clubs are also a good place to try out a variety of boats making the choice easier when it comes to buying your own. Expect to pay between $450 and $1000 for a recreational river kayak.