White Water Kayaking and Gear

Guide4Home answers a few FAQs

Kayking on the wilder waters

White water kayaks and their paddlers take on some of the roughest rapids on earth and in turn the kayaks need to be designed specifically for the job. Kayak design has changed immeasurably over the last few decades and the difficult to manoeuvre long, skinny kayaks of the seventies have been replaced with the stubby, flat-hulled designs of today.

As white water kayaks have developed and become more sophisticated they’ve become easier to manoeuvre, more stable and give the paddler greater control – making the sport easier, and more accessible than ever. Kayak design is a sophisticated process and kayaks are now designed for every type of white water paddling from river running to free styling, creeking and river play. This also makes choosing a white water kayak difficult for anyone new to the sport.

How do I get started in white water kayaking?

First of all take some lessons, good technique and paddle skills are essential when tackling any kind of white water. Paddling with a kayak school or club also gives you the confidence you’ll need and gives you the chance to try out several types of kayak making the choice easier when it comes to buying your own.

How do I choose a white water kayak?

The type of kayak you need depends on the type of white water you intend to tackle (big water or creeking; river running or free styling), your personal preferences and your budget. There’s no boat that does everything well so buy one designed for the type of paddling you intend to do. Speak to as many white water kayakers as possible and try as many boats as possible before making your choice.

River running kayaks are the longest white water kayaks and are intended for down river paddling rather than play paddling. Their hulls are narrower than other whitewater kayaks which makes them faster and they also track better – making them a good option for beginners.

Ones made for playboating generally have shorter, wider planning hulls with aggressive edges. They’re good if you’re learning play moves but still intend to do some down river paddling. Creek boats are shorter again but have more volume, more rocker (greater curvature giving greater manoeuvrability) and can turn quicker but are more tippy.

When choosing any type of kayak safety should be a major concern. White water kayaks take a lot of abuse so need to be as strong as possible but they also need to protect you. Look for a kayak with multiple rescue points and strong handles, if you’ve got to be pulled from a hole these can make the difference between life and death. Your kayak also needs to have a padded, bulkhead footrest, this cushions you in case of impact and helps prevent injury. The back rest should also be padded and the kayak should have security bars and bow and stern pillars which help the kayak withstand more torque.

What will white water kayaking gear cost me?

A new one will cost you between $850 and $1200. However, it’s very easy to pick up a used white water kayak from club members, kayak schools, or retail outlets.


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