Kayaking offers fun, exercise and peace

Trysta Eakin

Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 a.m.

As the weather cools and winter sets in, most South Texans are beginning to take advantage of the outdoors again.

This year, add kayaking to your list of activities.

Kayaking offers fun, exercise and a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

"The peace of being on the water is the best thing about it," said Rodney Neubauer, president of the Coastal Bend Paddlers Club. "The stress of the day is gone once you get out there."

If you don't own a kayak or don't know how to kayak, these helpful tips might get you going in the right direction.

Getting started

The first step is trying out different kayaks to find the right one for you.

"I bought my first one off the Internet," Neubauer said. "I had to find another one because it just wasn't right."

Many places that specialize in selling kayaks are trained to help customers buy one that fits their height and weight, while assessing their needs as a paddler.

Oftentimes, Neubauer said, they will let you try out a few to see what you're comfortable with.

Here are a few types to consider:

Sit-on-top kayak - used mostly for recreational paddling and fishing, this one is great for beginners. It's easier to get in and out of it, doesn't capsize easily and has self-bailing drain holes.

Touring kayak - made to travel long distances for either a day trip or multi-day trip. Also called sea kayaks, they're ideal for rougher waters and waves.

Inflatable kayak - With more buoyancy than a regular kayak, these are also easier to carry, store and transport.

To learn more about the different kinds of kayaks available and the way their designed, go to the website for REI, an outdoors gear brand, www.rei.com.

Aside from choosing your boat, several other items should be considered such as a float line, float bags and GPS. Other outdoors retail stores can suggest more accessories or necessities.

Safety first

Safety begins with learning the proper way to lift and carry a kayak. Dragging a kayak will scratch and damage the hull.

If you don't have a Kayak Cart to move your vessel about, Smart-Start-Kayaking.com recommends you:

Set the kayak on its side with the cockpit against your body.

Bend your knees into a crouching position and grab inside the cockpit rim.

Move your shoulder under your hand that's holding the rim and straighten, while lifting with your legs, to a standing position.

Other safety precautions should include taking a basic kayak course (Coastal Bend Paddlers offers these), wearing a life jacket throughout the entire trip, carrying a first aid kit and anticipating various emergency situations.

"(The Coastal Bend Paddlers) always stress safety," said Neubauer, who is also an employee of the Texas Department of Transportation. "We encourage the Buddy system, too - to always have someone with you or at least let someone know where you're going and how long you plan to be out."

Paddling techniques

Kayaking is a form of exercise, and like with any other work out, if done improperly, you could injure yourself.

Smart-Start-Kayaking had these tips to get you paddling:

Lean back. Not only will resting your back against the seat bring more comfort, it will also keep the boat stable.

Control your grip. Take the paddle in both hands, over-handed with thumbs down, and line up your knuckles with the upward blade edge.

Pull and push. With each stroke, pull with your downward stroke, while the upward arm pushes the paddle shaft away from you, using your torso muscles more than your arm muscles.

Paddling is a harmony you learn to perfect over time.

Turning the kayak. Paddling on the side opposite of the direction you want to go will help you turn your boat.

Deciding where to go

The Golden Crescent region is not lacking in places to tote your kayak and take an adventure.

Neubauer, a four-year veteran of the sport, said he, his wife and the Paddlers like to go out on the Guadalupe River, places in Scenic and Thomaston, and his favorite is in the bay at Port Aransas.

"I love the surf and playing in the waves," he said.

For a complete list of Texas' paddling trails, visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us, click on the Land & Water tab, and then click on the Paddling Trails link.



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