Enjoyment of the exciting and challenging sport of whitewater kayaking does not require you to be a minor god with superhuman strength. We mere mortals can learn to paddle safely, skillfully, with confidence and control. Control is the operative word here. It takes good paddling technique, good river-reading skills, good equipment and good judgment to accomplish control in a rapid. Those are the basic essentials of kayaking.
Whitewater recreational kayaks are as unlike touring kayaks as downhill skis are from cross-country skis. In theory, you will be able to ski downhill on cross-country equipment, and you can navigate a rapid ina touring kayak. In practice, the type and model of kayak you choose can make a huge difference in how easily you learn and how well you paddle. So can the length of the paddle. Likewise, the fit of your lifejacket can be a help or a hindrance to your safety on the river.
Some of the more common problems entry-level kayakers face come from using inappropriate equipment. Whether you buy new equipment or used kayaks, seek advice from a knowledgeable whitewater outfitter. If budget constraints keep you from getting a perfectly ideal outfit, you will at least be better able to make informed decisions on which gear compromises you're willing to accept.
Whitewater playboats are intended for one purpose — playing in rapids. They're made to be highly maneuverable, but the characteristics that make them easy to spin into and out of eddies often reduce their ability to track (go straight) on the flat stretches of the river. Whitewater playboats give you plenty of incentive to acquire a clean, efficient forward stroke: You can learn to make a boat go
To make choosing a kayak more puzzling, different models of Whitewater playboats are designed not only with general performance characteristics in mind but also for paddlers of different sizes. The 110-pound woman who tries to paddle her 200- pound friend's Whitewater kayak is often foiled by the boat's unresponsiveness. It's not the boat or the paddler at fault. It's just a wrong fit. Get a Whitewater playboat that's the perfect size for you. Ask specific questions about the optimal paddler weight for the models of boats you're considering. Then sample the boat on. You "wear" a kayak, so check the fit.
Finally, choose a kayak made of tough, durable materials. Not too many years ago, most Whitewater kayaks were made of fiberglass-and-resin composites. These days, plastic is more prevalent. While plastic playboats are not necessarily indestructible, plastic requires less maintenance and generally withstands the abuse paddlers give their boats in rapids.
© 2012 Athena Goodlight
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