10 Essential Pieces of Gear for Paddle-Sports Beginners

Feeling ready to dip a paddle into some cool waters this summer?  Take your pick from kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding….but whichever mode you pick, be smart and be safe.  Here are ten pieces of gear that will make your trek out onto the water safer and more fun.

Besides the basic equipment (paddles, the board or boat), these are things you should most definitely consider.

Sure, you may be a great swimmer (or think that you are) – but you never know what can happen on the water.  Stand-up paddleboarders always opt for “buoyancy aids,” which are less bulky than a lifejacket, allowing for more movement around the arms and neck.  In the canoe or kayak, make sure you’re wearing something that can keep you afloat in case of an unexpected upset into the drink.  Here are some options.

OK, so they may not look sexy, but anything to do with a “paddle” involves the risk of injury (that paddle could be yours, it could belong to someone else).  And if your vehicle overturns, that alone can provide a really solid whack to the noggin. Experienced paddlesports fans don’t play around – a helmet is just smart.  You can either buy or rent them.

This genius invention keeps things like your phone, a change of clothes and other essentials dry, just in case you capsize.  Watertight, they feature a roll-top and clip.  This particular model has gotten great reviews.

No matter your paddlesport, some basic safety items should go in your “dry bag” – just in case the day gets away from you.  A waterproof LED light is handy, along with a map and compass.  Waterscapes can be disorienting, so be able to get your bearings.

Experienced stand-up paddleboarders often choose clothing with an SPF, or they at least wear a seriously-hefty dose of powerful sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.  Canoers and kayakers should do something similar, because the sun reflecting off the water can do major damage in a very short space of time.  And don’t forget the sunglasses!

All of a sudden, the sun has gone down and you’re a little disoriented.  Don’t panic; you’ve packed some smart items in your drybag to help find your way back home (see above) – or help someone else lead you in (and that happens a lot).  A whistle, flares with waterproof matches and a mirror to send “signals”  to the shore may prove invaluable.

Canoes and kayaks are boats – and experienced boaters know that weather is always and forever critical.  If you’ll be out for a bit, a battery-powered weather radio will alert you to any unexpected developments so that you can adapt and get to shore, if needed.

The water is no place to discover that you’ve sprung a leak.  Ensure that you’re ready, by including tools like “Aquaseal,” or at least duct tape and a utility knife, in your dry bag.

Sure, you’re out on the water – but it’s not the kind you can drink.  Paddlesports burn a lot of calories, and work up quite a thirst, so ensure that you have some energy bars and plenty of drinkable H20 handy.  These are not optional, no matter how short a time you think you’ll be out.

Whichever paddlesport you opt for, common sense and safety are your most important tools.  On that note, it’s a smart idea to leave an “itinerary” with both a friend – and under your car seat – just in case.  

These key tips and equipment are sure to make your first forays into paddlesports refreshing, fun – and above all, safe.  So dip in and enjoy!

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