Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting in and out of a sea kayak is not sexy . . .

While testing the Current Designs Suka sea kayak, I asked the camera guy to take some interesting shots of edging the kayak, the forward stroke, and me doing the Cowboy Scramble.

But he also captured the less sexy kayak moments, like getting in and out of the kayak. And it made me think, "You know what? This isn't cute, but it's a very important topic and a big reality we face every time we paddle, and many times during a paddle."
We have to be able to get in and out of our kayaks quickly and easily, especially if we are upside-down. If you own a fibreglass kayak, you have to master this and have a strategy for getting out of the kayak in the water before you hit the shore and the rocks. I wouldn't want to try a surf landing, but you never know when you might not have much choice.

Before testing a sea kayak I look at all the parts. When I paddle the boat, I think of paddling scenarios. Which kayak would I like to be in when . . .
  • the water is rough, moving, or smooth like glass
  • the wind is strong
  • someone else needs help
  • I get dumped over unexpectedly
  • I want to take a rolling lesson
  • I want to balance brace
  • I want to play in waves or current
  • I have to launch from a difficult shoreline, etc.
So here it is, a narrow, sleek, 21 inch wide, 16'6'' long, 46 lbs, low volume sea kayak with a small, nicely fitting keyhole cockpit (for me anyway), and a twitchy hard chine making me look and feel clumsy while the wind and waves push me around as I get in. 
People thought I needed help. Or, more likely, they just wanted to save the kayak from the rocks.

Kayaking can be a humbling experience. Like riding a horse, the horse can make you look good one day and you feel you can do no wrong. Everything is in sync. The next day, the same rider and horse can look like they've never met before and don't belong.

Getting in and out of the kayak quickly and easily is job number one.

You should be able to do this the first time you test a kayak or don't buy the kayak. If you already have a kayak that doesn't let you do this, get rid of it. I'm just thinking out loud here. If getting in and out of a kayak is a fitness issue, kayaking is a great motivator for getting in shape and working on flexibility. It's not like riding a bike. I'll complain about kayaks with difficult to adjust foot braces later.

When I test a kayak, I think about some of the things I'll do with it, and the conditions I'll have to deal with, or want to play in.

Sometimes we launch and land at places that are very kayak friendly.
Sometimes not.
But, once we get in,
Testing the Current Designs Suka
or get on,
we forget about all that other stuff!

I still own a Maelstrom Vital 166 and Boreal Baffin, some of the best sea kayaks that I love. But it's still fun to shop for another fleet member. Two's company, three's a crowd? Nope! Not when it comes to sea kayaks. More is better.

Happy boat trials!
The BaffinPaddler

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Cherpit.
Thanks to Ottawa Paddle Shack for letting me test the sleek and fast Current Designs Suka, and the staff for helping me get in and out of the kayak!

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