Just for Kids
Getting Started
Learning the Art of Kayaking
Making the Big Decision
Places to Go, People to Meet
Boat Care & Feeding
About the Kayaks
Just Curious

What are the differences between whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking and open top kayaking?

Whitewater kayaks are used for swift water such as rivers. Whitewater kayaks are short and designed to turn quickly, so you can maneuver quickly. Touring kayaks (aka sea kayaks, open water kayaks) are much longer than whitewater kayaks. They are designed for large bodies of open water such as bays or ocean paddling. They are effective in paddling through waves and move straight forward efficiently, but do not turn as easily as whitewater kayaks. Open-Top kayaks have no cockpit to sit inside. Some open top kayaks are used for surfing ocean waves. Other open-top kayaks are used as a platform for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving or sunning. Just think of them as big toys!

Is it hard to learn to kayak?

Kayaking can be as challenging or as easy as you choose it to be, depending on your choice of water sites. You can learn the basics for decked kayaking in protected waters in just a few hours. It's usually best to take a class with a qualified instructor, to get started quickly and safely. With a few basic paddle strokes and some safety skills, you'll be on your way!

How can I try kayaking to see whether I like it?

Many paddling shops will sponsor
demo days on protected water in warm weather. This is a chance to test drive a wide variety of kayaks to see how you like it. Paddling clubs may have open houses or events to introduce people to kayaking. You can rent kayaks at many paddling shops and outfitters. Remember, never kayak alone. Taking an introductory lesson can also be a great opportunity to try kayaking and meet kayakers who are just starting out.

Aren't you afraid of getting stuck in the kayak?

Many people are afraid of this...until they try kayaking! If you paddle a decked boat and wear a
sprayskirt, you learn quickly that you'll fall out of the kayak when you pull the loop on your spray skirt. In fact, learning to stay in the kayak is an acquired skill! As you feel more and more comfortable in the kayak, you outfit your kayak with foam for a snug fit which makes it easier to roll -- righting the kayak from the upside-down position.

Do you have to know how to eskimo roll the kayak to go kayaking?

Eskimo rolling is a great safety skill. For challenging conditions, such as whitewater or kayaking in large ocean swells, it is important to learn to roll. However, you can enjoy kayaking in less challenging conditions before your roll is perfected. You will normally be introduced to the roll when you take a basic kayaking class. Most people require additional rolling practice or lessons to learn this skill. Rolling is based more on balance and coordination than on strength. With patience and practice, rolling is not difficult to learn.

How much does a kayak cost?

Perception manufactures rotomolded polyethylene kayaks, which are very durable and cost substantially less than composite kayaks. Suggested retail prices for Perception polyethylene kayaks range from $399 for the
Keowee up to $1200 or so for a touring kayak such as the Chinook Northwest.

Besides a kayak, what else will I need to get started?

For whitewater kayaking, you will also need a
paddle, a helmet, a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), a spray skirt (for decked kayaks) and flotation bags. For touring or sea kayaking, you'll need a paddle, a PFD, a spray skirt and flotation bags. Sport and recreational kayakers (Keowee-type kayaks and open tops) will need paddles, PFDs and flotation too. (Spray skirts are optional for sport kayaks.)

How do you choose a paddle?

If there was a definite answer, we'd give it to you. But the fact is, choosing a paddle is largely a matter of personal preference. Our best advice? Try a number of different paddles and stick with the one that feels best.

Here are some general rules of thumb that may help your decision. Keep in mind, a paddle is an extremely important piece of gear that can make or break the pleasure of a full day on the water. So take the time to decide what works best for you...

When choosing a whitewater paddle:

  • Shorter paddles work best for beginning boaters, squirt boaters, rodeo playboating, and shallow creeking.
  • Longer paddles work best for advanced boaters or when you need more power on big water.
  • If you're paddling a Torrent (which is wider than decked whitewater kayaks), you'll need a longer paddle (210+ cm).
When choosing a touring paddle:
  • Paddle size is highly dependent on boat size. Wider boats often work best with longer paddles.
  • Open top kayaks are often easier to paddle with a longer paddle.
  • If you paddle fast (i.e., a high stroke rate), a shorter paddle may be more efficient.

How do you find a kayaking instructor?

Your local Perception/Aquaterra dealer is the best source of information on qualified instructors in your area. You may also contact the American Canoe Association for information, or the American Red Cross. When selecting an instructor, be sure to ask about class size and the student:instructor ratio. Ask where the class will be taught, in what water conditions. Look for an instructor that is experienced, and one that carries liability insurance. (Liability insurance companies generally review the instructor's credentials prior to issuing insurance, so this is one indicator of competency.) Instructors are generally certified as either whitewater or sea kayaking instructors by the American Canoe Association. Talk to the instructor to be sure that you feel comfortable with the individual, and that you will be able to progress at a pace with which you feel comfortable. Ask the instructor for names of past students as references. A good instructor will help you feel comfortable and make learning to kayak FUN!

What skills will I learn in my kayaking lessons?

First you learn how to get in and out of the boat. You practice on land, then in a pool, lake or protected water. One of the first things you will learn is how to wet exit or get out of a capsized kayak. This is generally taught early in the lesson because once you try it, you'll see how easy it is. As a result, you'll feel more comfortable and confident as you learn basic paddle strokes, paddling safety and water reading techniques.

Do you have to be able to swim to kayak?

No, but it helps. Mostly it's helpful because people who know how to swim are more comfortable in and on the water. Even if you can swim, you should always wear your
Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while kayaking.

How old should you be to learn to kayak?

According to Peter Kennedy, Director of Adventure Quest/Team Adventure in Vermont,
Kids from nine to twelve years are at the ideal age to gain the best results. Young people in this age group have generally grown enough to fit smaller kayaks well and have developed the attention span, physical attributes, and fine motor skills necessary to see rapid progress in their skills development. Kids at this age are also mature enough to deal with the solo aspects of the sport, though kayakers should never paddle alone. Take Mom and/or Dad along, so you can teach them what you've learned. I hope this helps in your quest to paddle.
What kinds of kayaks do you make for kids?

For whitewater, try the
Dancer XS, the new Fox, and the Pirouette Super Sport. Touring kayaking kids should check out the Umiak. For sport paddling, the Keowee is a good choice. Kids also need PFDs specifically sized for kids, and a paddle with a smaller diameter shaft, sized to fit smaller hands. These are all available at Perception/Aquaterra dealers.

Where can I go kayaking?

The best place to find
guide books on local kayaking areas is at your local outdoor store, including your Perception dealer.

How can I find a kayaking club?

Ask your local paddling or outdoor shop for information about clubs in the area. If your area has a sports newspaper or weekend activities section in the newspaper, check the listings for events and clubs near you.

What should you take with you when you go kayaking?

Always take your PFD, spray skirt and paddle with you. For whitewater or surfing, take your helmet, too. Your kayak should be equipped with flotation (but that generally is stored in the boat). Take a spare paddle, sunscreen, water bottle, snacks and first aid kit. For sea kayaking you should also take your signal kit and bilge pump. Dress appropriately, in synthetics or wool -- cotton is not recommended for watersports. Take along a
paddling jacket -- it's always a little colder than you expect! Pack your kayaking gear in dry bags, Pelican Box or heavy zip lock bags. Clip it to your whitewater boat, or put it in the hatch of your sea kayak. Be sure to preserve our natural areas by using minimum impact skills when you're kayaking (and always pack out your garbage).

How do you get the kayak on top of your car rack? Can I load it by myself?

There are many different methods for carrying and loading kayaks. One way to carry your kayak is by placing the upper cockpit edge on your shoulder. Another method is to lift it canoe style, holding it by the thigh braces. To load the boat onto your car by yourself, stand behind the car and rest the bow of the kayak on your rear car rack bar or roof. Move to the back/stern of the kayak (hold onto it!), then lift the stern and slide the entire kayak forward onto the rack. This same method can work from the side of your car. Rest one end of the kayak on your car, then lift the other end. If you are concerned about scratching your car or kayak, place a towel on the roof or rack for protection. (Minor scratches do not harm the kayak.) Tie your boat securely to the roof rack. Run bow and stern lines directly to your car, with only minimal tension. (These lines are just insurance, in case the lines holding your boat to the rack loosen.) Too much tension on the bow and stern lines can distort the shape of your boat.

How should you store a kayak?

The best way to store your boat is on end, upside down or on its side. Don't hang it by the grab loops, and don't store it in direct sunlight. The color can fade and the plastic can lose its suppleness because of prolonged exposure to sunlight. Use a cockpit cover to keep dust and critters out. Perception has a
Yak Rack made of webbing which is designed to make storing your kayak easy!

Where can I find a Perception retailer?

See our dealer page or call 1-800-KAYAK96, Ext. 118.

What is the weight capaciy of a touring kayak?

Many factors influence the amount of gear and the weight your sea kayak can hold. These include: weight distribution, weather factors, paddler weight and size, and skill level. That's why it is difficult to give a specific answer in number of pounds, because there are so many combinations of factors possible. (It's a bit like asking how much weight a backpack can hold.) The performance of your kayak, and your comfort in paddling it, will also be affected by the amount of weight and the way the kayak is packed.

As a generalization, sea kayaks which are trimmed, outfitted and packed properly can hold a combined paddler and gear weight of 200-250 lbs. Again, please keep in mind that this is a generalization. You should always practice packing your sea kayak and paddling a packed kayak prior to any trip. It is also very advisable to practice your self-rescue and rolling techniques with a loaded kayak prior to an expedition.

When packing a sea kayak, try to distribute the weight evenly and keep the weight low within the storage hatches. It is wise to strap down the load to prevent shifting in difficult waters, which may upset the balance. Again, practice, practice, practice!

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