Learning to whitewater kayak can be frustrating. The gear feels awkward, the boat like a bathtub, and the motion not so normal. As a female, in particular, this can truly be exacerbated, as we are smaller, are generally less able to muscle through motions. We rely more on technique, and must search for women-specific gear to that fits, allowing us to succeed. By making a few key choices at the start of your paddling career, you'll be sure to up the FUN factor of paddling, and save some money in the long run!
1. Boat Choice: Start off with a boat that is a good all-arounder - a river-runner! This is the 4x4 category for kayaking and will do it all for you, while providing greater stability and comfort. Not to mention, it offers more room for growth in terms of paddling ability.
2. Buy a drysuit! While this might seem excessive, it will keep you dry, warm and happy even on the coldest of days! Costly, yes, but likely one of your best investments! To maximize your purchase, consider a drysuit that doubles as a dry top. The top of Kokatat's Idol drysuit can be used as a stand-alone dry top, making for a 2 in 1 product! You can even customize your colors!
3. Wear plenty of layers! As a female, we have a tendency to get cold faster than men. Wear more layers than you think you'll need (socks too!), and don't be afraid to bring some with you in a dry bag. Generally speaking, I wear a thick fleece uni-suit all year round. If it's especially cold (think snowing), I'll toss a thin wool layer underneath. Always be sure to wear a sturdy, protective shoe.
4. Small diameter paddle shafts! Small hands rejoice! Paddles now come with small shafts, ideal for females (Thanks AT)! If you feel as though your paddle control is lacking, or yourself unable to truly grip your paddle, consider a small shaft. Most of these paddles come with smaller blades as well, reducing the overall wear and tear on your joints.
5. Hot beverages! Toss some hot chocolate or tea in a thermos and keep it with you in your kayak. Whether it's a chilly day, or time for a sip, what better way to warm up than with a delicious beverage!
photo by Wet Planet Whitewater