Kayaking Adventures: Getting Started… in Winter?

Logan is a mountain boy. He loves the challenge of scaling a steep trail to the inevitable payoff of a spectacular panoramic view at the top. We knew when we agreed to leave Colorado that trading the mountains for flat land would present more than just a change of scenery. In Colorado Springs the mountains were literally at our doorstep. By leaving the endless miles of readily accessible hiking trails, we lost our most prevalent physical activity. And while there are parks and walking trails galore in the Twin Cities and beyond, Logan does not consider ‘walking’ and ‘hiking’ to be the same thing, and thus began the search for a new hobby.

I am a water girl. Having spent summers in northern Minnesota since I was a baby, fishing, boating, and swimming were all regular activities. As an adult, sitting on a boat soaking in the sunshine with a Margarita in hand is still one of my favorite ways to pass time. The smell, the sound, and even the fascinating and terrifying mystery of what lies beneath the water’s surface is all wonderful to me.

The joy of Minnesota in general is that you are never really very far from a body of water. So, the idea of combining a healthy, outdoor physical activity with the area’s most abundant and beautiful natural resource gave rise to the intriguing idea of kayaking. Conveniently, about a mile from our new home is a lovely chain of lakes connected by a picturesque canal that offers miles of paddling amidst stunning views of parks and wildlife. And that is only one of many options in our immediate vicinity. The entire state is literally dotted with thousands of lakes and rivers to explore. The prospect of taking photos from a water-level perspective, rather than from the shoreline, was very exciting for me. A kayak would allow me silent access to marshy areas to photograph wildlife and birds that would normally be frightened away by a motorized boat. Logan wanted more frequent fishing opportunities and the idea of fishing from a kayak intrigued him. The downside to choosing this particular hobby is that it would require a considerable initial investment; however, after that, we figured it should provide years of free entertainment.

So, as the leaves are currently falling and the temperature plummets into the deep freeze of impending winter, Logan and I wanted to share how our kayaking journey actually started in the most unlikely of times. How did we survive the polar vortex of last winter? We bought boats.

Kayaks

From the start, my kayaking goals were pretty simple: get exercise, take photographs, and potentially bring along a dog. I had neither the delusion nor the desire of white-water or ocean adventuring. I wanted a sit-on-top style kayak as opposed to a traditional sit-inside for several reasons: easy re-entry if capsized, virtually impossible to sink, very little water bail-out needed, extra room for a dog and/or photography gear, and of course, sunshine on my pale, pasty legs. After much research, the Perception Tribe 9.5 got great reviews, was in my desired price range, and was available in the pretty colors that I deem essential. Does it have a cup holder, you may ask? Oh yes.

Logan struggled a bit more with his choice between a sit-inside or a sit-on-top. He was hoping for a more versatile option that would let him paddle through faster moving waters as well as one that offered additional storage and accessory options for fishing. He researched many models but wound up debating between the Pescador 10 and the Pescador 12.5 Pro (more bells and whistles). Ultimately, the Pro went on sale at our local sporting goods store and Logan was able to get the fancier boat for the price of the basic model. Score! It was only after we purchased the boats that we discovered that boats over 10 feet long (even non-motorized ones) must be registered and licensed in the state of Minnesota. While that was unfortunate for Logan’s 12.5 foot monster, thankfully the registration fee was minimal and lasts for three years.

These ‘yaks need names…

Gear

When purchasing gear, we erred on the side of being over prepared rather than under prepared, so we definitely bought more accessories than we ‘needed.’ However, we have since decided that those extra luxuries made the whole experience even more enjoyable, so we don’t feel too guilty. We purchased our gear slowly over the winter so that we could be fully equipped as soon as the lakes thawed. This allowed us to take full advantage of the season as well as spread out the financial burden, rather than taking one giant hit.

  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s) – Don’t get cocky here. You may be a strong swimmer, but if you capsize in freezing water and your boat knocks you in the back of the head, it doesn’t matter how strong of a swimmer you are.
  • Paddle Leashes – Protect your investment (more on this later).
  • Scupper Plugs – Their necessity is still being debated and may warrant a future blog post.
  • Dry Bags – To protect your car keys, cell phone, and more from the water.
  • Wetsuit Bottoms – When Logan first suggested these as a “need” I thought it was a ridiculous and extravagant expense; however, after kayaking in freezing water, they proved to be a luxurious comfort. Plus, they do great things for your booty! So, Logan, I officially and publicly take it back!
  • Rash Guards – Basically a long sleeve swimming t-shirt to prevent sunburn and chafing. Again, definitely not a necessity, but nice to have.
  • Water Booties – Something you can wear from the car, straight into the water and boat with good gripping soles.
  • Car Kayak Rack – Necessary but unfortunately very expensive (especially considering neither of us had factory installed rails on our cars).
  • Paddles – Your body + paddle = engine of your kayak. Our research said that a lighter paddle will mean less arm fatigue and therefore more time on the water. So if you capsize, you don’t want that expensive piece of equipment floating away, hence the necessity of the paddle leash mentioned above. We splurged on quality carbon and fiberglass paddles weighing less than 2 pounds each.

Once fully equipped, we waited patiently for spring…

Britt

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