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Summer Kayaking Dos and Don'ts

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/7/2006 | Travel

If you are thinking of having a fling with water this summer, if you are dreaming of going kayaking, you never had a better idea! But before you hit the water, there are some things you need to know.

The sun is going to shine hot and bright, so do not at any cost forget your suntan lotion. Remember to apply a generous dose both before and during the float trip. You may choose to wear big white T-shirts with long sleeves to avoid exposure. Also remember to bring a peaked cap or hat, and sunglasses to protect your forehead and your eyes. It is easier to negotiate muddy banks with zip- up neoprene booties, and polypropylene underclothes will dry faster.

The pace of your trip will depend on the weather, the fitness of members on the trip, the number of paddlers, and your experience.

The kayak needs to be packed with due attention to balance so that the bow doesn't dive and you don't have to constantly adjust your paddling.

You need to safeguard against sores or blisters on your hands during kayaking. Such stuff can make the trip very uncomfortable for you. Needless to say, hands get tough when you have practice. In absence of that, try to keep your hands dry. Wet hands experience friction more due to the softening of the skin, and chaffing happens more easily. Secondly, remember that the paddle need not be gripped too hard. You can be easy on your hands by using special paddling gloves, or, in absence of that, your bicycling gloves, driving gloves or even disposable surgical gloves. Keep band Aids handy. Zinc Oxide can also help with lubrication and healing.

Safety comes first. Life jackets and vests should be carried for all the people on board, irrespective of whether they can swim or not. Keep a sharp eye on your kids. The ride may get them overexcited and they may try something dangerous. Of course this applies for every inexperienced person on the trip. Try to hire the services of a lifeguard if you are doing this for the first time ever, or if you feel that you are an absolute novice anyway as far as such sports go.

You can carry both a Hydrographic map (which shows the water depth but not land features), as well as Topographic maps (which show land features and contours but not water depth). Inland kayakers find the latter more useful because they tend to stay close to the shore.

If you are intending to Eskimo roll, or are in the ocean, spray skirts are necessary. Combination nylon/neoprene spray skirts have proved more comfortable in warm weather.

If your trip is to last a couple of days, you need to pack food intelligently. For instance, frozen food can be wrapped in plastic, then in multiple layers of newspaper, then finally with an ice pack in a cooler bag at the base of the boat, in contact with the water. Animals like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, birds, bugs, and mice can be attracted by the smell of your food, so use airtight containers which might reduce the smell of the food you are carrying. Do not carry stuff like fresh chicken/fish, and open mayonnaise.

If you are out for a few days, follow precautionary measures to make your drinking water safe from bacteria such as those inducing giardia. Boil drinking water, use a filter, or treat it with iodine or chlorine following the instructions carefully. Remember to drink plenty of water while kayaking to avoid dehydration out there in the sun.

Members of the boat need to keep a lookout for traffic on the water, such as other speedboats and sailboats. Ensure your own visibility to prevent threat to life.

Remember the basics. Respect nature. Do not trash the watersides or the water body itself with your garbage. Remember to leave it clean and beautiful for the next tripper.