Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My First Kayak Paddle...

Alright, so the lady gave me permission to get us a couple of kayaks a few weeks ago. I figured it was a good time of year because everything seemed to be on sale. After looking around a bit I decided the best route for me to take was to get us some inflatable boats, due to storage convenience and ease of travel. We both own small cars with no roof racks, so hard shells would've been a bit more difficult for us.

After countless days and nights spent on the web researching...reading reviews...looking at different models...being appalled by prices...I settled on getting myself a Kwik Tek Airhead TK-1. I liked it because it looked a bit more sturdy than some of the other boats in it's price range and it seemed like it would support my weight pretty well (I weigh 240 or so). I found the reviews on paddling.net and most of them seemed pretty favorable, so I decided to give it a go. As I was looking to make the purchase, I found it on clearance at Walmart.com for only $140 or so. I pulled the trigger figuring that at worst, since it's from a big box store, I could return it to the store no questions asked.

This is the Kwik Tek Airhead TK-1 as taken from the Airhead website:

Well, Wednesday the 17th of September here in Michigan it was BEAUTIFUL. About 74 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I talked the lady into going with me to the closest lake just so I could try the boat out. I wanted to try it out as soon as I could because if it didn't support me or leaked or whatever I wanted to get it back to the store right away so I could make another purchase.

But anyways, I got it to the boat launch at Clark Lake and started to set it up. Pumping it up with a Sevylor bellows foot pump literally took about 5 minutes. I got it about as firm as I thought it should be. I hooked the seat in place and carried the boat to the water. I got my paddle put together and then walked into the water up to about mid shin. The boat seemed pretty tippy at this point and I was a bit worried I would flip it getting into it. However, as soon as I was seated the sensation of tippiness went away completely.

I paddled it out into the lake a couple of hundred yards. It was REALLY windy out there and there were a few power boats so waves were actually pretty large...well, larger than I had expected. To my surprise the boat handled the waves like they were non-existent. Even when they were coming directly at the port or starboard side of the boat she barely even moved when they hit.

The boat moved along at a fairly decent speed...this is my first kayak, and I'm sure it's actually slow, but to me it was pretty quickly moving along, even going into what I would estimate was about a 15 MPH wind. The boat also seemed to go where I wanted it to for the most part. When I would stop paddling it would tend to turn a little bit. I'm not sure how much of that was due to tracking issues of the boat itself and how much of it was the wind. I'm sure a bit of both, but it felt mainly like the wind.

I paddled around for a little while going here and there. The lady got some good pictures of me out on it. I definitely need to get the hang of paddling a bit better, as I feel that I wasn't very efficient. However, being my first time actually paddling a kayak (I've sat in one before but never actually paddled one) I felt that I did alright. I started getting more of the hang of it as I was winding down my test run.

After a short time (remember I just really wanted to make sure the boat floated with my weight in it) I returned to shore. I got out and we carried the boat back up into the grass. Deflating it took no time at all, and we were back on our way home.

All in all, I'd say the boat did pretty well. It didn't leak any water in. What water was in there I'm sure came from my paddles. It went pretty straight and reasonably quickly. Setup and teardown time were virtually nonexistent. Overall I'm extremely pleased with the product.

As far as kayaking in general, I can't wait to get back out there again. I know it's starting to get to the time of year when I won't have much of a chance, and the few times I do have chances in the next 8 weeks or so will be taken up by wedding things (getting married end of October), but I will be looking forward to many trips out on different lakes and rivers this coming spring.

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