Introduction | Benefits of Kayaking |
Principles | Types of Kayaks |
Where to Kayak | Learning to Kayak |
is making the use of a small human powered vessel called a
kayak with a double bladed paddle for personal
transportation over water. Kayaks are similar to canoes,
except that the paddler is almost always in a seated
position with feet facing forward while
using a double
bladed paddle. Kayaking is one of the fastest forms of
paddling, it is also one of the easiest paddling sports, as
most kayaks can be easily transported and controlled on the
The first kayaks were believed to be in use at least
4000 years ago. They were mostly used in North America in
the Atlantic northwest and the Pacific Northeast by various
native peoples who used them for transportation, fishing,
and hunting. Much like today, those native peoples had
different types of kayaks for different uses. Some were
tandem or two-seater kayaks, while others were used for
transporting cargo. These early kayaks were built from
animal skins stretched over a wooden or bone (depending on
which was more available) frame.
Benefits of Kayaking
There are many benefits to
kayaking - certainly too many to list in one article.
Health and Fitness –
kayaking is a great way to maintain muscle endurance and
tone. Most kayaks allow for all the muscles in the
upper body and core to be exercised.
Adventure and Experiences
– kayaking can provide many experiences involving
exploration, sightseeing, fishing, and many others.
Connection with Nature –
paddlers gain an appreciation for the beauty of the
places that they kayak. This leads to a stronger sense
of environmental awareness and a stronger attunement to
Increased Social Life –
kayakers are generally very friendly and gregarious, and
they come from all walks of life. There are many
paddler and kayak fishing groups that meet up for joint
paddles or activities.
Kayak designs vary depending
on their roles. Designs are usually a balance of
compromises. Factors that affect speed are the weight, width
and length – long kayaks have better tracking ability and
speed, while short and wide boats are usually easier to turn
and maneuver. Stability is achieved with a combination of
boat width and buoyancy.
Extremely stable boats
sometimes suffer in performance, but there are a number of
hull design features that can increase performance, such as
long chines and channels in the hull.
kayaks can be equipped with a rudder for better directional
control. Some also feature a skeg or small fin that
increases the kayaks ability to track, or stay on the
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There are kayaks available
for almost any type of person, outdoor application, and
condition. Choosing the right kayak can sometimes be a
daunting task. Kayak owners choose their kayak based on what
they want to do on the water.
Sit-Inside vs Sit-On-Top
There are two basic designs of kayaks; the sit inside
and the sit-on-top. The sit-inside kayaks are the more
traditional design. The rider sits inside a small cockpit
where the shell of the kayak usually covers some portion of
the paddler’s body or legs. Sit inside kayaks are very good
performers providing an intimate feel of what the kayak is
doing. This makes for good speed and maneuverability. There
are a few drawbacks of sit-inside kayaks: they can get water
inside the hull, which eventually must be bailed or drained.
This can get the rider slightly wet from paddle drip in the
best case scenario, but if the conditions are extreme, such
as chop, waves, or whitewater, the kayak can fill with water
and become a safety hazard. A cockpit skirt can be fitted on
many sit-insides to help keep water out. A paddler should be
aware of what level of conditions he or she can paddle in,
and weigh the risks, to prevent this issue.
Sit-on-top kayaks have a completely enclosed hull with a
high deck or riding area on the top. Sit-on-tops are very
easily accessible, and usually have scupper holes that allow
water to ‘self-bale’ or drain out of the deck of the kayak.
A properly designed sit-on-top does not fill with water
allowing only a miniscule amount to get inside the hull
itself. This means that a sit-on-top is easier to
self-rescue or right if it is capsized. Sit-on-tops tend to
have the rider sit higher off the water than in sit-insides.
Sit-on-tops are very popular among kayak fisherman because
of their excellent stability and ability to take equipment
modifications (such as fishing gear.
Fishing from a kayak has several advantages over
fishing from the shore or from a powerboat. Unlike fishing
from the bank, options for reaching good fishing spots are
opened up with a kayak. Kayaks are much quieter than power
boats; this provides an advantage for catching certain fish
that easily spook. A kayak can reach cramped or shallow
areas that a powerboat cannot reach. Finally, a paddler has
an opportunity to really examine an area of water thoroughly
for fish – often such areas are missed or ignored by
Kayak fishing has seen a recent resurgence in the last
couple of decades. In the United States and other developed
countries, fishing has usually been done from powered
watercraft. With rises in gas prices, the cost of
registering and maintaining a powerboat, and other factors,
kayaking has returned to its roots. From ancient times
kayaks have been used primarily for fishing and hunting.
Kayak fishing is possible from just about any kind of kayak.
What kayak fishermen look for in a kayak is utility. Many
kayak fishermen carry a lot of fishing gear such as rods,
tackle, bait, and supplies for an extended voyage. For this
reason most fishing kayaks have ample storage space. They
also have options for mounting various types of fishing
gear, such as rod holders, fish finders, or other mounts.
Good stability and buoyancy allow kayak fisherman to move
about their kayak liberally without fear of capsizing their
boat. Some fishing kayaks are designed with the capacity for
the rider to stand in.
Recreational kayaks are usually considered multi-role
kayaks that do not fit into any particular category. They
are primarily for fun. Recreational kayaks are designed to
be user friendly, stable, and versatile. This form of
kayaking is popular for beginners or anyone who is uncertain
about what type of kayaking they want to get into. These
kayaks are for casual, short range sessions with no
particular goal in mind. Many recreational kayaks cross over
into the role of fishing, whitewater, or touring.
Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100
Hobie Mirage Adventure
Touring kayaks are designed
to go a long distance in a reasonable amount of time
accounting for the possibility of a long expedition. They
are also often referred to as sea kayaks. These kayaks are
usually long and fast. They can carry gear on camping trips
or long voyages.
Whitewater kayaks are
designed for rapids or surf. They are usually very
maneuverable so that the paddler can control the kayak in
extreme conditions. There are several classes of rapids,
rated from class 1 to class 5, with class 5 being the most
extreme and potentially dangerous. The more extreme the
rapids the greater the need for a proper whitewater kayak
and sufficient skills to deal with the conditions. Most
whitewater kayaks will be rated for the corresponding rapids
that they can reasonably perform in.
Peddle Driven Kayaks
In the last decade several
peddle driven kayaks, where the paddler uses his or her legs
to power a drive system, have appeared on the market. Hobie
has a line of kayaks called the Mirage series, which uses a
peddle mechanism and fins to propel the boat forward. Native
watercraft has a crank driven propeller drive called the
Propel for many of its boats.
Some small boats can be used
like a kayak although it is difficult to classify them as a
kayak. There are kayaks that have an open hull much like a
canoe, and can be paddled with a single bladed paddle.
Others are pretty close to a full-fledged rowboat. There are
some designs that can attach a mast, sail, and pontoons on
outriggers to convert to small sail boats, what we call a
sail-yak. And some cannot really be classified at all.
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There are two basic rules of thumb when it comes to
kayak safety. One is to wear a life jacket, and the other
is to stay with the kayak.
Should you be separated from your kayak while far from land,
a life jacket will insure that the paddler will not get
tired and drown while trying to make it to safety. A US
coast guard approved life jacket is designed to keep the
user afloat for several days or weeks without issue.
Staying with the kayak affords several advantages. A
capsized kayak can easily be righted in most cases. Even a
damaged kayak can serve as a floatation device. Hanging
onto the kayak will insure safety even when not wearing a
life jacket. If the paddler is far from civilization, a
kayak is more visible than an individual floating in the
water – this makes it easier to find a paddler in trouble
When paddling in cold water hypothermia can be a grave
danger even in water as warm as sixty degrees. A good
wetsuit can resolve this problem by keeping the paddler warm
for a longer period of time and allow them a better chance
of reaching safety in time.
his wetsuit shown left will help a lot to keep hypothermia
at bay until safety can be reached.
In many situations the local regulations will require
the paddler to have safety gear on the person, or the boat. Usually at night a light that can be seen in all directions
There are endless ways to accessorize and/or
mount gear on the kayak. Some kayaks have mounting systems
and gear tracks that can allow gear to be easily fitted and
removed in seconds. Most mounts will require that holes be
drilled into the hull of the kayak where it can be secured
with nuts and bolts. To prevent water leakage around these
mounting hulls, silicon sealant can be used, rubber well
nuts, or no sealant at all in situations where kayaking is
done mostly in calm waters. The most common accessories for
kayaks include life jackets, dry bags, paddle leashes, rod
holders, lights, and anchor kits.
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Where to Kayak
Lake conditions vary depending on the size and composition
of the lake. Many lakes are so small that they rarely get
rough even when the weather is extreme. Other lakes are so
vast that a heavy duty kayak is required when conditions are
rough. Lakes are also connected to many rivers and streams,
which can expand a kayakers experience. Kayak fishing for
bass, crappy, catfish, and other freshwater fish is very
popular on lakes. Small to large fishing kayaks are ideal on
most lakes. Recreational kayaks are often kept at lake
houses, and are available for rent at many lakes.
Kayaking can be found in small coastal estuaries, surf
zones, and even miles out to sea. Kayaking in small bays is
much like lake kayaking, with a variety of fishing and
touring options available. Out to sea the goal is often
fishing, diving, or touring. Large, stable boats are used
for offshore fishing. A variety of huge fish can be caught
from a kayak. For diving, a large kayak that can carry a lot
of gear is necessary. And for touring, a fast and efficient,
yet stable boat that can carry gear is favored.
Streams, Creeks, and Rivers
The conditions on streams, creeks, and rivers vary from calm
to extreme. The later may have strong currents, whitewater
and rapids, and extreme rip-curls. On a calm river, bayou,
or stream the options for fishing and hunting from a kayak
are endless. Opportunities for photography or long distance
touring are also taken on rivers and streams.
Local Paddling Locations
White Rock Lake
Many are unaware of the paddling opportunity available right
in the middle of Dallas at White Rock Lake which offers
parks, recreation areas, and a view of the downtown Dallas
skyline from the water. On this small lake no power boats
are permitted. At White Rock there are several groups who
have weekly paddling meet ups. Mariner Sails also offers
kayak demos at White Rock at the Dallas Corinthian Yacht
Club. White Rock Lake is a historical and popular venue for
all manner of paddling, sailing, and recreational
This large lake just north of Dallas extending towards
Denton is possibly the busiest lake in North Texas. The most
active part of the lake is the southern portion. From Lake
Lewisville Park there are many locations to launch a kayak.
In the summer this lake can be dangerous due to all the
powerboat and jet ski traffic. However the northern part of
the lake is far quieter with endless options for scenic
touring or kayak fishing.
Lake Ray Hubbard
This vast lake east of Dallas is a popular fishing lake at
all times throughout the year. In the summer it can become
busy with powerboats and jet skies on the southern part of
the lake, however it is less busy than Lewisville. North of
the 66 bridge is a popular fishing venue for bass, crappy,
and catfish. Rowlett creek feeds into Lake Ray Hubbard to
the west of Rowlett Road, where a popular kayak launch is
accessible from Miller Rd, or John Paul Jones Park.
Paddling on the Trinity is popular in the area. Paddling
upstream or down stream is relatively easy, but the current
is stronger upstream past Hebron Parkway. Familiarity with
the river is preferred as there are many low water areas,
dikes and dams. A popular launching location is at Sandy
Lake Park on the Elm Fork, which can lead all the way up to
the Lake Lewisville damn. Denton Creek from Grapevine Lake
drains into the river at Elm Fork. There are also several
other viable launches. The Dallas Trinity River project is a
controversial outdoor water park that has been proposed by
the city that would include whitewater kayaking– but the
project has been delayed indefinitely due to safety
Lake Grapevine is a popular lake for recreational boating
and sailing. There is not as much fishing that goes on
there, but it is a very popular recreational and touring
There are many other locations for kayaking in the North
Texas area. Lake Texoma on the border is a huge lake with
lots of kayak fishing, touring, and camping options. Joe
Pool Lake in southern Dallas is a great lake for almost all
kayak venues. There are also several small lakes and creeks
throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area where paddling is
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Learning to Kayak
In most cases, learning to kayak is
very straight-forward. Most recreational paddlers require
little to no instruction. There are techniques for holding
the paddle and moving the body properly. Entering and
exiting certain sit-inside kayaks can be learned with a five
minute crash course. Safety and self-rescue is a more
extensive topic. Courses in kayak safety are available
where most paddle groups meet. Handling white water or
extreme conditions takes some real skill requiring practice
with the guidance of an experienced instructor.
As far as learning how to kayak fish –
this is something that many learn through trial and error.
However a kayak fishing guide can go a long way to help
people understand the benefits and techniques for utilizing
a kayak for fishing.
Great canoe and kayaking page with all kinds of information
about where to kayak, kayak types, and a good forum.
texasfishingforum.com/ - This active forum has an
excellent Texas kayak fishing community.
texaskayakfisherman.com – A great forum about Texas
- Hobie’s excellent forum about Hobie kayaking and sailing.
– One of the primary kayaking lakes in the Dallas area.
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