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Getting Started in the Sport of Paddling

Choose the Right Type of Paddling for You


Kayaks in Outdoor World

So many boats, so little time

© by George E. Sayour

Many people would very much like to start paddling but simply don’t know where to begin. Others jump right in without first having all of the information. All too often they later discover they would be interested in a completely different genre of paddling. This discovery unfortunately takes place later rather than sooner and after much has already been invested in equipment and accessories. In both cases, these individuals don't initially know how to decide which type of paddling is right for them.

It is for all of these reasons that it is wise to adequately research the different types of canoeing and kayaking in order to make the right decision about which equipment to buy, where to paddle, and who to paddling with. The following questions and associated resources offer a guide to help you figure out exactly which type of paddling is right for you.

Understand Why You Want to Paddle

The decision to start paddling is often driven by a variety of factors unique to each individual. For some it is a way to spend time with friends who already paddle. For others it is a way to connect with nature or it is a means of exercise. There are others still who would love to take up paddling due to all of the romantic caricatures that are portrayed regarding the health and environmental benefits the sport affords the participant. For some reason you are thinking about and researching paddling. Why? The answer to this question will help inform your decision as to what type of paddling you will be doing. Here are a number of different reasons why people may want to paddle.

Once you know why you want to paddle it should help to guide the next questions you need to ask yourself.

What type of paddling do you want to do? Where Will You Paddle?

These two questions are closely associated with each other. You may very well want to whitewater kayak but if you live in South Florida that is going to be a little bit difficult. This may seem surprising but many people don’t at first consider this question. This is unfortunate since the answer will affect what type of equipment and training a person will need as well as how much access the individual will have to the places they want to paddle. Where do you think you will want to paddle? Included here is a brief list of the different types of paddling that a person can do.

Once you understand your motivation for paddling and have an idea of where you will be paddling you can decide on the type of boat you want.

What type of boat do you want to paddle?

More often than not, people usually think they have the answer to this question figured out before they have even given any thought to the ones we just covered. One problem with this is that most people don’t know that there are specific boats for different types of paddling. Now that you know what type of paddling you want to do you can begin to consider the different boat options that are available to you. In many cases you can use either a canoe or a kayak made for the type of paddling you chose and that decision is purely based on preference. The types of boats that your friends and other paddlers in your area use can help to guide your decision.

Here is a brief list of the different types of canoes and kayaks that are available depending on the type of paddling you will be doing.


There are many factors that go into figuring out which type of paddling is right for each person. Included here was just a brief look at some of those factors as a way to get people thinking before they buy any equipment. Asking yourself these kinds of questions is a good start to making sure you make the right decision. At this point you should go to an outfitter or sporting goods store and speak with people who are knowledgeable in the type of paddling you will be doing.

Here’s one final tip. It’s never a bad idea to start out with used equipment as long as it is in good shape. This way you can make sure you bought the right stuff, you will usually be able to sell it for almost what you paid for it, and then you can buy more advanced gear when you’re ready for it.

Happy Paddling!

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