Thursday, May 31, 2012

summer fun: kayaking

Hey Everyone! I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I was going to post about today. Summer is usually a slow season for me when it comes to sports and paying attention to them. I love baseball but as I've said before, being in an area that's mostly Braves territory, it's difficult to be able to watch my home team, the Baltimore Orioles (who are on fire this year) play.

I started thinking about activities I love to enjoy in the summer. Most aren't that athletic, due to the horrible heat here in Northern Alabama and the fact that well, to be honest, I'm quite lazy when it's this hot out. 98 degrees is no cake walk, am I right? They also weren't a very good boy band either.

When the heat is on, and the activity levels are low, my husband, friends and I like to take to the creek. Most of our pals own kayaks or canoes and like to spend the day floating in our local streams. I will be the first to say that our route is anything but tough. It's a leisurely float often times met with a few spots where you'll have to paddle like hell, not because the water is rough but because come mid summer when it hasn't rained in weeks, the water gets very low and you often get stuck. That being said, there are lots of other great places to kayak in our area, we just usually stick close to home. I hope we will venture out a bit this year but that will have to wait until after vacation.

If you've never been kayaking I can assure you that unless you're going to some rapid filled body of water, it's super easy to pick-up the sport. My husband and I purchased new kayaks about 3 years ago. We originally purchased a canoe to float in, but after a few years of that finally figured we were ready to go out on our own and pilot our own personal water vessels.  A quick trip to the local sporting goods store during their "Big Boat Sale" they have every year and we were able to pick-up 2 new kayaks, 2 paddles and 2 life vests. (Life vests truly aren't a must for the stretch of creek we go down, but it is the law to have one in your boat so we take them with us wherever we go, so as not to piss off the park police in our area).

The best advice I can give to a new kayaker is to take some time to get familiar with your kayak. Before I ever went floating for the first time, I actually got into my boat, on dry land. Yes I was the idiot in her front yard rocking back and forth in my kayak. Entertaining, but also effective. Why do you think they train you to surf on dry land first? It's science, or at least fun to watch the kook in her front yard, right?

I figured I'd compile a quick list of must haves, must do's and must think of before hitting the creek for a water adventure be it on a kayak or canoe.

Helpful Tips For A Fun Kayak Trip:

  • NAME IT: If you purchased a kayak or canoe, congrats! Now you have to name it. It's bad luck to own a boat with no name. I named mine Lemon. First after Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, and second because well, it's bright yellow.
  • TEST IT OUT: Being on land is way different than water obviously but getting used to how far your boat will tip is a must in order to feel OK in the water. This goes double if you have a kayak or a canoe with a keel (a point that runs down the length of the boat, this will effect how you hit shallow areas, objects and rocks so it's good to get used to tipping left or right with out spilling out of your boat, OR taking on too much water.
  • DECORATE IT: "Put a bird on it!" Cover your kayak or canoe in stickers. This isn't a vital safety tip, but it's one of my favorite things to do with my kayak, you know other than float in it. I like expressing myself through stickers.
  • PROTECT YOURSELF: Cover your body with SPF. I can't stress this enough. You don't realize when you're kayaking or canoeing how much sun you will get. The water reflects the rays straight to your face, and the sun will beat down on your shoulders and head. A hat is a great way to cover up and please reapply regularly. Sweating is also a big thing on the creek and even though you're wearing water proof SPF, it still runs, and still needs to be put back on, especially if you're like me and wipe your face, a lot. Note: It also is smart to do this even if you like to get a tan, because I'm here to tell you only your FRONT gets tan when you kayak. And most of the time it's only from the knees up. Yes, my shins, lower legs and back of my legs rarely get sun. If you don't want to protect yourself from sun cancer, at least realize you're going to look uneven and silly. (Water shoes also make a lovely pattern on your feet but they are necessary! Read on).
  • PROTECT YOURSELF PART II: Sunglasses - bring 'em. I am horrible about keeping them on my face though. 90% of the trip I have them on my head and my crows feet love me for this. Sometimes it's hard to see the water and where you are going during certain times of the day. Shades will help this, as will a hat. I will also suggest if you worry about losing your specs to purchase a chain or foam sunglasses strap to keep them on your person. If you flip, they will be lost unless they stay on your face.
  • FOOD: We always pack small snacks in our coolers. Some days we might take a quick float down stream and it will only be for about 3-4 hours. Other days we've left at 12:00 NOON and didn't pull back into our final port until 6:30 pm. It makes for a long day, and after wearing my workout watch one day and realizing that I do burn a lot of calories, you might need some fuel for the last leg of the float. Sometimes the water stops moving, and you have to paddle, and paddle and paddle.. and sometimes when the creek is low, you will get stuck, and use a ton of energy to paddle and try to shimmy your way free. Trust me, a granola bar, some pretzels or something "sturdy" in your bag like almonds or trail mix will be just the ticket. If we go for a long day, we take sandwiches too. Your biggest issue is having the room for all this in a small boat AND that you don't want to smash everything. In a pinch something like Lunch-a-bles will workout well too.
  • TRASH: If you bring wrappers, cans, bottles etc. be sure to bring a bag to house it all while you float. If not a bag, have a pocket in your dry storage OR cooler to house the trash. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing cans and other careless floaters trash polluting up our water ways. It's rude, and it is not right.
  • COOLER: If you are in a canoe, you can bring the biggest cooler you like that will fit into your ride. Mike and I used to bring 2 coolers. One for beer (or soda/water) and one that we could keep food in. Thankfully with all the extra room in our boat we could afford to do this. Often times we'd have 2 coolers and a dog in there as well. Our pup, June loves to canoe. Since we have downsized to kayaks we are met with more restrictions. We can carry one of the small 6 pack coolers and fit maybe some beer, a bottle of water and small snacks. My biggest issue is that we don't have storage behind us in our kayaks (see notes about purchasing one below), so we have to store items at our feet, which can often times get kicked. This is why I say bring "sturdy" food. Don't bring a bag of chips and expect those things to survive, it won't happen.
  • DRINKS: Yes, I said beer above. We drink beer on the creek. The most important thing to remember is that you should always try to bring CAN drinks, or plastic bottles. You don't want to deal with the possibility that your glass bottles will break. I have gone with bottles before, but honestly, they are horrible and hard to hold on to. Note: Most kayaks and canoe's don't come with cup holders - you better get your thighs ready to squeeze them. Beer in moderation obviously, and if you're going on RAPIDS or a wild ride, I wouldn't even bring it. Trust me I've had times in our canoe that I wondered how we did OK with all the drinks we had during the day. It's not wise, so don't attempt it, I speak from experience. Bottom line, stay HYDRATED! Water and Sports Drinks are great!
  • KOOZIES: For your drinks - keeps them cold and makes them easier to grip with your thighs. ALSO they make handy ones that can hang around your neck. Sure you'll look silly but you'll have both hands free to use your paddle and control your boat. And if you're inventive like my husband  you also can rig a koozie through the straps that come on most canoes so your beverage will sit steady and strong on the top of your kayak.
  • PURCHASING: If you are going to get a kayak, from experience I can tell you 2 big things to look for. 1) See if you can get a model that has storage behind your seat. I would much rather store my cooler and food back there so I don't kick it. Mine only has front storage. 2) Make sure you feel like you have enough room, and you also might want some room for dry storage too if need. I have never needed it on my trips. I don't take a phone, or electronics and I don't carry towels in the kayak, only in my Jeep at the pick-up point.
  • TRANSPORT: You want a good vehicle to take your kayak to the water. I own a Jeep with racks on the top which is perfect, but you can still get away with kayaks or canoes when you have a car. I used to drive a car and used foam blocks and straps to protect my paint. They also sell expensive kayak and canoe racks. Either way be sure you protect your vehicle.
  • DRY STORAGE: If you DO want to bring things like your phone or electronics or a dry shirt, or maybe a towel, then invest in some dry storage bags sold at sporting goods stores. They come in really handy. They might not always be 100% dry so be warned. You may want to double up if your cell phone is a prized possession.
  • TOILET PAPER: We are women after all. To the men reading this, welcome, thanks for making it this far and we know, it's awesome you can piss anywhere! Don't forget the TP. Store it in your dry storage bag and you will thank me. If you think of it and have time, check out the travel section at the local Target. Often times you can find travel TP all rolled up. 
  • MOTHER NATURE & THE GREAT OUTDOORS: It's a pain in the ass, but can be done. Again, DRY STORAGE IS YOUR BFF when it comes to keeping your cotton ponies safe!
  • PREPARE TO GET WET: I always try to wear my swimsuit under my shorts and tank top. And it doesn't matter how careful you are, you're going to get wet so get over that issue quickly.  You can lean too far to one side and get some water in your boat (wet butt) or you might hit some waves and get water over the front (wet front butt)... bottom line you're going to get your ass wet, you'll probably get your face wet and frankly if you don't want to be wet why the hell did you sign on to do water sports? 
  • FOOTWEAR: You want your feet to be protected, it's as simple as that. Tennis shoes are not going to work, they take on water. At the same rate, flip flops are foolish, unless they have an ankle strap to keep them on. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people kayak/canoe with flip flops on, only to tump (flip) and lose 1 or both of their shoes. My best suggestion is getting yourself some water shoes. If you don't want to spend an arm and a leg (because they can get pricey) you can totally go to Wally World and get yourself some of those cheap, slip on shoes. The reinforced toes on those shoes aren't half bad. I personally try to stay away from open toed sandals. My biggest fear is stubbing my toe or cutting it on a rock at the bottom of the creek. I purchased some KEEN water/hiking shoes about 6 years ago and while they were expensive, they are still rocking and holding strong. My biggest advice is to test out the shoes before going for a real kayak trip. I got a pair of Teva's recently that are super cute, but... with the open toes my feet tend to slide all over the base when they get wet, this equals frustration and not having firm footing on the creek bottom can be the difference between falling down in the water, and/or spraining your ankle.
  • STOP AND TAKE BREAKS: Sometimes it's nice to stop on a rock beach and chill with your friends, have some lunch and or just soak in the water. On the hottest days my friends and I find a place to relax in the water, under a shaded tree and it's the best.
  • BEWARE OF WILDLIFE: There will be snakes, turtles, and other critters. Respect the wildlife and brush up on your snakes. Some water snakes are poisonous in some areas, others are harmless. My best advice when in doubt paddle AWAY from the snakes. I've had one come right up to me, almost lurch at me when I was relaxing and standing in the water. My gut reaction, run. I think it's a great one. But seriously, I'm not an expert, research and make yourself aware of issues with animals in the wild.
  • BUG SPRAY: Load up and bring it with you. Bugs are all over and they bite and you'll thank me for saying this later. Ticks are also heavy in the summer and no one likes those.
  • SPF LIPBALM: Just like the SPF for your body, your lips will thank me for telling you about this too. I get really parched out there on the creek. And sometimes adding MORE water to my cooler and lots of lip stuff makes all the difference.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF - this is the most important rule. Kayaking and Canoeing is SO fun.
  • FINAL ADVICE: If you are floating... and you hear banjos*, PADDLE LIKE HELL! 
I hope some of this was helpful to you! And while a lot of it was stated for comedic value I do feel like all points I made were valid ones. If you have any questions let me know.

What is your favorite way to spend a hot summer day?
(If you say  hang by the pool I'm going to be SO jealous!)

* Deliverance is the scariest movie of all time. I am so thankful I watched it for the first time, AFTER my first canoe adventure. If I hadn't, I would NEVER get in the water in Alabama.


  1. I didn't see this mentioned, but in Alabama tippy have to have a life jacket in the boat with you. Other wise you could get a ticket.

  2. I didn't see this mentioned, but in Alabama tippy have to have a life jacket in the boat with you. Other wise you could get a ticket.

  3. We do a river float with rented rafts where you drink and float down the river. The kayaking sounds fun though!

  4. Hutch that sounds like a TON of fun. I've always wanted to do that in an area where A) the water moves better and doesn't get congested with plants like where we go and possibly a place that is a bit better populated to avoid wildlife that might bite my booty in a raft ;)