Friday, January 19, 2018


By Outside Adventure to the Max Guest Blogger Kate Hives

It is the 4th year I have had the pleasure of returning to the small coastal village of Chaiuin, Chile to coach at the Simposio de Kayak Pacifico Sur. The team at Pueblito Expediciones have captured the South American market of sea kayakers as they flock from all edges of this grand continent to play in the surf and amongst the swell that crashes against the monolithic coast lines. It is in this familiar yet still foreign environment that I find pause to reflect on what we are all doing here bobbing around like corks on the sea.

It is easy to dismiss what we are doing as ‘just sea kayaking’, which on the one hand reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. On the other hand, I wonder what lies beneath the surface of our desire for adventure and become more and more curious about ‘why kayaking’?

There is something powerful about separating ourselves entirely from that which is familiar and for us as human terrestrial creatures, the watery world of the ocean is as unknown and foreign as can be. In teaching kayaking, I find myself working with the elements of movement and direction in unfamiliar terrain in tandem with the less measurable realm of human experience. What are we really doing out here? What motivates us to head “into the water”. (Kokatat – meaning: Native American word for ‘into the water’.)

Sure, we are spending time with friends, feeling more alive as we bob up and down in the waves and perhaps, we simply like the sense of accomplishment that comes with mastering a new skill. Likely this is enough thinking for most – there is not always a need to delve much further into our motivations. Woven into these outcomes and goals is, however, a deeper more profound element that can lurk just beyond our awareness.

Just like traveling to a new country or learning a new language, my feeling is that learning to be comfortable in the foreign environment of the sea offers us more than just the physical ability to survive in these places. Perhaps it offers the gift of building confidence in our own capacity to be more than we may have previously thought; perhaps it helps us to understand that we are all capable of more, beyond that which is visible to the naked eye. What if I were to make the outrageous statement that we are not ‘just sea kayaking’, but we are in fact learning more about what it means to live into our human potential in all its possibility? Now that’s a reason to go sea kayaking!

Maybe I am overstepping. Maybe you simply took up kayaking as a personal challenge or as a romantic idea, just for fun, or simply as an alternate method of travel. But what if within those seemingly benign motivations lies a more dynamic impulse. What if kayaking could be a metaphor for those things that at first seem nay impossible? What if learning to steer your 16-foot kayak on top of a powerful driving wave is a training ground to muster the internal strength to learn to surf the similarly unpredictable wave of human experience. The metaphor of surfing the wave then becomes an expression of knowing when and where to change direction and how to go with the flow.

mmm... soup!
For me, when I pause to reflect on what it is I am really doing out here and ask myself what I have learned, I hear the answer “I am learning to steer my vessel in a challenging environment, I am learning when to go and when to pause, I am beginning to understand how to work with the energy of this grand oceanic force.”

From this vantage point the wave and indeed the ocean become the metaphor for this greater ride we are all on and I begin to know that I can learn the skills needed to navigate these often challenging and labyrinthine waters of daily life.

Kate Hives is an adventurous sea kayaking guide and rough water coach with SKILS based out of Vancouver Island. She has explored Canada from coast to coast and has paddled in Patagonia, Chile, Malaysia, Tasmania, North Wales and Scotland. Keep up with Hives in her blog At home on the water. 
Outside Adventure to the Max is always looking for guest bloggers. Contact us at if you are interested.

Friday, January 12, 2018


Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure. – Bob Bitchin

"No epic adventure started with "On a bright sunny day." It's one of my favorite tweets attributed to adventurer Sean Conway and my usual answer when someone asked: "Are you going to kayak in the rain?"

I kept thinking that as a hard pounding rain bounced off my bow and cascaded into Lake Natoma as if a dam had burst in the sky. A misty haze hung over the lake as each drop created millions of momentary craters exploding in the water creating a giant whooshing sound over its surface. In the middle of the lake, stranded and getting soaked  I paddled as quickly as I could under to the safety of nearby bridge to wait out the deluge.

Adverse weather make my trips more memorable. Paddling through a mist of rain adds a certain magic to my outing on the lake. It's a man vs nature type endeavor. Do I like bright sunny days? Of course, I do. Nothing is better than kayaking along while being kissed by the sun. In California, a state known for its sunshine, I have experienced lots of sun dazzling days on the water. But heartily coexisting in snow, rain, sleet and fog make for trips that are far from ordinary.

I'm grateful for the rain. The 2017-18 winter is off to a very slow start in Northern California. What a difference a year makes after last winter's record drought- busting snow totals in the Sierra Nevada. The recent snow survey results showed the basin at 30 percent of normal, compared to 67 percent on the same date last year.
“We are behind where we were last year at this time,” Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist from the Nevada Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency that tracks snow in the west, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Last week's series of storms did bring much-needed rain to Northern California but did little to help the snow pack. The southern storms were swollen with tropical moisture, too warm to make it a snow maker as the snow levels hovered only around 9,000 feet, or higher than the ski summit of Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows. Ski resorts hoping for snow, only got rain. The snow-forecasting web-site Open Snow says another stormy period is expected next week, with the possibility of several colder storms by midweek, so cross your fingers, skiers and snowboarders.

The ancient weather rhymes say, "A ring around the sun or moon, rain or snow coming soon” or “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." But don’t cancel your trip just because it’s raining or cloudy and cold. Be sensible. Pack your raincoat and go anyway. Because if you wait for that perfect day. You will never go. "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating," said English writer John Ruskin, "There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

I just hope I can remember that the next time when raindrops are hammering down on my bow.

Friday, January 5, 2018


So what’s on your adventure horizon for 2018? As we stride into the new year, here are 18 ways improve your paddling life in the next year and beyond. Onward.

Enjoy a winter activities
For some winter fun, hit the local slopes and trails. It's time to find a good hill for  your toboggan or trek off to a ski resort for some downhill or cross-country skiing. It won't cure your need to paddle, but it will help while waiting till next spring to paddle again. Those who like to hike will love snowshoeing, crunching down through the snow a great form of cardiovascular exercise. Just duck those snowballs from the person behind you. Snowshoeing

Take indoor rolling session
Don't let the ice and snow limit your ways of improving your skills on the water.  Certified instructors in heated indoor pools across the country are offering classes covering safety, paddle strokes and rescue techniques. After that build your confidence with a rolling session.

Buy a state park pass
Explore the beauty and history of your own state. Many states offer some sort of pass that allows you unlimited entry at most state parks, while other offer park passes on a park-by-park basis. Find your state, order an entrance pass, and enjoy unlimited access to the natural beauty and paddling venues your state parks offer. US State Parks

Attend a Kayak Symposium
Whether you are an experienced kayaker or just beginning these instructional gathering aim at advancing your paddling skills. Offered on each coast and on the Great Lakes. These courses allow the paddlers to refine these skills and paddle in more challenging conditions with an accomplished sea kayaking coach with the goal of advancing your abilities. Lumpy Waters, Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium

See a paddling film
Sure you can watch your old wore out VHS copy of 1972 Deliverance over and over again, but this year get some popcorn and embrace the paddling lifestyle and wild places of the Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour. Since 2006, the World Tour has screened in more than 120 cities around the world showcasing the very best paddling films. Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour 

Take a wilderness canoe or kayak trip
Did you know, the average canoe trip 20 years ago was nine days. Today it’s only three. Clearly, we need to reset our priorities. A wilderness trip via canoe is an experience few will ever forget so grab your paddle and head to the wilderness.  The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park, The Buffalo National River

 Paddle with a group
An African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." So while many love the solitude of a solo paddle, most people like to make it a social activity by bringing friends and family along with them to share the experience. Paddlers say, that by kayaking together they build stronger relationships between loved ones and enhanced their friendships with other boaters. Kayaking Meetups

Kayak amid an urban sprawl
Our local water trails provide recreation in river towns across the country with hiking and bike paths, restaurants and interpretive centers, campgrounds and most important access to the water.  These urban waterways prioritize tourism, economies, and increase environmental education impacting your community. American River Parkway, Urban Kayaking 

Take a kid paddling
In this day and age of 'nature deficit disorder' due to overexposure to video games, computers and the Internet, paddling in the outdoors can be a great activity for kids. And while kids have short attention spans and aren't always focused on learning the technical aspects of paddling, the key to having a good time is to keep the paddling exercises fun, interesting and always bring plenty of snacks. Kayaking with the family

Take a white water class 
In a whitewater kayaking class, you’ll develop the foundations and skills along with overcoming any of those fears about being upside down underwater. By the end the session you’ll amaze even yourself as you paddle through the eddies and currents with increased confidence and boat control as you weave and glide down a new stretch of the river. Current Adventures Kayak School & Trips

Hang out in your local paddling shop
Kayaking is not just a sport. It’s a lifestyle. Hanging out in your local shop is a great way to get to know other paddlers in your area. Whether you’re looking for a new boat, paddle, or whatever else, talking to the other people in the store is a great way to get the scoop on what gear works for them. And just stopping in is also an easy way to keep informed on festivals, competitions, community gatherings and river cleanups in your area. The River Store, Rutabaga PaddleSports, Midwest Mountaineering

Paddle in the moonlight
With 13 full moons in 2018, you'll have plenty of chances to paddle in the moonlight. On January 31st, Earth will experience a blue moon (as in the saying, “once in a blue moon”). This means that it will be the second full moon in the span of a single month. Bring that special someone along for a romantic voyage or the whole family for a moonlit kayak adventure. Many outfitters and local state park across the country offer sunset and full moon paddling sessions providing all the gear for at a reasonable price.

Take part in a river cleanup
Be a river hero by volunteering to participate in the thousands of cleanups across the country to remove litter and debris from out local waterways. In Sacramento last year, volunteers pulled two bicycles, a motorcycle frame and some 1,500 pounds of debris from the 6-mile stretch along the American River. National River Cleanup

Visit a whitewater park
In the movie Field Of Dreams, they said, "If you build it they will come." Over the past several years communities that have constructed whitewater parks as a way of providing a dynamic recreation facility for the community. These parks have used dam removals projects to build artificial whitewater courses opening the river to paddlers as well bringing bringing communities together great river festivals.  Truckee River Whitewater Park, Great Falls Park,  Buena Vista River Park

Get involved with activism by Supporting American Rivers
Join American Rivers to protects wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Guided by five core values: Passion, Integrity, Teamwork, Commitment, and Balance this organization works to achieve a vision of a nation of clean, healthy rivers for everyone. American Rivers

Paddle a SUP
It's a common scene across the beach of the US and Canada, long sleek colorful boards and even sleeker paddlers ever so graceful gliding across the water. All you need is a board to join the SUP revolution for a refreshing view and escape. SUP Magazine

Read a paddling book
Who doesn’t enjoy a tale of high adventure with raging rapids, stormy seas and paddling great rivers? These stories both fiction and nonfiction will inspire us all winter to go live your own adventure. Ron Watters Barnes & Noble 

 Update your PFD
Time, use and the sunlight has taken its toll on your PFD. Experts say you should replace it every five years or after 300 days considering how much you used it. Loss of buoyancy and UV damage are the red flags telling us their due to retire.  RapidMedia

Friday, December 29, 2017


Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

On a crisp September day in 2015, explorers Dave and Amy Freeman climbed into their Wenohah canoe and paddled off into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on an adventure that would last for 366 days. Paddling, portaging, gathering firewood and hauling water became a way of life as they sought to bear witness to the land they so deeply loved, care for and hoped to help protect from the threat of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining on the BWCA's edge.

During their year in this northern Minnesota Wilderness, they camped at some 120 different sites, explored 500 lakes, rivers and streams, and traveled more than 2,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe and dog team. They saw the change of the season first hand from the migrating birds, the lakes icing up and snow falling to the return of spring flowers and the golden sunsets of summer. Before they knew it the earth had made that one full rotation around the sun and it was their time to paddle out of the wilderness after a year in the wild.

"The sounds of nature are so different than those of the world of humans," Amy Freeman told National Geographic when asked what she misses most since leaving the wilderness, "After a year in the outdoors your senses of sight, smell and hearing are heightened. Back in the city, we’re bombarded with stimuli. I’ve had to desensitize to not freak out."

My paddling year, unlike the Freeman's, was broken into like most of us, mini outings and weekends, trips to the lakes and rivers in between dreaming about trips to the lakes and rivers. I could be classified more as a fanatic than just plain enthusiast and consider a day that I don't get out on to the water as a day lost. But like most of us, my jobs, relationships and just plain having the time to paddle  So the over 130 days I went paddling in 2017 is quite an achievement for me and I could never do it all alone.

French-German humanitarian and physician Albert Schweitzer said, "In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

A passion for kayaking flows through the paddling community I'm connected too, like an untamed river. I'm so grateful this past year to paddle once again with likes of  Dan Crandall, Kim Sprague, John Weed, Paul Camozzi, Jason Bates and the rest the gang at Current Adventures Kayaking School and Trips and The River Store.
From first-timers to experienced veterans any outing with these guys will be a great day on the water in building skills and confidence. After paddling with them, you only have one question. When can do it again?

And speaking of the spirit, thanks to Bayside Adventure Sports for being another guiding light in my paddling world. I have many more adventures in-store for them in the coming year to some of our favorite spots and even a few new ones.

But mostly I couldn't do any of my kayaking without the support and encouragement from my wife Debbie who makes it all possible. She is always up for an adventure sharing my same passion for being outside on the water or hiking alongside it. I can't wait for our next trip.

I would also like to thank, Dirt Bag Paddlers & DBP Magazine Online, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Paddling Magazine, AquaBound, American Rivers and NRS Web, for sharing my posts on their social media pages. It's always a fun Friday for me to post Outside Adventure to the Max. They help to spread the word about our weekly post.

A big thank you goes out to our 2017's guest bloggers Pete Delosa, Kate Hives, Lynn Halsted, Taylor Carlson, Scott Blankenfeld,  Eric Straw and Nigel Foster for their insights and views this past year. They have certainly make OAM better by providing thoughtful and compelling views into the world of paddling. We certainly look forward to future post from them in 2018.

And most of all, I'd like to thank the readers and followers of Outside Adventure to the Max. We hope you enjoyed our thoughts and pictures about our outside experiences in 20117 and look for to more in the next.  Happy New Year.

Friday, December 22, 2017


Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. -- Washington Irving 

It was Christmastime and I was feeling a little homesick. And like always to forget my troubles I went kayaking. I was paddling upstream along the river bank when I came across the Storyteller. Wearing rubber boots, an old leather jacket and his trademark Fedora, he was up to his ankles in the stream stooped over panning for gold. He stirred his pan carefully after standing upright, then held the pan like a waiter holding a plate picking through the big chunks of his find with his other hand.

“Winter the most successful time of year for finding gold," he said as he noticed me coming towards him still sorting through his pan, "It was then and it still is now. Back then miners worked in freezing cold weather 10 to 12 hour days in leather boots, canvas pants, and a woolen blanket or coat. It was cold but if you were lucky you got gold.”

I beached my kayak along the shore and found a flat rock to watch him work.

"So how are you doing this holiday season?" he asked glancing up from his miner's tin. Seeing my expression he didn't let me answer before running calloused fingers through the sand and gravel again.

"Christmas was like gold in the mine camps," he explained, "Almost every miner took the holiday off, which was always a welcome relief. I think I'll take a break for a little bit too, besides my feet are getting cold in this water."

He waded out the water and sat down on the rock beside me. He was quiet for a moment while scanning his pan for anything before flecking its contents back into the river.

"They were predominantly young men who came out west seeking gold, so their Christmas celebrations were a mixture of unbridled carousing and lonely contemplation. They realized after getting out here that finding their fortune in gold was a lot harder than they previously thought," the Storyteller continued,"They found themselves in a harsh country a long way from home missing family and loved ones. And Christmas just reminded them of just how alone they were."

"One gold seeker named William," pointed out the Storyteller, "Found himself snowed in at his claim site far up along the river. It would not be much of Christmas for him he thought. Because of the drifting snow, he wouldn't be even able to make it to the gold camp to celebrate. The preacher there, would offer some short Christmas message in the makeshift saloon. Then after singing a few carols, they would usher in the holiday by whooping it up and firing a gun or two into the air around the fire while a fiddler played a jig."

"Now, nobody called him Bill, " asserted the Storyteller, "It was always William. He came out here from someplace back east, maybe it was Wisconsin. He had been here for almost a year and so far hadn't had much luck and like many certainly hadn't struck it rich."

"He was spending his Christmas, alone and thinking about family back home while writing a letter to his sister Emma he wrote,

"Emma, It snowed hard all day yesterday and got so cold last night made it hard to keep a fire going. I wish that I could be at home today since it's Christmas. We could have a Christmas party. We would have the old gobbler roasted with a score of fat hens, pound cakes, pies, and lots of other good things. But the best of all would be the pleasure of seeing you all. Probably if we live we may be with you next Christmas. And signed it your loving brother, William."

"He wished he might be able to post the letter," the Storyteller speculated, "But back then especially in the wintertime,  the weather and the terrain made it difficult, he had all but given up on getting his letter out or even hearing from anyone back home till next spring. For William, it would be a gloomy Christmas indeed."

"Helloooooo," echoed through the canyon," proclaimed the Storyteller, "Happy for any type of company William grabbed his coat and flipped open the flap of his makeshift cabin door and went outside."

"The snow was gently falling through the trees where William could make out a figure in a Mackinaw jacket and wide-brimmed hat propelling quickly towards him. It was Snowshoe Thompson one of the most dedicated mail carriers of the Sierra Nevada."

"Snowshoe was wearing a pair oak skis carved himself," emphasized the Storyteller, "They were nearly ten feet long and weighed about 25 pounds. As a young boy in Norway, he had used them to travel quickly over the snow-covered terrain. As a mailman Thompson's skiing ability soon became legendary. He could rocket down mountain slopes at nearly 60 miles per hour holding his balance pole out in front of him, dipping it one direction and then the other, all while carrying a pack that could exceed 100 pounds of mail and supplies. It was said nobody could dance on the heavy wooden boards like Snowshoe Thompson."

"With his charcoal smudged cheekbones to prevent snow blindness and beard layered with ice" the Storyteller explained, " Snowshoe whisked himself up the cabin."

"God Jul! Happy Christmas! William!" He exclaimed skiing up to the entrance of the cabin."

"Now most the time," reminded the Storyteller, "Snowshoe would just throw the mail toward the house, and then glide out of sight, up and over a hill. But today being Christmas he was on a special trip to spread some Christmas cheer."

"Merry Christmas!" William called out to him," continued the Storyteller, "Come in and sit by the fire."

"But Snowshoe shook his head and said he couldn't stay long he had more deliveries to make. He pealed the rucksack off his back and set it in snow then open its flap and reached inside of it pulling out a package wrapped in a brown paper package tied with twine."

"I thought you might be snowed in up here," Snowshoe said to William with a thick Norwegian accent "I knew when I saw this package for you in town, I just knew I had to get it to you by Christmas. So here I am. "

"Snowshoe handed the package to William," said the Storyteller, "It was his first word from home since coming to California. He held it gently and read his sister's the handwriting."

"Open it would you now," said Snowshoe, "So I can see what you got for Christmas."

"William," sighed the Storyteller, "Carefully untied a string and unwrapped the package containing a knitted scarf and five folded sheets of paper. It was a letter from his sister Emma updating with news about his family back east. He quickly read the letter's opening lines."

"Dearest William
I hope this letter finds you well. I only hope searching for gold in California is treating you? With any luck, this will arrive by Christmas for I know this scarf will keep you warm. I hope it will reminds you of home and how we missed you."

"William again asked Snowshoe to stay for a spell, But once again Snowshoe shook his head and said there is a storm brewing and he would like to make get his deliveries made before it hit," explained the Storyteller, "William quickly went into the cabin to retrieve his letters home and a couple of coins he had been saving to offer payment. Snowshoe took only one coin for the postage of the letters and turned down the rest before soaring off like an eagle on his skis."

"As William finished the last lines of letter saying,

"God bless you and keep you safe till we meet again your loving sister, Emma" concluded the Storyteller, "Snowshoe was just going over the hill."

"Merry Christmas Snowshoe Thompson!" hollered William."
"God Jul! echoed back.

The Storyteller then picked up his miner's pan and went back to the river. I found my paddle and went to my kayak.

"Hey kid," the Storyteller, called out to me my boat then with a slight pause then added "No matter where you are kid, Christmas will find you. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you too," I said paddling away.

Merry Christmas to all of you from Outside Adventure to the Max.

Friday, December 15, 2017


Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter. --Ansel Adams

As a photojournalist in both print and broadcast media throughout of my news career, I spent most of my most life getting pictures. My news photographer experiences included covering major floods and fires, national, state and local politics, school shootings, and extreme weather conditions, such as tornadoes, blizzards, and droughts. My goal each and every day was to provide storytelling images or video to the folks reading or watching.

Paddling with Current Adventures 50+ class
Most of my career was spent pre-Internet, Facebook, Instagram and pre-computer. Believe it or not, there was a time I had to wait until the next day to see my published picture in the papers. No likes or favorites back then. It was just nice if someone glanced at the shot long enough to read the byline. Of course, if they hated it they would call the editor and complain threatening to cancel their subscription. Major dislike there.

Bayside Adventure Sports at San Juan Rapids
Like most young photojournalist, I followed the careers of globe-trotting and photographers and dreamt of working for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic. Traveling the world and taking pictures of my passion along the way, if only, right?

"It’s hard to remember where I am when I wake up some mornings," photographer Peter Holcombe said in a 2017 interview with Canoe & Kayak Magazine. Living with a camera in hand, Holcombe and family of three sold their Colorado home in 2014 and moved their family and business into a Winnebago RV, and hit the road with a trailer of kayaks and SUP board, exploring wild and beautiful places. Since then, they have traveled over 150,000 miles through 49 states, exploring most of the National Parks and chasing whitewater.

The Lower American River
"We have paddled in places we could have only dreamed about before," Holcombe told Canoe & Kayak, "Not only visit amazing places but get to “live” there and really experience what they have to offer. I often paddle or create images during the day and do the imaging work at night. This often means I work till midnight or later so I can get on another river the next morning. This pace is tiring, but I love it."

I can picture myself in the same way. Exploring wild and natural places is my passion. There is not a day I don't think about kayaking. Every time I cross any river bridge and look down I wish I was there. Every time I see a lake I want to put a boat on the water. Every day paddling brings a re-charge to my mind, soul and body.

High water in 2017

So as 2017 draws to a close, I look back at some of my favorite places and people I had the good fortune of kayaking with this past year. I'll be looking forward to even more in paddling days to come in the next year.

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Current Adventures Kids Classes on Lake Natoma
Current Adventures Kids Classes
Moonlight paddle on Lake Natoma
Lake Tahoe

An evening with Bayside Adventure Sports
Hiking at Sly Park
Rolling with Eric Allen on Folsom Lake 
Lake Natoma

Friday, December 8, 2017


Tis the season when use-boats start showing up for sale. Some are real deals that will have you paddling with a smile all into next year, while others are a sinking investment. Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips' Dan Crandall gives you some tips to buying what is right for you.

Figure out WHAT it is you want. Sounds easy but you would be surprised how many folks we see coming in looking for a new or used boat after they have bought something that didn’t suit their purpose or just straight up doesn’t fit. Knowing what you want, can take a bit of educating on your part. You should first consider where it is that you would like to go in the boat.

Ocean, river, calm & protected, calm but potential winds and whitewater. This is important because it shorten the list of boats that will work for you, if you share this information with folks who are knowledgeable about boats they will be able to pin-point a good starting point for you to begin your hunt. Think widely on what it might be you would like to do now and what you might want to do later. If you limit it too much you may end up with a boat that is great in one type of circumstance but not in another.

That being said, no boat will do everything well. You will need to make some compromises. Start with reading about types of kayaking you might want to do, checking out some of the manufacturer's websites where they describe kayaks that you think might interest you. Ask your buddies and other paddlers you see out what they like and dislike about the boats they are paddling.

All of this you should take with a grain of salt, as your friends may still be in the process of figuring out what they are looking for or have a bias, and as for the Manufacturers, they will tend to give wide and generous spec ranges for paddler weight and boat description trying to entice a bigger demographic.

An example of this would be a boat that has a weight range of 110-230 is going to paddle very differently for the folks on either end of the weight range. In general you want to be in the mid weight of a boat unless you don’t mind the boat being over sized or undersized and that will depend on your comfort and skill set.

When looking for a used boat fit is paramount, many kayaks have adjustable seats, thigh hooks, back bands and foot braces. However deck height and foot room is not adjustable so if a boat doesn’t have enough room it's NOT the boat for you. If you fit into the boat with enough space for the feet and legs, but it isn’t 100% comfortable that is usually adjustable by adding foam or upgrading a seat or back band.

You should ask questions if you are not sure if modifications can be made to make the fit better. To test fit, sit in multiple boats of the same category most companies make a boat to fit each niche… “recreational”, “touring boat” , “river running”, “expedition touring boats”, “creekboats”, “playboats”, “crossover kayaks” etc…

Most boats within a category will paddle similarly but the fit may be radically different, if a boat fits well on the show room floor definitely keep it in mind to test it out on the water to make sure it still fits well when in use.
Testing a boat on the water is always a good idea. If you can borrow, rent, demo, or take a class to try out the kayak if at all possible prior to purchase you should. Boats within a category will paddle similarly BUT there are slight nuances that may make a difference to your paddling style.

If you are newer to the sport or the type of paddling going out with a instructor or working with a shop that has a demo program can really improve your chances of picking a boat that will be right for what you are planning to do. Instructors and shop employees who paddle can help you determine what type of paddling you might want to do, they can assess whether the boat fits right, help you adjust it to optimal fit for performance and give you feed back that can be invaluable as you decide what to get.

Also, as stated above fit can vary on the show room floor to when you are actually using it on the river. When you test the used kayak on the water you will have a chance to compare the fit on the show room floor to the fit during performance. You can also get a better idea of what adjustments you are going to use most and you can take a look at the design and see if those moving parts are going to hold up to your standards of performance.
When you take a boat out to test it try and test it in the type of water that you are wanting to paddle. Trying a boat out on water that doesn’t resemble the conditions you will experience will give you a false idea of how the boat will perform.

By choosing the correct water you will eliminate boats that aren’t designed for those conditions narrowing the field to the right boat. We often see folks try to test boats in sub-optimal conditions for the design of the boat. For example taking a creekboat (designed for tight technical moves), out on a wide, higher volume river with minimal technical moves.

This person is likely to have a disappointing experience on the water as the boat may have great performance but there is no good way to test it, however if this is the type of water they want to paddle… well they probably got the feedback they wanted which is this isn’t the correct boat for this.

Another example would be testing a touring kayak for rock-gardening on flat-water… where it might be better to test it in light class I or II whitewater if you aren’t able to get it to the ocean tide pools. The balance of this boat may not be tested in the calmer conditions, and you won’t have the obstacles to try and test maneuverability.

Also consider going out in the boat for a bit of time, 15-minutes in the boat won’t tell you the same as 2-3 hours. If the boat is 10-ft-long and you are paddling for 15-minutes you may not notice how tired you will be if you decide to take it across a large body of water.

Once you have determined the type of paddling want, tested some boats on the water that fit the bill the last step is to look at the condition of the equipment to determine if it will hold up for the future.

Here are some tips:
  • Find out how the boat was stored. Ultraviolet light is the #1 damaging agent to a plastic boat. If the boat has been stored inside it will be in much better condition.
  • If the boat had been stored outside press the plastic listen for cracking or creaking. UV makes the plastic more brittle. Also look at the handles, decking straps, seat, & back band for sun damage these may need to be replaced if UV damaged.
  • Look for repairs to the boat, you ideally want a boat that has not been patched or reheated to fix a nose dent or bend in the plastic. Plastic generally turns white stretched out of shape so take a good look at the nose of the boat and along the sides, if you see white or plastic that looks out of shape you should be concerned.
  • Folds around the leg area of the boat and behind the cockpit are extremely dangerous and should be avoided as the boat could easily fold again in that area pinning your legs or you body in the boat. Nose damage can be patched and the boat can be used again but the boat is less likely to retain is shape if it hits another rock and your feet will be less cushioned against hits.
  • Other cracks in the plastic can be a problem anything that could cause the boat to leak is a bummer, anything that can cause the boat to break or fold is a concern. Look inside the boat at the outfitting if it is a whitewater boat you should know if the boat is designed to have front and back pillars of foam or plastic….
  • IF it is designed this way (most are) then those pillars need to be there or the boat won’t hold its shape in a pin. On touring boats you also should look at the condition of the foam bulkheads in the boat. This is the foam that partitions off the front or back of the boat creating a storage chamber accessed from a hatch on the top of the hull.
  • If these bulkheads are not attached well then that storage area will leak. A minor leak will be a bummer a major leak can be a safety hazard causing that area to fill with water making it harder to re-enter when capsized mid lake.
  • Look for scratches on the underside of the boat, there will be scratches lots of them, probably most are very shallow and won’t affect the boat at all. However if you find deep scratches that go into the plastic more then a 1/8 of a inch in a high wear area on the boat like under the seat there is a chance this spot will crack under constant high use.
  • Look for oil canning of the underside of the hull. This is where the underside of the boat may have undulations and look wavy. This can be fixed in some cases by adding foam under the seat or putting the boat out in the hot sun and pushing the surface back out.
  • Oil canning can make the boat handle differently then intended on the water having more drag. Oil canning can be caused by over tightening the boat on a roof rack or storage rack on a hot day, or over time if the foam under the seat compresses.
  • It's recommended once you own your own boat on hot days if you do not have cradles on your roof rack then flip your boat over and tie it upside down as this side is structurally stronger and tends to resist oil canning.
With any luck you are on your way to finding a boat that is right for you and getting out and paddling soon. Should you find that optimal boat on a steal of a deal and need some additional outfitting check out The River Store’s selection of foam, spare parts, back bands and more.

Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
owner Dan Crandall