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Advice for First Time Kayak Buyers

Kayaking 101: Advice for First Time Kayak Buyers

It’s never too early to start thinking about paddle season. Here are some hints and tips for first time kayak buyers. If you still have questions after reading this, you can make an appointment to come talk to our staff.

Paddle Safely!
Dress for the swim – the worst swim that could happen. Stay near shore if you’re not dressed for extended immersion
Use good judgment – it’s your most important safety gear
Always wear your PFD snugly – you can’t adjust it after you fall in!
Clear the decks – prevent entrapment
Basic safety gear: PFD, paddle float and bilge pump
More safety gear: knife, headlamp, extra fleece, vhf radio, cell phone, charts, compass, tow line and whistle
Check the weather, NOAA weather radio/website
Don’t forget a thermos of hot soup and your First Aid Kit
Read Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble by Gronseth & Broze
Develop strong paddling skills – take a class at Alki Kayak Tours

Paddle Strokes
Use torso rotation more than arms
Power in front, steering in the rear – in at the toe, out at the hip… unless you’re correcting your course
Can’t keep it straight? Slow down!

Pick the Kayak That’s Right for You
Price – what kayak do you get for the money you spend?
Can you lift it yourself? Will you always have help? Can you get it on and off your car by yourself?
Do you have room to store it? Where?
Where do you want to paddle? Do you need a boat designed for rough water?
Do you fit comfortably in the boat?
How fast do you want to go? Do you want to paddle long distances, maybe go kayak camping?
Plastic = least expensive, prone to warping, can take a hit & not make you cry
Thermoform (ABS) = mid price range, light, low maintenance
Composite (Carbon Fiber, Kevlar, Fiberglass) = light, stiff, high maintenance, expensive, long lasting

Pick the Right Paddle
Materials – there are many paddles to choose from
Carbon = lightest, stiffest, most efficient, hardest on your joints, most expensive
Metal & plastic = heaviest, least durable, least efficient, least expensive
Fiberglass = in between
Bent shaft = some people prefer for ergonomic effect

Pick the Right PFD
Room for shoulder movement
Pockets, accessories for the activity you want
Make it a snug, comfortable fit


How to Choose a Kayak Paddle

Mountain to Sound staffer Tyler talks us through paddle selection for all of your kayaking needs, from a casual day out on the lake to intense overnight touring in the ocean.

Make a Plan

Before you head out, make sure you create a paddle plan. This video provides a few suggestions of things you should be aware of before you head out on your next paddle adventure.


Wondering what to bring with you before your next paddle? This video provides a few suggestions of different objects you may want to carry with you before you head out on the water.

Know Your Limits

Before heading out; Know your limits. This video provides a few suggestions things you should be aware of before going on your next paddle.

Take a Class

This video is about the importance of taking a paddle class. In the video we provide some suggestions on why it is important to take a class from a trained instructor before you head out on the water. This video will also give you demonstrations of a few fun rescue techniques you could learn how to do during a class.


Wondering how you can make yourself visible on the water? This video provides a few suggestions of different tips and things to buy to help you safely get out and paddle.

Pacific Northwest Weather

How to navigate weather and water in the Pacific Northwest. This video provides a few suggestions of tips and tricks on how to stay safe on the water while kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.

Life Jackets / Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Wondering which personal flotation device to buy? This video provides a few suggestions of different types of PFD's you may encounter while shopping around.

Paddle Clothing

Wondering what to wear while paddling in cold water climates? This video provides a few suggestions of different types of outfits you can wear to get you ready for your next cold water paddle!