Kayaking has come on strong in the Lehigh Valley. More and more outdoor enthusiasts have taken up the sport. And for those who are considering it but are hesitant, here’s some tips on how to start and what to buy.
The first consideration is where you plan on kayaking. Be it a pond, reservoir, river or ocean. Kayaks are generally rated as Recreational, Sit-On-Top, Touring, Whitewater and are manufactured out of plastic (polymer), wood and even inflatable hull models. Kits can also be had from Pigmy Boat and Chesapeake Boat companies if you’re inclined to build it yourself.
Then there are fishing versions by Hobie (hobiefishing.com) wherein their Mirage Drive incorporates pedals that propel the craft while you’re fishing. There’s one with an electric trolling motor attachment and an extremely stable one by Freedom Hawk (freedomhawk.com). Their Freedom 14 has a split stern that, after pulling two handles, the stern opens into a “V” to serve as outriggers (entire craft looks like the letter Y when opened) for casting stability. It also has a standing support handle in front of the seat.
Many kayaks are designed for specific purposes. For example, Recreational is a sit-in craft that’s good for beginners and on flat-water like a pond or small water like local Lake Minsi or Leaser Lake, if it wasn’t under re-construction.
Barry Miles, a friend and avid kayaker from Bethlehem who owns several kayaks and hits all the local waters plus the ocean in Cape Hatteras where he has a summer home, believes the aforementioned is preferred for those who want to get their feet wet so-to-speak in the sport. He also suggests buying a kayak with fore and aft sealed storage compartments that not only holds and keeps gear dry, but they hold air, which keeps water out. Only the cockpit will draw water in the event of a capsize. This makes bailing and getting back in easier.
Miles also adds that if you plan on using a Pennsylvania launch ramp, you must get a “launch permit” from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Length too is a consideration when buying a kayak. They range in length from 8-18 feet. Keep in mind the longer the boat the faster it will move because of its increased glide area.
Width too is important and can be anywhere from 18 to 30 inches wide with the latter offering a bit more stability but less speed.
There are more kayaking considerations but to get a feel for the sport Miles suggests talking to a kayaker who can often be found on the Lehigh Canal in Allentown, the Delaware or Lehigh rivers. Information can also be had from kayak dealers like the LL Bean store in Upper Saucon, Army-Navy store or Dicks Sporting Goods in Whitehall, or Cabelas in Hamburg.
Another important point is how you’ll transport your craft. If you have a pickup truck there’s no problem. Simply lash it down inside the cargo bed. If you have a car or SUV, Thule (thule.com) makes their dandy “Hullavator,” a side-loading carrier with gas-assisted struts that easily lift onto your vehicle roof, a kayak of 40 pounds.
This is but a thumbnail on kayaks. It’s recommended talking to an experienced kayaker for in-depth details on purpose and purchase, before diving in.
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Photos by the author and Barry Miles