Searching for kayaking near me locations but overwhelmed with all the choices and conflicting information? Don’t fret. With our insider kayaking tips, you can find your next kayaking spot in record time.
What Is Kayaking?
The kayak itself is an invention of the Arctic native Inuit people, who developed it for hunting and fishing. In fact, the word kayak in the Inuit language translates to “hunter’s boat.”
Today, kayaks are primarily used for recreational purposes. They’ve also evolved into versatile watercraft suited for multiple activities. Some are designed to work well in white water conditions. Others provide maximum stability for fishing and nature photography.
6 Types of Kayaking
If you’re interested in kayaking, you’ll need to answer two questions. The most obvious is: what are the best places to kayak near me? But the more important question is: what kind of kayaking am I interested in? There are six types of kayaking you can try, and here’s what they are.
Recreational kayaking, as its name implies, is kayaking for leisure. Casual and beginner paddlers often participate in this type of kayaking because it takes place on calm, slow-moving bodies of water.
The kayaks are also designed with beginners in mind. They are wide and heavy, providing reassuring stability when paddling. However, the extra width has its downsides — it creates a lot of drag and isn’t built for either speed or extended use.
Sea kayaking is the complete opposite of recreational kayaking. Rather than paddling on calm lakes, you’ll traverse in open – and often unpredictable – waters.
Sea kayaks are also different from their recreational counterparts. For starters, sea kayaks are longer, slimmer, and pointier, so you can cover longer distances, paddle longer, and have extra deck room for supplies. They also have curved bottoms – known as a rocker – for handling choppy water.
However, this type of kayak is not perfect. You will have to give up the ease of maneuverability, especially on flat water. Its narrow profile also means less stability.
Kayak touring is not much different than sea kayaking, with the major exception being that it’s done primarily in calmer waters. And, as its name implies, it’s the kayaking equivalent of going on an extended sightseeing hike.
Touring kayaks resemble sea kayaks, but with a few notable differences. One is that they have less rocker and flatter bottoms overall. They’re also between 12 and 24 feet long, making them faster in the water and less stressful to paddle. Many even come with a rudder or skeg to make steering a snap.
Even though sea kayaking offers plenty of opportunities for adventure, whitewater kayaking provides a more thrilling experience. Instead of paddling on open waters, you’ll be traversing through fast-moving and rocky watercourses.
Whitewater kayaks are typically around ten feet long, but they come in sizes as short as four feet from bow to stern. They’re also made of more rigid molded plastics so they can stand up to the punishment of traversing a raging river. But that makes them unsuitable for any other kind of watercourse —they’re unstable by design and slow in open water.
Another kind of kayaking that’s great for adventure-seekers is kayak surfing. As the name suggests, it refers to taking a kayak into the surf and trying to catch a wave. Like whitewater kayaking, it’s not an activity for beginners, although it does feature an easier learning curve for newcomers.
At a glance, it’s often hard to tell the difference between whitewater and surfing kayaks. The latter, however, are lighter and usually made from fiberglass and other composite materials. And they come in two main varieties – surf skis and wave skis.
Surf skis are longer and narrow at the bow, making them great for cutting through waves. On the other hand, wave skis are shorter and feature a wide, flat design, much like a surfboard.
As you might have probably guessed, kayak fishing is simply fishing from a kayak. It may seem like a fad, but the reality is it’s rising in popularity because it is a more accessible, affordable, and intimate way of fishing.
Fishing kayaks have wide and stable designs that don’t churn up the water and scare fish away. Although they tend to be short and light, they’re comfortable, stable, and have enough storage space for your fishing gear like a fish finder.
How To Find Kayaking Near Me
If any of the above forms of kayaking seem like something you’d like to try, it’s time to answer the next question: how do I find the best places to go kayaking near me? And answering that question is easier than you think. Here are some of the best ways to do it.
1. Download the Go Paddling App
By far, one of the simplest ways to find the perfect kayaking location is to use the Go Paddling app. It’s available for both iOS and Android-powered mobile devices and features a database of over 25,000 user-curated kayaking launch points. Since it uses your smartphone’s GPS to pinpoint your location, all you have to do is search for kayaking near me, and you’ll get plenty of nearby suggestions.
Furthermore, every location has comments from other users. You can even share your personal experience and warn other kayakers. The same goes for unlisted spots you discover yourself – you can add them to the app so other kayakers can find them.
2. Visit Online Paddling Forums, Groups, and Associations
Since kayaking is popular, there is an abundance of paddling forums, groups, and associations online. A kayaking subreddit, for instance, has over 90,000 members that you can interact with and ask questions about finding the best spot to paddle.
You can even join one of the many local and regional kayaking associations. They often have classes and kayaking trips to expand your skills, network, and kayaking spots.
3. Check Your State Park and National Park Service’s Websites
State and national parks also list the best places to go kayaking. For instance, the National Association of State Park Directors has helpful information on any of the 10,336 state park areas. And the website of the National Park Service should get you up to speed on the 84 million acres of national park sites now in operation.
4. Use an Interactive Map
Many kayaking websites have interactive maps. They are often overly broad, so you’ll need to be very specific about your requirements.
Let’s say you want to kayak on a river and not a lake. Your search would look like this: where can I find river kayaking near me? If you love to try kayak fishing, you can narrow your search by using “kayak fishing map.”
Sometimes even a simple Google Maps search for “kayaking near me” will tell you about great kayak launching spots around you.
5. Ask Local Paddlesports Retailers and Outfitters
The internet isn’t the only place you can go to find great local kayaking spots — you can also go to your local paddlesports retailer or outfitter.
These shops are always staffed by locals who also love kayaking. They are more than likely to have insider knowledge of some of the best kayaking spots in your area. They can even share some tips and tricks on how you can safely transport your kayak.
Things To Consider When Choosing a Kayaking Spot Near You
Chances are, you’ll have several options to paddle. And that means you’ll need to know how to choose between them. You’ll need to consider launch and landing access points, weather conditions, and more.
Launch and Landing Access Points
When you’re evaluating a possible kayaking spot, the first thing you’ll want to consider is accessibility.
You’ll want to make sure it won’t be too hard to get your kayak to and from the launch and landing location. Sometimes, that may mean selecting a kayaking spot with a launch point close to a road or parking area – especially if you’re going by yourself. It’s a better idea to leave the less-accessible locations to when you have friends along to help you carry the needed gear over a longer distance.
Protection From Wind and Waves
The next thing you should consider is if the kayaking spot you choose has sufficient protection from wind and waves. This is because excessive wind and choppy water increase the kayaking difficulty exponentially.
You should never go kayaking in wind speeds above 10 knots – or 11.5 MPH – because you may have difficulty paddling back into your landing spot. If you have a location that offers good protection from wind and waves, you should always consult a real-time wind speed map.
Minimal Boat Traffic
Kayaking where there’s significant boat traffic is challenging, at best. Boats aren’t nearly as maneuverable as kayaks, which means it’s usually up to the kayaker to steer clear of them. Plus, dealing with the wakes of multiple powerboats isn’t a great way to spend your day.
Obviously, you don’t want to go kayaking when it’s raining cats and dogs. But even on a clear day, you have to account for both the air and water temperature.
The conventional wisdom is that if the combined air and water temperature at your kayaking spot are at least 120 degrees or more, you’re good to go. But that rule’s a little misleading.
Imagine that you’re kayaking on a 70-degree day when the water is 50 degrees. That sounds idyllic – unless you fall into the water. Even at 50 degrees, the temperature differential could send your body into shock.
So, if you’re kayaking anywhere with water temperatures below 60 degrees, you should always wear a wetsuit. You can consult your local paddlesports store for information on what kind you’d need. And while you’re there, consider picking up an emergency weather radio to take on your trip.
Finding the best spot to paddle can be confusing and overwhelming at first. But once you have the right tools and know what type of kayaking you would like to embark on, searching for kayaking spots near you will become second nature.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.