1. Winter can be a frustrating time with weather fouling up the best of our kayaking plans. For that reason, your kayaking may fall away in the colder months. Keep your skill levels improving by taking advantage of pool sessions and going out short and easy half day trips. "Summer only" paddlers miss out on lots of opportunities.
2. Ever wondered where to put the snacks, GPS, compass, map, raincoat, lunch, phone, VHF, and countless other bits and pieces on a kayak so you can easily reach them on the water? A deck bag is the way to go. Everything is at your fingertips, and all in one easily transportable package.
3. Disappointed that you can't get out kayaking? We all have work, family and other commitments that sometimes need to take first priority. To keep your kayaking sanity - plan some trips. You can use Google Earth, topo or marine maps, and mapping software like TUMONZ or Memory Map. Work out distances and timings, taking into account the effects of any tides. It's fun, and when you're free, now you have a ready made trip.
4. Kayak maintenance sounds boring but it could make a big difference to your safety. Periodically inspect any rudder cabling and webbing for nicks or wear, and lubricate all moving parts. Hey, while you're at it you may as well give the kayak a polish with a silicone based spray like Armour All. It's great for plastic kayaks and makes them really shine.
5. In colder weather, don't forget to clothe your hands and head. These two areas make a big difference to your comfort. In winter, neoprene gloves with a non-slip palm material will make it much more pleasant on cold mornings, and a beanie or warm hat will prevent heat loss from your head.
6. Take heaps of photos on your trips. Nothing beats reliving the experience of a wonderful day on the water by looking at your photos. You might even get to bore others as well. Oh well, "you had to be there."
7. There's a lot you can learn from more experienced kayakers if you're open to it. Watch the way they pack their gear, sort out their deck space, and move through the water. There is efficiency and style they have gained from their experience that you could benefit from if you have open eyes.
8. What's the best kayak? Wrong question. What do you want from your kayak? Better question. The first implies that there is one kayak that can do everything. All kayak designs are good at some aspects and not as good at others - it is the mix of factors you want to to consider. Take such factors as speed, glide, acceleration, primary stability, secondary stability, storage, windage, surfability. Decide which are most important for your intended use and look for that in a kayak.
9. Many intending kayak buyers assume an "unbiased" opinion of a mate is worth more than a "biased" opinion of a salesperson. Sometimes that might be true. But consider this: who of the two knows more about kayaking, has paddled more models, and is well aware of the features of a wide range of kayaks?
10. One of the most dangerous times on a kayaking trip is when you get out of your kayak on slippery ground. I kid you not! Be mindful of your steps and wear good footwear that has some grip on slippery rock. Watch those mussels and rock oysters as well. They can give razor-like cuts.
11. One day you may be paddling with someone who hurts their shoulder, feels sick, or runs out of energy. Time to do an assisted tow. Do you know what to do and are you ready should the occasion arise? Prepare and practise this so you're not trying to work everything out at a potentially stressful time.
12. Reflective strips are easy to apply to your paddle and kayak, and make a big difference to your night-time visibility. Silver is best. Don't use red (as in road markers) as the colour red may be confused by others as a port marker light.
13. Never use a flashing light for night time visibility on a kayak. Bike lights of this type are sometimes incorrectly used by kayakers. Flashing white could be confused with an personal distress strobe, and flashing red could look like a beacon. The only correct colour is solid (non-flashing) white.
14. if you are unused to it, when you tip over in your kayak you are likely to experience an uncomfortable "water rush" up your nose. This sensation often results in an anxiety signal being sent to the brain which suggests that you need to breathe - now! When used to it, you can relax more and not give in to that artificial sense of urgency. So where is this leading? Practice, practice, practice wet exits and rolling over until you're comfortable with it. If you're ever in a tricky situation the last thing you need is more unnecessary stress.
15. It's commonly assumed that the benefit of learning to roll a kayak is, well, being able to roll up. There are, however, other less obvious benefits like: increased water confidence, knowing the limits and capabilities of your kayak, and better "connectedness" between the paddler and the kayak. These benefits pay off whether you need to roll or not.
16. Effective rolling requires practice in different contexts. A warm pool is different to an open stormy sea. Develop your skill progressively. Start by learning in comfort (like a pool) preferably being taught by someone who knows how to teach. Then go to a different environment like a flat water river. Then try moving or choppy water.
17. You may find that when learning to Eskimo roll there are times when you seem to take one step forward and two steps back. Don't sweat it as this is normal. While some freakish people do take to it naturally, most of us have to develop our ability and that takes time, practice and most of all - perseverance. Along the way, don't be hard on yourself. You'll get there.
18. Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. If you're battling a headwind off shore, it can frequently make good sense to hug the shore and make best use of all headlands to go faster, more efficiently, and to reach the destination with more energy left in the tank.
19. Most people find the most difficult point of travel in a sea kayak to be when the wind and sea is from behind. If not directly behind, but more on an aft quarter, the kayak will want to swing around as the swell or chop pushes the stern. You can counteract that with the rudder to a large degree but sometimes it may be easier to turn to run with the wind directly behind and do a bit of a zig zag to your destination.
20. Never paddle a sea kayak without wearing a helmet where there is a risk of hitting your head. This would include moving water such as in surf or on a river that has boulders or sometimes shallows out. The risk is just not worth it.
21. If you have a push-fit plastic or rubber hatch cover, regularly give the inside of the cover a light coating of silicone spray. It helps the hatch go on more easily, and if you drop it in the drink by mistake (such as when you open a day hatch on the water), the water just sheds off it.
22. And while we are on push fit hatches.... If your front hatch is a push fit, make sure the tab is facing rearwards, lest one day surfing down a wave the water flowing over the bow peels it off!
23. If you want to do some coastal kayaking learn some basic techniques for dealing with moving water like good edge control and eddying technique. The first time you round a headland with current kicking around it you'll know why.