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Canoeing getting started

If you are new to canoeing the first thing you should do is READ everything you can about it. 

If you have friends/acquaintances that canoe, start with them.  See if you can borrow a canoe.  Paddlers are eager to introduce new people to the sport and usually are eager to assist.

Find a dealer/outfitter that rent canoes.  Outfitters are in the business of renting canoes, so there will be a charge.  Dealers love to have new people try their products and quite often offer this at a minimal expense if any.  Review the “Type of Canoes” below before this step.  You need to have some idea of the canoe’s use in selecting from the different types

Do you need lessons?  That is a good question and worth discussing.  Anyone can get in a canoe and paddle, but why is it that someone else can paddle the same canoe better?  They attended a lesson; someone taught them how to do it better.  Paddlers over many years have developed proven techniques to improve their skill, most of which will not come naturally.  Lessons are beneficial for any sport and paddling is no exception.  Check with your local dealer, adult education programs or area paddling clubs for available programs.  There are even “Paddling Schools” you can attend; check the Internet.

You have decided to buy.  New or used, dealer or individual??  A good used canoe can be a wise decision.  However, if the deal seems “Too good to be true” it probably is.  If you have friends that can accompany you and help with the decision, that may make it much easier.  Paddle test the canoe in any event.   

What Type of Canoe for Your First Canoe– Here is a short list (and there seems to be a lot of “Lists”).

Recreational Canoe: This is a good design for new paddlers or families looking to get out on the water.  They are stable, maneuverable and easy to control but at the loss of some performance.  Most recreational canoes are in the 13-16 feet range with a width of around 36 inches.  Designed for calmer waters, they make a great day-tripper.  Capacity would be 2-3 paddlers or a total of 600-1000 lbs.

Expedition Canoes: These are designed for long and heavy load trips under most water conditions except whitewater.  Length is usually 18-20 feet.  These are high volume boats, which handle best when loaded.  Capacity would be 2+ paddlers or 700 to 1200 lbs.  They have plenty of rocker and bow depth, which gives them excellent rough conditions ability.  Spray skirts are commonly used.

Wilderness Tripping Canoes: These boats, which may be solo or tandem, are designed for extended camping usage.  They have large load capacity and are stable and efficient.  Length may be 15-18 feet.

River Tripping Canoes: Designed for fast moving rivers and streams, these 15-17 feet canoes have no keel, are symmetrical end to end and have generous rocker.  They are very maneuverable and able to handle 1 or 2 paddlers in fast water.

Racing Canoes: Single purpose boats, usually 18-20 feet in length.  This boat is designed to go straight and fast.  These are typically quite narrow with little rocker.

Whitewater Canoes: Designed for whitewater paddling, these boats have extreme rocker to enhance their maneuverability.  Seating for the 1-2 paddlers is usually a kneeling pedestal.  Toe blocks, leg and knee straps and spray skirts are often used on this type.  Floatation is usually fixed into the bow and stern.  This is not your leisurely Sunday afternoon canoe.

Specialty Canoes: Unique designs fall into this category.  Boats designed for 4 paddlers or more or for unique applications.

Paddles:  Your paddle is how you transmit all your efforts to move the boat and you should buy the best you can afford.  They are fitted to the size of the boat, the size of the paddler and conditions under which they are to be used.  However a rule of thumb for length is: “The shaft from the blade top to grip should be same distance as your nose to the water surface.”  Deduct 2 inches for a bent shaft.

A straight handle paddle is probably a better choice as a first paddle.  Bent shaft paddles are now becoming very popular.  These work very well in straight line paddling but may not work as well in tight maneuvering as they do not allow for those type of strokes used there.  You will determine more about your preferences as you gain experience. 

Materials can vary from wood, plastic, fiberglass to carbon fiber.  Remember, this is the component that you have to lift and paddle all day and weight does count. 

PFD’s (Personnel Floatation Device)

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