It’s just as important to paddle with gear that fits right as it is to paddle with good quality gear. The right size gear is as important as the newest and/or greatest gear. No matter how little or much money you spend on gear, if it does not fit right, it is not doing its job.
It’s so easy to be caught up in what I like to call gear talk which is always full of the latest kayaking buzzwords (does it have this and that carbon fiber, Kevlar, dynel edging, foam core, cross link or linear plastic, spectra or not, and the list goes on.) And no doubt these factors are very important when buying gear; however, if you forget to look at whether or not the gear actually fits you and is outfitted to your body size none of the other details will matter.
I realized all this when I asked to borrow a friend’s new paddle and found out that as good as that paddle was, I couldn’t even appreciate it or even really test it out because it was way too long for me.
This experience made me think about fellow boaters who end up with gear that is not right for them. Maybe it was bought used, or is a hand-me-down, or was purchased on a whim because someone said you could not live without it! Even the best of gear is of no value if it is not adjusted to fit.
So do your homework when it comes to gear. Don’t pass up the chance to have a knowledgeable outfitter size you up and educate you on how the gear works. Helmets are a very good example. Just knowing how to fit the straps and cinch the slide could make the difference between a helmet that looks good—and a helmet that actually protects you when you need it to.
And be open minded about checking out new stuff!! If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve asked to try someone’s paddle or boat. When I ask, it’s usually because they have the newest boat or newest paddle on the market and I want nothing more than to see how it performs. I am always psyched to try new gear. If it’s a boat I want to know how it boofs, is it fast or slow, what are the edges like, is it really responsive? If it’s a paddle I am thinking how heavy is it, is it truly ergonomic, do the blades pull smoothly through the water, does it flex, will it stand up to my abuse? And this goes for any new piece of gear.
Something that holds true– and not just in the gear world, is that you truly get what you pay for. Once you’ve figured out the right piece of equipment for you, don’t hesitate to pay a little extra for better quality. Chances are the quality and performance are significantly better and you’ll have a warranty if something were to happen to your new equipment.
Take the time to make sure your gear is sized properly. Before you buy, thoroughly explore your gear options. Don’t be swayed by cheap gear or buy ill-fitting gear—cheap or expensive. Your kayaking experience depends on your gear – the better it fits you and your needs, the more fun you’ll have. And having fun is what being on the river is all about!!