My recreation definition: When people ask me about rec vs. true touring boats. I usually reply with something like ďI prefer to use the right tool for the right job.Ē Iíve seen strong paddlers with less expensive gear and Iíve seen paddlers with the latest and greatest gear, but with lousy skills. The boat doesnít necessarily make the paddler. Just because someone doesn't have a full-on expedition boat doesn't mean they're not passionate about kayaking.
There are the obvious length, width and feature differences between rec and higher end boats. Many rec boats donít have bulkheads; grab lines, or seats that allow for out-of-boat re-entry. Lack of bulk heads reduces the boatís ability to be righted in a swamped situation. The shorter length and wider beams reduce efficiency over longer distances when compared to full sized expedition boats. Typically the larger rec cockpit reduces the boats ability to accept a spray skirt (to keep water out) and the large cockpits usually lack thigh braces used in boat control. If the intent is that a rec boat is being used on slow, shallow, protected waterways, itís the perfect tool. If youíre planning to take on the great lakes for a week-long expedition in a rec boat, then youíve selected the wrong tool for the job.
In my opinion there are three things (aside from gear) that separate levels of paddlers: experience, knowledge and conditioning.
Experience and time in the seat refines stokes and irons out inefficient movements. Being on the water in different conditions challenges a paddler and adds to their mind/muscle memory for future outings. Various lengths of time on the water conditions a paddler to knowing if they only like the occasional morning paddle or if they enjoy being in a boat all day. These experiences and paddling with others usually lead to a paddler deciding if they want to take the next step in advancing their skills and possibly upgrading gear.
Knowledge is built from a paddlerís experiences. As an experienced paddler, I want to know youíve pursued the knowledge to protect or save yourself and possibly help me in a rescue situation. I also want to know youíre willing to learn. I want to be able to rely on you as an active member of our team. If weíre on a long tip your knowledge is useful on the water and in camp. I donít want you risking your, mine or another paddlerís safety by putting yourself in to a bad situation. If youíve been out in multiple types of conditions you understand the fun and dangerous aspects of wind, weather and waves. Kayaking is lots of fun, but situations can turn on dime and you need to be prepared. Knowledge goes a long way in understanding weather, navigation, hypothermia, etc. Iíve also asked a lot of questions from experienced paddlers, tried other boat designs, paddles and gear to see what is right for me. This knowledge goes a long way towards an enjoyable experience.
Conditioning is a major factor. Paddling is a great equalizer and there are no barriers due to gender in this sport. Having good technique and an efficient stroke is also tied to conditioning (an experience) and has nothing to do with strength. You can bench press 300 lbs, but that doesnít mean youíre going to be conditioned for a long day on the water. Too many times Iíve had some of the strongest and best white water paddlers out in sea kayaks and they are the ones dragging behind the pack. Iíd follow anyone of them down a class V river, but on open water their forward stroke technique sucks (all arms) and their bodies arenít conditioned for a long day of paddling. They are used to eddy hopping and surfing waves and not dealing with wind and waves for an extended period of time. Itís like comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner or why an LPGA tour professional could easily outdrive an NFL offensive lineman. Technique and conditioning prevails over physical strength on the water. As your conditioning wans your skills also decline, maybe you roll deserts you in a bad situation or you donít have the strength to do a cowboy re-entry because youíre tired? Maybe your lack of conditioning has now put me in a situation where I have to do an assisted rescue and I could be put in danger along a rocky shoreline. With no question Iíll come to your aid, but it shouldnít be your first option. You can have experience and knowledge but it can all fall apart if youíre not in shape for an afternoon on the water.
Wabakimi Canoe Pack
PFD's (Life Jackets)
Classic Freestanding Rack
Hardshell Kayak Sail Rigs
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