By Sierra McGivney
Waves toss and turn through a churning Adirondack river. Small blue boats with skilled, thrill seeking riders fly by, avoiding rocks .
Red plastic boats cut through soft water on a still lake, sprinkled with islands. A double-blade paddle dips in right then left, turning the boat to face the surrounding mountains.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day on Upper or Lower Saranac Lake or seeking a whitewater challenge, you’ll need the right kayak and preparation to get you to your destination.
The Bow or the Beginning
Finding a local paddling outfitter is one of the best places to start if you are looking to buy a kayak or learn how to kayak. According to Jason Smith from ADK Lake and Trails in Saranac Lake, professionals can put you on the fast track to finding the right boat. If you are looking more to learn, lessons with a guide can provide instructions on good form and technique.
“Are you circumnavigating Lake Champlain or just going out for a day on the Saranac?” asks Smith.
When looking to buy a kayak, consider the size of the boat, what you will be using the kayak for and how much the kayak weighs. Are you looking to whitewater, coastal or recreational kayak? Whitewater kayaks are wide and light while sea kayaks are long and narrow.
Next is fitting the boat to the person. Kayak length ranges between 8 and 20 feet. A 5’2 person needs a smaller kayak than someone who is 6 feet. If a person is just doing day trips and needs a basic kayak, Anne Fleck of Raquette River Outfitters recommends a 10- or 12-foot boat. For camping or longer trips you will need a long boat with more compartments.
Smith says to consider what the total user experience is when considering weight. If your kayak lives at your house on a rack and you have to put that onto a car and drive it to the water, how manageable is it for you to get a heavier kayak to the water vs a lighter one? If you live on the lake then having a heavier kayak is less of a factor to consider.
No matter what you decide, your new outdoor pursuit will likely have some therapeutic benefits, says Fleck. “The woods and the waters of the Adirondacks are very healing.”
Here are some resources for getting started with kayaking:
Trip ideas: We’ve compiled some paddling favorites from the Explorer’s Adventure Planner. READ MORE
Plastic or composite? Pros and cons of material choices. READ MORE
Safety first: Wearing a PFD is essential. Find out what else you need. READ MORE
Outfitters: List of Adirondack outfitters READ MORE