Anyone who has been around me for any period of time (usually something like 5 to 15 seconds) knows I love kayaking. Mostly, I want to find myself on moving whitewater rivers, somewhere as remote as possible. When I’m not on one of those rivers, you’ll find me on any body of water in a boat any chance I get. There’s something about paddling that is simply good for the soul and the body.
To help spread the good vibe, I’m always up for helping new paddlers get out on the water. As the owner of Bayou City Outdoors, I get a lot of questions about how to get into all types of outdoor activities. But, far and away, the most frequently asked questions are about kayaking. Kayaking can appear to be somewhat daunting of a sport to jump into. People wonder about buying a boat, what other gear is needed, where to go, how to move the boat around and how to move it forward through the water!
Hopefully, in a few short paragraphs, I can help to get you out on bayou, lake or beach nearby.
Gear that you just gotta have…the bear necessities:
Boat (sit on top or cockpit)
PFD (stands for personal floatation device i.e. lifejacket)
Gear that you wanna have:
Booties or Water shoes (you must have some sort of foot protection)
Hat & gloves (mainly for sun protection)
Dry bag — to keep your essentials in and dry
Sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and water
Don’t purchase a kayak until you’ve paddled a few times. There are so many different types and styles that you need to try a few. To find a kayak rental check http://www.paddlesports.com/. Rentals come with the boat, paddle and pfd. (If you are a BayouCityOutdoors.com member, we have free kayaks for you to use)
Before you head out on the water, make sure you do three things. First, get a friend to join you. Rule of the river is don’t paddle alone. Second, know where you are putting in (launching) and where you will take out (don’t forget to have a ride back to the put in if it is a distance). Third, check the weather. Weather changes in our area at the drop of a hat. Be sure that high winds, heavy rain or cold is not on the way. Along with this, be sure not to jump on an unknown body of water after high rains. You can run into unexpected hazards on the water.
With the basics behind us, let’s talk about having fun on the water. A few paddling pointers will help you move through the water like an expert in no time.
Paddling is not about arm strength; it’s about using your core. Arms wear out, especially if you are paddling for several days. Your core is much stronger. To engage your core when kayaking, keep an upright and relaxed posture. Your hips should be relaxed as well as your shoulders; your back should be fairly straight. If you slump when you paddle you’re only be using arms and putting stress where it shouldn’t be.
As you reach forward to take a stroke, notice that your hip moves forward also. (right hand forward, right hip forward) this moves you into what is called the jousting position. As your forward hand/arm plants the paddle blade fully into the water, think about engaging your core and pulling the boat through the water as the paddle moves back towards you. Then, take a stroke on the other side. Stay relaxed and fluid and the boat and you will both learn to move smoothly forward.
Remember to focus in on your core muscles while you paddle and you’ll soon see how much work actually comes from the middle of your body, rather than each arm.
Houston is known as the Bayou City because we have so many bayous and waterways. We are one of the few major cities that you can paddle right through the middle of downtown. You will be shocked at what you can see when you are on the water that you would never notice from the land. Such and amazingly different perspective! Here are just a few locations to get you started on your journey. For a more extensive list of where to paddle, check this out: http://www.tamug.edu/paddler/
Buffalo Bayou — The ”Heart of Houston” bayou, begins it’s journey way west of Houston in Katy and winds its way through the suburbs and into the center of Houston. You’ll pass tree-lined banks, freeways, new trails, bats, downtown, and areas you didn’t know existed! With the current construction on the bayou trails, it can be a little tricky launching. You can find loads of info and trail maps here: http://bit.ly/1zfp44k
Brays Bayou— Winding across the city of Houston, past Hermann Park, and on through University of Houston and MacGregor Park you’ll find plenty of parks to put in at or take out at. Plus, you’ll be able to check out the new trails along the bayou, another great city resource.
Sims Bayou— Just south of downtown, Sims’ is filled with lush greenery and wide-open channels. You can put in at Reveille Park off of Reveille and paddle down to the new East Side trails.
Armand Bayou— a little further down 45 south is Armand Bayou in the NASA Space Center area. It has been declared a Coastal Preserve by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is one of the last undisturbed bayous in the Houston area. You can put in at the Armand Bayou Nature Center and paddle either direction, but make sure you watch for the local alligators, they are formidable from the water!
Cypress Creek — Flowing from west to east, on the north side of the city, you’ll find Cypress Creek. It is a beautiful wooded stream with sandy banks and big white sandbars. If it hasn’t been raining, it can be quite low so you may have to cross sand bars by foot. If it has been raining quite a bit, please avoid any tress or logs in the water. Give them clear berth and walk when necessary.
Ready to jump in? Then join us at one of these upcoming kayak-centric events!
May 8th — 10th Whitewater Kayaking Lessons in San Marcos with BCO (repeated several times over the summer, check the calendar for dates)