Reporter's prelude: This past winter, I had so much fun trying out and writing about Central Oregon's popular snow sports that The Bulletin decided to bring back a similar series for this summer. Join me as I explore a number of the region's cherished summer sports and recreational activities. This week, I try kayaking.
So you would like to take up kayaking.
Luckily for you, Central Oregon has plenty of waterways to frequent, from the Deschutes River to the Cascade Lakes.
One of the easiest ways to learn how to kayak is to take a class, which I did recently with Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe in Bend.
“I would say a class is a good way to go,” says Hank Hill, kayak instructor at Tumalo Creek. “Most people can get in the kayak, grab a paddle and kind of be under way and manage themselves OK. But taking a class does just provide you with a good solid foundation, just so you know what you're doing a little bit more.”
If you are hooked after taking a class or two, you can always rent a kayak for the day, as a few shops in the region provide rentals. If you are serious, though, it could be worth the investment to purchase your own boat.
Different kayaks are made to perform in different kinds of water, such as whitewater or flatwater conditions. So make sure you know which kind of water you will be paddling on and buy an appropriate boat. Hill says, with the availability of flatwater in the region, the majority of boats Tumalo Creek sells are recreational kayaks. Recreational kayaks range in price from about $500 to $3,000. The materials used to construct the boat determine the price difference, Hill says.
However, you do get what you pay for. Less expensive boats made from polyethelyne have a life span of about 8 to 10 years, Hill explains, while pricey fiberglass boats can last 30 years. So while you pay more money up front, it may be worth it to buy a more expensive boat. Besides, they are lighter and more efficient, which can be beneficial to beginner paddlers.
The same principle applies to paddles — do not refer to them as oars.
“Put your money into your paddle,” Hill advises. “Buy the most expensive paddle you can comfortably afford because you're going to greatly appreciate a lighter, stiffer paddle. You're going to be able to paddle farther, and you're going to just be more comfortable and enjoy yourself more on the water.”
Once you are equipped with a kayak, a paddle and a personal flotation device, a beautiful, aquatic world is right at your fingertips.
“I fell in love with kayaking just for the simplicity of it,” Hill says. “You can make it a real technical sport if you want to, but what I fell in love with is just how simple it is. And it's easy to get in your boat and go and really explore some neat areas you might not otherwise be able to get to.”
As I detailed in last week's swimming story, I have spent plenty of time in the water. However, prior to a few days ago, I had never set foot in a kayak, so I opted to give that activity a try among paddle sport options.
I decided to take a basic skills kayaking class at Tumalo Creek, which is conveniently located on the Deschutes River in Bend's Old Mill District.
For the first hour of a four-hour class with my five classmates and me, Hill went over kayak terminology — terms like “bow” and “stern” — and essential knowledge on topics such as gear, accessories and proper clothing.
Then we took our boats to the river's edge and set off on the Deschutes. Hill taught the class a variety of stroke techniques, such as how to move forward, go straight — it's harder than it sounds, at least initially — turn in either direction and even move sideways. Hill also taught us how to do a wet exit — which is what you have to do if your boat capsizes, unless you know how to do an Eskimo roll to get yourself upright again.
Before the start of the class, I was not too keen on attempting that maneuver myself. Though, generally speaking, I am very comfortable in the water, the thought of trying to extract myself from a kayak while being submerged upside-down in a cold river made me a bit nervous, I must confess. But Hill assuaged my fears enough with his instruction that I decided to do it.
And he was right: I did not get stuck, I got out quickly and it was not nearly as scary as I had previously thought it would be.
Not only did I learn technical skills during the class, I also had the opportunity to observe the river from a completely new vantage point. Looking up and out from on the water provides a totally different experience than seeing it from land. The river sparkled, waterfowl swam by and water enthusiasts of all kinds — including a number of dogs — frolicked.
It was a great way to spend a beautiful day.