Over a pint of cider in a quaint Welsh pub we were discussing new kayaks. I asked if anyone had seen the new promo video for a well known American kayak manufacturer, starting with J. One of my fellow paddlers said in no uncertain terms "yes, but unless you are interested in paddling down Grade 5 and off 100 foot waterfalls I can’t really see the point". This got me thinking; although I understand completely why a kayak company would want a big name endorsing their boats, there would only be a very small percentage of people using the boat in the same manner as in the video....
Whilst I enjoyed watching Tyler Bradt and his crew paddling this boat to the extremes down some of America’s largest white water sections, but I had to agree it didn’t give me a sense of what the boat would actually do for me on one of my local rivers.
As a bit of background into my paddling life – although I started paddling a bit later in life than most I have now been padding for around 25 years. When I started there weren’t the number of manufacturers around that there are today, there weren’t the amount of shops, no internet for research and CIWW definitely didn’t exist. I paddled most of the rivers around south Wales in my trusty Pyranha Burn Mk1, many times in the Alps and more recently Slovenia.Throughout Pyranha being my boat of choice.
So what is the best way to buy a kayak? If you ask anyone the answer should be to try before you buy. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Most will say to join a club, which is often the most accessible way but even then it’s not always easy to try a range of boats and if trying someone else’s boat, it has normally been fitted out specifically for that person.
Nowadays there are more and more kayak manufacturers, from British makes such as Pyranha and Wave Sport, to boats from America, New Zealand and Czech Republic. So how do you identify which is the best boat for you? Like I said before, try before you buy. Therefore a trip to the Canoe and Kayak Store at CIWW is essential...
This is where you will find a massive selection of kayaks for you to demo, either on the course or flat water. Most importantly the kayaks are in a range of sizes to suit everyone.
When visiting Canoe and Kayak Store at CIWW you will be greeted by one of the happiest men you will ever meet who’s knowledge of kayaks and especially outfitting kayaks is second to none. He will happily talk you through the demo kayaks and differences between the models, with the aim to try and find what best suits your specific needs.
He will enthusiastically answer any questions you have, big or small, even if you didn’t buy a boat from the Canoe and Kayak Store. You will then be able to take the boat out on the challenging CIWW course, which runs on several different flow rates /cumecs. This will enable you to really get a feel for the kayak before you buy. Canoe and Kayak Store also stocks everything you will need to help you become a safe and competent paddler and through the summer months hosts weekly Demo nights on the canal near the Gloucester shop for offer the same demo service for canoes, SUPs and recreational boats.
Words by Paul Evans