Yak & SUP  

This page reflects my passion for kayaking and standup paddleboarding.

You can access my kayaking and standup paddleboarding blogs via the pulldown menus on the inner site navigation bar above. My favorite launch sites are listed at launch sites.

In the snapshot above, Daphne and I are standup paddleboarding on Mattaponi Creek in Prince George's County, Maryland on June 16, 2021. Our good friend Sara took this picture which ended up being the cover photo of Paddleboarding through Nature around Washington, D.C..

How Did It Start?Open accordion icon
A lot of folks ask me how I got into paddling. I did some lazy downriver rafting a few times as a teenager, along with a couple of kayak trips. The first was with my late Uncle Don, who was a champion racer. He put me in a whitewater kayak, which I did not like because I felt that it was too hard to control. I think that was in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, Kent, one of my Karate buddies, took me kayaking in a reservoir on a Royak. I had a great time.

In 1995, I moved from California to Maryland. One of the first trips I did was to the Appalachian Trail, which I had heard so much of. But I was disappointed. I did not have the epic, rugged mountainous views that I had in California. Most of the trail was deep in the woods and only occasionally was there a vista. In contrast, much of the hiking I'd done in my native California was much more scenic.

I kept hiking but knew I wanted more. Studying maps, I realized that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries offered lots of opportunity for outdoor exploration. I rented a kayak at Quiet Waters Park and instantly fell in love with kayaking.
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Ocean Kayak Scupper ProOpen accordion icon
Soon after renting a kayak at Quiet Waters Park, I purchased one. It was the Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro TW. The "TW" stands for "tank well" since the boat is make to hold a scuba tank. I wasn't into scuba but that didn't matter. I purchased it on March 24, 1999 from SpringRiver Corporation for $690 new. This store no longer exists but in its spot is Annapolis Canoe and Kayak.

The Scupper Pro TW was a great first boat for me. It was fun, stable, rugged, and fairly inexpensive. It is on the slow side compared to sea kayaks, but compared with most sit-on-tops, it isn't bad.

The one I had didn't have a rudder. If I had to purchase it again, I would definitely spend the extra money and get one. It can be added later but I've heard it is a real bitch to install.

Here are the specs:
  • Length: 14 feet 9 inches
  • Width: 26 inches
  • Depth: 12 inches
  • Weight: 55 pounds
  • Maximum capacity: 350-400 pounds (depending on conditions and hatch selection)

  • In 1999, I launched from Sandy Point State Park and paddled out to the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1883. On that day, I just happened to run into Sean and Lisa from the gym who were out boating and Lisa took my picture.
    Me on the Scupper Pro TW in front of Sandy Point Shoal lighthouse

    They say you never forget your first and that is definitely true of kayaks. After a few years of owning this boat, I purchased others that were better suited for what I wanted to do, then I ended up selling the Scupper Pro TW.
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    Ocean Kayak CaboOpen accordion icon
    One great thing about a tandem kayak is that if you paddle with someone slower or faster than yourself, you still stay together. I purchased the Ocean Kayak Cabo on August 15, 1999 from SpringRiver Corporation for $700 new. This store no longer exists but in its spot is Annapolis Canoe and Kayak.

    This boat is stable and rugged, and if your partner accidentally crashes the boat into some rocks, you won't be quite so inclined to throw him/her overboard because this kayak can take a beating. My favorite thing about this kayak is that you are spaced far enough from the other person so that you don't need to maintain perfect tempo to prevent hitting paddles together though some resemblance of unison is desired.

    I find this boat to be faster than most sit-on-top tandems. It is also difficult to flip, though I have managed to do so a couple of times. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is the weight.

    Here are the specs:
  • Length: 16 feet 3 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Weight: 76 pounds
  • Maximum capacity: 500-600 pounds (depending on water conditions)
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    Futura C4Open accordion icon
    In 2001, I decided that I wanted to cover longer distance. I think up to then, the furthest I'd paddled was only about 12 miles. I checked out the Ocean Kayak Sprinter but couldn't find a dealer who had any in stock. I would have to pay for it up front and then they would order it from New Zealand. If I didn't like it, I was stuck with it.

    I then checked out the Current Designs Speedster. It is 20 feet long, 18 inches wide, and is made of kevlar. I found out the Jersey Paddler had one so I drove out there to test it. I tried it out on perfectly flat water and fell out every few seconds. They had a used Futura C-4 in stock so I tested that out too. It was 20 feet long, 18.5 inches wide, had a gas pedal style rudder, and was made of fiberglass. While it was very challenging, I managed to stay in. I purchased it that day on May 22, 2002.

    The first year I had the C4, I tried to stick to calm water. I fell out often but found getting back in was simple. I just kept practicing and the next year, I took it on some choppy water. Eventually, I was handling up to four foot waves.

    In 2004, I did some racing. I did the Lankford Bay Paddle Race at the Rock Hall Yacht Club in Maryland. There wasn't much of a turnout so it was an easy win. Then I purchased a wing paddle and entered the Potomac River Paddle Rally at the Washington Canoe Club in Washington, D.C. There were some very good paddlers from many states. I did about average in a tough crowd, finishing in 51:50 for a five mile race. Since it was the day after Hurricane Ivan, the water was really moving and there were times when I had to give it everything I had just to keep from moving backwards when paddling upstream. The fellow who beat me was paddling a Fenn surf ski. His boat was 21 feet long, 17 inches wide, and weighted about 30 pounds. The winner for the ten mile course was also paddling a surf ski but his was a TwoGood. Both these fellows were the overall winners which says something about the speed of surf skis since there were many types of boats entered. Both used wing paddles too.

    The C4 cockpit is rather cup-shaped and makes me want to lean back. While it is comfortable, it doesn't allow me to achieve maximum paddling power. Hence, in 2005, I added some foam to the seat to enable me to sit more upright when paddling. I also added foam to the sides of the seat to accomodate a person with narrower hips. Without this padding, rougher seas make my butt slide left and right, throwing off my balance.

    In 2007, I found that the places where the adjustable aluminum footrests attach were leaking water. It originally started out only being a little bit but over the years, it became substantial enough so that I was hesitant to do a Chesapeake Bay crossing for fear of my boat sinking. I wasn't able to access these small crevices which were made only large enough for the footrests to slide. Hence, I used Great Stuff Insulating Foam Sealant to fill the gaps. There was a small hole in the boat where the aluminum footrest presses against the fiberglass of the boat. I fixed this with a regular fiberglass repair kit. I also fixed some small cracks with BoatLife Life Seal.

    The footrests form a nearly 90 degree angle to the boat. My feet rest against it at more of a 75 degree angle. Hence, after a long trip or a fast pace, my feet would hurt (even with sandals). I cut some foam and attached it to the footrests so that my feet could press against them ergonomically with the flat of my feet. More comfort means I'll spend more time on the water!

    My maximum flatwater speed (no wind or waves) was 9.1 mph for just long enough for the global positioning system (GPS) to register it.

    Here are the specs:
  • Length: 20 feet
  • Width: 18.5 inches
  • Weight: 40 pounds
  • Height: 11 inches
  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Rudder: Aluminum stern mounted flip-up

  • My boat was made in 1996.

    In 2004, I launched from Harbour Cove Marina in Deale, Maryland and paddled to the town of Friendship.
    Me on the Scupper Pro TW in front of Sandy Point Shoal lighthouse

    After purchasing my S1-A, I paddled my C4 less and less. I decided it was time to find a new home for it. I wanted to sell it to a young person with exceptional balance that might not have enough disposable income to purchase a new surf ski. So in 2012, I sold it to my co-worker for $300.
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    Cobra ExpeditionOpen accordion icon
    The Cobra Expedition is a sit-on-top kayak with dimensions more like that of a regular sea kayak. One of the problems with sit-on-tops is that most are very slow while a few are very fast but sometimes unstable (i.e. surf skis). There aren't many that are in the middle ground. Many sea kayakers dread the idea of a sit-on-top paddling with them because such boats will frequently slow them down and for the most part, they are right. But if you like stable sit-on-tops and still want to keep up with the big dogs, then you might want to check out the Cobra Expedition.

    I purchased mine used at Shank's Mare on September 29, 2002. It is a good boat but it does have some drawbacks.
  • The rudder isn't as smooth and responsive as my C4. Waxing the cords that control the rudder seem to reduce friction but it could be a lot smoother. Still, it is satisfactory.
  • The round center hatch that rests just in front of or under your crotch when you sit in the boat is worthless. It just lets water leak in. I've since used silicone sealant to make this hatch non-functional. I recommend you order an Expedition without this hatch.
  • The rudder pedals (gas pedal style) are adjustable for leg length but the boat clearly favors a shorter person. My 6'2" friend can't possibly sit comfortably in the boat even with the rudder pedals set for the longest leg length. But I am short so it fits me fine.
  • The hatches on top use a locking mechanism comprised of several flip and twist handles. Unfortunately, these hatches are not as watertight as the Ocean Kayak hatches I've encountered. I think the more conventional hatches of the Australian Cobra Expedition keep out water better.
  • I'm not sure why, but the Expedition is not as comfortable for me as my other boats. I've tried various adjustments with the seat and the rudder pedals but this boat is much more likely to make my hips sore than my other boats. I have since made a foam seat insert out of an exercise mat. This makes the boat considerably more comfortable.
  • The venturi is large and does a rather poor job of sucking water out of the boat unless you are maintaining a pretty good speed...one that most people probably won't keep up for long. And it is so big that once you stop, the area in which you sit will quickly fill up with water.

  • Here are the specs:
  • Length: 18 feet
  • Width: 23.5 inches
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Material: Super Linear Polyethylene (fancy word for a special type of plastic)

  • In 2002, I put a shark face on my Cobra Expedition. I did this by cutting various pieces of adhesive boat tape.
    Close-up of the shark face on my Cobra Expedition

    One weakness of my Cobra Expedition was the rudder pedals. They are made of plastic and both have broken. In 2010, I replaced the broken part with an aluminum crossbar that I configured. I've been told that Cobra now makes pedals out of aluminum. They sell for about $30 a pair
    Rudder pedal repair that I did

    In 2010, I decided to get serious about primitive kayak camping. My Cobra Expedition was the best boat I owned for this job. But even though it is spacious, I still needed to put some thought into how to pack overnight gear efficiently. Like backpacking, I want the heaviest gear nearest my center of gravity. For kayaking, this center is roughly at the boat's center. Heavy gear high up makes a boat less stable. Hence, I put my almost weightless sleeping pads up top. Heavy water bottles would go in mesh bags tied to the boat in front of my rudder pedals. The cooler actually sits in a deep recess low in the boat.
    Cooler in deep recess of boat

    I made a spare paddle blade bag which not only helps protect the paddle but also keeps it secure. Things are arranged so that if my boat were to ever flip over while loaded to the gills with camping gear, I would not lose anything. As of 2023, I still haven't taken it camping.

    In 2011, I took my Cobra out in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Here I am posing with the USS Torsk, a Tench-Class fleet type submarine commissioned in 1944 that saw service in World War II. Clearly, the shark face theme has been around for some time, both on boats and planes. It may not make me any faster but one can argue that it makes me look a little cooler.
    Me on the Cobra Expedition next to the USS Torsk

    In early 2019, I decided to do away with the venturi. What is a venturi?
    The venturi (self bailer)...drains water from the cockpit while you are paddling. When the venturi door is open/down, a low pressure differential is created that sucks the water out. Remember to close the door if stationary or paddling slowly to stop water flowing back into the boat.
    - from Star Kayaks - FAQ

    In some boats, like my S1-A, the venturi works great. It is easy to get the S1-A moving fast enough to the point that it sucks water out, and when it isn't moving, it doesn't fill up with a lot of water. But the Cobra Expedition is not so fortunate. The venturi is very large and while it can be closed, it still lets water in. The amount of water that gets in is pretty significant. It isn't a safety issue...just an inconvenience...who wants to have their legs wet all the time? I'm not the only one who complains about this. I've read several blogs of kayakers who hate the venturi on this kayak.
    Venturi shut

    Here's another view of the venturi.
    Venturi open

    The Cobra Expedition is the one that Norma normally paddles. In 2018, she told me she was tired of sitting in a puddle of water and asked me to seal up the venturi. A few months later, I purchased:
  • Top Kayaker - Plastic welding patch
  • Poly Welder Pro Polyethylene Welding Strips - 5-feet (Blue)

  • Then I reviewed YouTube - Boat Welding and Ocean Kayak - Welding. In the end, my plastic welding was not sufficient. Water still got through the venturi. I ended up covering things with a plastic epoxy, which worked at keeping out the water.
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    Futura/Huki S1-AOpen accordion icon
    The S1-A might have been the fastest surf ski on the water at the time I purchased it. But it it's not for everyone. It is unstable and only made for experienced paddlers weighing 160 pounds or less. But these are the things that help make it fast. No waste.

    I've been interested in the S1-A for a few years now. I first tried it back on August 2, 2006. I knew then that this was the boat for me. In late 2007, I ordered it from Futura. It was custom made to my specifications by Huki. It finally arrived almost four months later.

    On April 11, 2008, I took it out on its maiden voyage. I paddled 13 miles on Stoney Creek in Anne Arundel County. I chose this location because it is fairly sheltered. While I didn't fall, I found beam waves a bit challenging. I easily maintained 5-6 mph.

    The following was said about the S1-A in an interview with Jude Turczynski of Huki:
    Your first surfski was the John Dixon designed S1-A that premiered in 2003. Can you tell me how that came about and what you learned from John and that experience?
    John wanted a surfski that really fit him well and I offered to build the first skis from his new mold at a reasonable price if he would allow me to manufacture and market the skis commercially. His hull design taught me and Jerry Montgommery that a nearly flat surfski hull could be a fast hull if you controlled issues, such as wetted surface area, prismatic co-efficient, beam, and rocker. We started to analyze design in a whole new way.

    Here are the specs:
  • Length: 18 feet
  • Width: 16 inches
  • Weight: 22.5 pounds
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 160 pounds
  • Material: Fiberglass interior, carbon fiber exterior

  • The photo below was taken on April 17, 2008 when I paddled near the mouth of the Severn River after launching at a community beach.
    S1-A surf ski

    Having paddled the Futura C4, I figured I would master the S1-A quickly. But that never happened. I am proficient in moderately calm water but definitely not challenging water. Once I purchased my Yolo Prowler SUP, my interest in surf skis waned and my skills stagnated.
    S1-A surf ski

    For me, kayaking and paddleboarding season typically goes from the beginning of April to the end of October. I might get in a little paddling between November and March but not much. Having this off-season time allows me to catch up on my honey-do list and fix up the boats. In early 2016, I made a console for my surf ski so I could mount my GPS and stereo.

    In the below picture, I just finished waxing my S1-A in 2017. Bags of wood pellets stacked up make a great working platform that conform to the shape of the boat.
    Waxed S1-A surf ski

    Here's another shot.
    Waxed S1-A surf ski

    I've had a few dings including one that made a small hole just behind the rudder.
    Damaged S1-A

    It was nothing that I couldn't fix with a little fiberglass and gel coat in 2018.
    Fixed S1-A

    My maximum flatwater speed (no wind or waves) was 9.8 mph for just long enough for the global positioning system (GPS) to register it.

    On March 24, 2024, I passed on my S1-A to a woman I feel is a worthy recipient.
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    Prijon CatalinaOpen accordion icon
    After buying fast boats and paddling longer distances on open water, I was starting to find the narrow creeks a bit more interesting and scenic. These are the rivers such as the Catoctin, Antietam, Conococheague, Monococy, and Middle Patuxent. Some are a bit rocky in parts. Others have a tiny bit of easy whitewater in a few places that could damage a fragile, carbon fiber surf ski. But overall, these creeks are mostly flat so a whitewater boat isn't necessary...but a long fragile sea kayak isn't quite right either. Unfortunately, I didn't have a non-tandem boat designed for such places. The ideal boat for me to venture in such waters would be short, plastic (hence durable), and made for a small person. I checked out a few (see October 21, 2009) and occassionally looked on-line for sales.

    On May 8, 2010, opportunity knocked. Brad at Starrk Moon Kayaks was selling a used Prijon Catalina. New, this boat sold for $1529. But the boat Brad was selling was owned by the Canton Kayak Club, then by a man who bought it for his son but the son didn't like the color. It was an older Catalina with some wear. The bottom was sun bleached and pink. The seat hardware wasn't secured properly. But with a day of work and inspection, I could make it seaworthy. Cost? A mere $350 plus tax. I purchased it.

    The seaworthy Catalina brings out the best in all smaller framed touring paddlers. Its stability and grace coupled with ample storage space provide the essentials for any touring paddler. This 15' 3" frame with lower deck and Trihedral hull allows this boat to glide, edge and maneuver at your command. The Catalina features an adjustable seat, thighbrace and backbrace for comfortable extended expeditions. Hatches, bow & stern, combine neoprene, polyethylene plastic and quick-release webbing straps for dry, easy use. Deck pack nets organize those small cumbersome items and the well placed deck lines aid in the event of a self-rescue. The ergonomic grabloops make car-topping this lightweight a snap. Day and or multi-day trips the Catalina is sure to please.
    - from "The Paddle Shack"

    Here are the specs:
  • Length: 15' 3" / 465 cm
  • Width: 21 3/4" / 55 cm
  • Volume: 93 gal / 360 l
  • Weight: 49 lbs / 22 kg
  • Cockpit: 32 x 18" / 81 x 45 cm
  • Hull design: Trihedral
  • Paddler Level: Beginner-Advanced
  • Paddler Weight: 90 - 180lbs / 40-80 kg

  • Features:
  • HTP Polyethylene: High Performance Thermoplast
  • Trim Adjustable Seat w/Full Coverage Pad
  • In Seat Adjustable Backrest w/Air Flow Cover
  • Adjustable Padded Thighbraces
  • Adjustable Pedal - Style Footbraces
  • Spacious Storage Compartments
  • Cable Lock Loop
  • Bow & Stern Flotation Bulkheads
  • Thermoformed Plastic & Neoprene Hatch Covers
  • Ergonomic Carrying Handles
  • Pack/Rescue Nets Fore and Aft
  • Full Perimeter Safety Deck Lines
  • Bow Painter Line
  • Rudder Ready (mine came without rudder)

  • In the below photo, my boat sits alongside Lisa's. Hers has the gray seat while mine has the black seat. I paddled her kayak for a few months so I knew the Prijon Catalina quite well. It is responsive, fairly fast, and fits me well.
    Two Prijon Catalinas
    Here's the story with this boat. Lisa first became interested in the Prijon Catalina when she tried out a similar boat at the Canton Kayak Club. After taking it out a few times, she decided to buy her own. Then when I was looking for a cockpit boat, she loaned me hers. I tried it out a few times and liked it too. I gave hers back and eventually found Starrk Moon Kayaks selling a used one. I bought it. When I got it home, I opened up the rear hatch and found that "Caton Kayak Club" was written inside. The boat I bought was the same one that Lisa tried out several years prior!

    In 2017, the effects of piriformis syndrome made paddling this boat quite painful. The other boats aren't extremely comfortable but this one was by far the least. So I decided to make a new seat. I first considered carving out some thick mini-cell foam to fit my butt. I ordered the foam and the tools to do this and watched Make a Custom Kayak Seat and How to Make a Foam Kayak Seat. I was very impressed with the results obtained by the builders in these videos but I was a little intimidated by the amount of work and skill required to do the job right. So I tried a simpler approach.

    I ordered the Beard Buster Jumbo Seat. It cost just over $22 in 2018. It is often used in tree stands and canoes. Features include
  • Seat dimensions 12"x15"x3". 3" thick
  • PVC coated waterproof bottom
  • Closed cell foam top and bottom, won't soak up water
  • Soft open cell center foam panel for added comfort
  • Snap hook allows for attachment to packs, bags, or vests
  • Closed cell foam on top
  • Open cell foam below

  • First, I removed my kayak seat.
    Prijon Catalina kayak seat

    Next, I cut a hole out of the seat that is the same size as the cushion.
    Hole cut out of the seat

    Lastly, I replaced the seat and positioned the cushion inside.
    Seat with cushion inside

    Here's a view of it inside the kayak.
    Seat with cushion inside

    The result is much nicer than the hard plastic seat that came with the kayak. The only drawback is it positions me slightly higher than the factory seat which means less stability. But I consider it a worthwhile tradeoff.
    Me in Prijon Catalina with new seat

    So getting my legs under the thigh braces is a little more difficult now. For my friend Sara, it was much more difficult but I figure it is because I weight a lot more than her and hence, I sit lower on the cushion.
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    Yolo ProwlerOpen accordion icon
    After kayaking and owning kayaks for over 13 years, I decided to take up a slightly different sport...standup paddleboarding (SUP). At the time, it was a relatively new sport on the east coast but it was catching on quickly.
    ...according to a 2011 Outdoor Industry Association report, more people tried standup paddleboarding for the first time in 2010 than tried any other outdoor activity.
    - from "Manhattan Standing" in the March/April 2012 issue of "AMC Outdoors" magazine

    SUPs are more popular in California and much more popular in Hawaii, where it has its origins.
    By most accounts, standup paddleboarding, or "Hoe he'e nalu" in the Hawaiian language, is a derivation of stand up paddle surfing, also known as "Beach Boy Surfing," which originated in Hawaii some 50 years ago. In the early 1960s the so-called "Beach Boys of Waikiki" would stand on their long boards and paddle offshore using outrigger paddles to take pictures of tourists learning to surf.
    - from "Manhattan Standing" in the March/April 2012 issue of "AMC Outdoors" magazine

    I'm guessing the first time I tried SUP was 2009 with Neil. Neil has paddled sea kayaks, surf skis, and outrigger canoes. But I think he enjoys SUPing the most. He says it gives him a better workout.
    ...paddleboarding provides a more natural position for exercise and recreation, incorporating the entire body and engaging core muscles to sustain balance and stability.
    - from "Manhattan Standing" in the March/April 2012 issue of "AMC Outdoors" magazine

    While I love kayaking, I find that my hip flexors sometimes get uncomfortably tight when kayaking. Perhaps standing on a standup paddleboard (SUP) will give my hips a rest and work some of the other muscles I've been neglecting. According to "Oh, flat water" in the "Health and Fitness Living Here" section of the Sacramento Bee, July 12, 2012,
    For people who might have problems with their feet, knees and ankles, I will prescribe a fitness program where they can sit in kayaks," says Biondi. "For others, with lower-back issues like a herniated disc, standing up to paddle on the SUP board is better."
    Maybe tight hip flexors should be added as a list of reasons to take up the SUPing rather than kayaking. Or maybe I should just do more stretching.

    I took out a SUP in 2012 with Ben B. of SUP Annapolis. I tried out a couple of boards by Yolo and a 13 pound Infinity Aviso. At first, my goal was to find a 12'6" board made for someone my size. But when I tried out Denny G.'s 14' long Yolo, I thought to myself that maybe a 14' board would be better. I loved the speed and how well it tracked. I'm more of a long distance explorer than a racer, but to cover long distances in a reasonable amount of time, I need a board or a boat that is streamlined and efficient. The 14 footer did that well. The only problem is that as of 2012, nobody made them for small people. It seems like they would all work just fine if I was 100 pounds heavier.

    After giving it lots of thought and discussing things with Ben, I decided to get the 14' Yolo Prowler Race Board and a Riviera Expedition paddle. Originally, I thought these boards were made in Yolo County, California, which is near where I grew up. But they are actually made in Florida. Yolo is an acronym for "You Only Live Once."

    Here are the specs:
  • Length: 14 feet
  • Width: 27 inches
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Thickness: 6 inches
  • Fin: 10 inches
  • Construction: Carbon fiber/fiberglass and epoxy composite construction, covering an Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam core

  • I was told this SUP uses an FCS-style keel fin. I prefer a large, low profile hatchet fin. A good fin is hard to find. As of 2017, I started using a Sup ATX fin that is about 7.5" deep and 14.5" long (front to back). It has a surface area of about 60 square inches. This Sup ATX fin is the best I have found yet but the customer service at Sup ATX leaves much to be desired.

    Ben got me a good deal on this 2011 Prowler which I purchased in the spring of 2012. In the below photo, I use boat tape to mark the center of gravity...something I do with all my boats. For kayaks, it helps me position the boat properly on the roof rack of my car and for the SUP, it helps me decide where to stand when paddling.
    2011 Yolo Prowler that I purchased

    This ad was used at the time I bought the SUP.
    Yolo Prowler ad

    At the time, I didn't know many serious SUP people so much of what I learned was through trial, error, and watching videos:
  • Quick Blade (QB): The Very Important Paddle Stroke For SUP
  • Nikki Gregg: Cross bow turn
  • The Golden Rules of Stand Up Paddling

  • How fast do I go on this SUP? In 2015, I did 10.2 miles in one hour and 58 minutes (5.186 mph) between the Harbor Hospital in Baltimore and the Inner Harbor and back. There was almost no wind.

    I'm not very good at rinsing off my SUP after every use. But in the late autumn or winter, I do a thorough cleaning and maintenance job. In early 2016, I did fiberglass work and mini-cell foam replacement. In January 2017, I did a little more mini-cell foam work. In this picture, I am finishing off a wax job. I just use Turtle Wax for cars.

    In 2017 and 2018, I attached NRS SUP board D-ring PVC patches (1" D-ring, 3" patch) to my SUP. These are actually made for inflatables but I chose them because the E-Z Plugs that I've used in the past for fastening stuff was not suitable for such a curved surface. These were attached using West System G/Flex 650-8 toughened epoxy. The reason for this is so I could carry more gear. Maybe even do a SUP camping trip. To get the patches to form to the shape of the SUP, I put 40 pound bags heating pellets on the parts being glued.
    Bag of heating pellets help put pressure on parts being glued

    Here is the result.
    D-ring patches on SUP
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     Accessories and Equipment

    Kayak Land TrainerOpen accordion icon
    Here's something I made in December 2016. I call it a kayak land trainer (KLT). I built it using scraps to simulate the fit of my S1A Futura/Huki surf ski. It didn't take long at all to make using my sliding compound miter saw. The base is a 2.5" wide piece of wood to make it a little unstable and thus force me to work on my balance. The seat and foot rest are just the right distance from each other to ensure I can pump my legs and get good torso rotation. The "land paddle" I use (a chain link fence post) is long enough so I can grip it at the same width as my actual paddle but short enough so it doesn't scrape the ground. Using the KLT will help ensure I don't lose my kayaking muscle memory and core flexibility over the winter.

    The photo below shows the KLT. Notice the foam backpad, the backrest and footwells cut from 4"x4" lumber at 15 degrees, and the 2"x3" base. You'll want to make sure the bottom of the base is smooth so you don't tear up your floor when it rubs against it.
    Kayak land trainer

    Here's a front view of me using the KLT.
    Front view of me using the KLT

    This is a side view that will start a video if you click on it.
    Side view and video of me using the KLT

    Notice that the arm forward and the knee raised are on the same side. The facilitates torso rotation. You shouldn't have to think about this...it should come naturally. Some people paddle with straight arms or a high angle aggressive stroke. This is great for racing. I find keeping my arms slightly bent with a lower angle stroke is easier on my shoulders in the long run. But never bend your arms more than 90 degrees.

    I would like to say I use the KLT regularly when I'm not kayaking but the truth of the matter is it ended up being more of a proof-of-concept that never held my attention. I suppose if I had incorporated some resistance to make it feel more realistic, I might have made this part of my regular training routine but the fact of the matter is that I am just not motivated enough to do so. I have seen other devices that accomplish this but these cost a lot more than I am willing to spend.
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    Storage RackOpen accordion icon
    It isn't enough to just have the boats. You have to be able to transport them and store them. For the latter, I keep them in racks that I've made myself.

    Around 2004, I built the first storage rack for my boats. I wanted a stand-alone rack that would store the boats vertically and be able to protect them from ultra-violet light. I normally kept the rack covered with a heavy duty marine-grade tarp. The rack was made of wood, mostly 2x4s and 4x4s. It weighed about 150 pounds and was about 20'x6.5'x6'. Rubber extension cord hiders (not sure what they are really called) were screwed to the arms of the rack to prevent the boats from being scratched.
    Storage built in 2004

    I gave away my stand-alone rack in 2007 after I moved. After that, I built a rack that attached to the support beams under the deck of my townhouse. I used pressure treated pine with a coat of water seal, metal corner reinforcements, and astro-turf stapled to the arms to protect the finish of the boats. While it doesn't appear in the photo, I also added a clothes line and hanging rods for drying wet gear. When working on this project, I learned just how easily pressure treated wood splits. So if I had to do it all over again, I would drill holes all the way through the wood and use bolts and nuts rather than wood screws.
    Storage built in 2007

    In December 2009, I moved out of my townhouse and into a single family home. While the house is much smaller than the townhouse, the garage is much larger. So the garage became my gym, workshop, bicycle storage area, and kayak storage area. I made a freestanding kayak storage rack on wheels. It holds 6 boats but here I use it to hold 5 boats and my extension ladder. I have some room at the bottom for storing long building materials.
    Storage built in 2009
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    Kayak PaddlesOpen accordion icon
    Wing Paddles: I generally paddle kayaks with either a Futura carbon fiber wing paddle (purchased September 2004) length 210-220cm or an Epic Mid Wing (eXcalibur Mid) Paddle, carbon fiber with length-lock length 212-222cm. The Futura paddle is similar to the Epic Mid Wing but with a round instead of oval shaft. It is also a bit heavier and without the markings for length and feature adjustment. I set my paddles to 215-217cm, a 72-75 degree right hand twist, and grip width set to 26.5 inches when measured from the inboard side of one index finger to the other.

    I also have, but never use, an Epic Large Sprint Wing (eXcalibur III) Paddle, carbon fiber with length-lock length 210-220cm. This paddle has about 13% greater surface area than the Epic Mid Wing. Though it isn't generally recommended for racing over 1000m, the eXcalibur III can be handled quite well by strong paddlers over longer distances. Some people prefer the eXcalibur III for calm water conditions up to 10 miles but I find that it doesn't give me enough control in rougher water and it is more taxing on my body.

    Like a lot of people, I use heat shrink for electrical projects. In the below snapshot, I'm holding Black Duall Wall Heat Shrink Roll Tube Adhesive-Lined 3: 1 Shrinking Ratio Cable Wire Sleeving Wrap (30mm/1.25 inch diameter).
    Me holding heat shrink

    I also use heat shrink for other stuff like patching a garden hose. Below, I am applying it using the Genesis GHG1500A Dual Temperature Heat Gun on low setting. A match or torch will work too but not as well. One unconventional use of heat shrink is for kayak paddles.
    Using a heat gun with heat shrink

    Gripping onto a kayak paddle is more like holding a tennis racket than a barbell in that you want to be sure the blade of the paddle is facing a specific direction so you have a consistent stroke. A round grip doesn't offer this "natural point of aim." To change this, I attached two pieces of bicycle handle wrap on opposite sides of the paddle shaft where I place each hand. This makes the grip more oval-shaped. I've tried taping it in place but after spending a lot of time on the water, the tape starts coming off. Heat shrink works much better and provides a much neater finish. Using different colors of heat shrink helps identify different paddles. The Epic wing paddle has the red grip while my Futura wing paddle has the black grip. Twice now, I was in a rush and grabbed two male or two female ends of different, but similar looking, paddles. That hasn't happened since I started color-coding my paddles.
    Kayak paddles with heat shrink on the handles

    Paddles are not made to be used with gloves so folks with small hands might find it harder to get a natural shaft grip while wearing them. If you must wear gloves and have a small hand, choose thin gloves.

    I've tried paddling with gloves, purchasing very thin Under Armour Heatgear Z1 football receiver gloves. I wore them a little and then quit. I much prefer to be able to feel the contour of my oval-shaped paddle shaft.

    If you have large hands and feel you can benefit from shaft padding, consider using some form of synthetic bicycle or tennis grip tape. The synthetic stuff should withstand the wet world of kayaking better than the natural stuff.

    If you find your paddle shaft to be too slippery, I've found athletic tape to be helpful. Stay away from hockey tape. That is too sticky and will rip your calouses off (I know). Another option is RsPro hex paddle grip.
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    SUP PaddlesOpen accordion icon
    For my SUP, I used a 74.75" Riviera Expedition Danny Ching Carbon Fiber SUP Paddle which I purchased from SUP Annapolis in 2012 for $280.
  • Blade Length: 17.5"
  • Blade Width: 8.5"
  • Blade Surface Area: 118 square inches / 761.3 square centimeters
  • Total Paddle Weight: 20 oz. (approx.- uncut w/ handle)
  • Angle of Blade: 10 degrees

  • I found a few different sources that describe how to cut the shaft of your SUP paddle to the desired length and attach the handle:
  • Cutting your Stand Up Paddle to the right size
  • How to cut your SUP paddle

  • What is interesting is that I got lots of conflicting information as to how long the paddle should be. Some say it should be 6-8 inches greater than your height with 6 inches for shorter folk and 8 inches for taller. Some say 10 inches greater than your height. Some say to use the shorter length if you are surfing and use the longer length if you are touring. A couple of sources say the length is correct if, when you hold the paddle upside down with the handle on the ground, the flare of the paddle begins at eye level. With my paddle, it is a little hard to tell where exactly this flare begins so I don't like this method. Ben B. of SUP Annapolis told me the ideal paddle length is one where I can put the blade on the ground, then reach up with one arm and place my hand over the handle when the paddle is vertical. But this varies depending on the tilt of my shoulders. So I took the average of Ben's method and the "8 inches greater than my height" method. This gave me a length that was 9.75 inches greater than my height. Hence, my paddle is 74.75 inches long.

    In 2018, my Riviera paddle fell apart. The blade basically split apart. It lasted over six years and I put it through a lot. I started looking for a replacement. I remembered doing a race on August 2, 2014 where my palms sweat a lot, and I had a hard time holding onto the shaft of my paddle. After that, I put athletic tape on my shaft which helped a lot. But I remember Neil showing me his Kenalu paddle which had indentations in the shaft, making it "grippy." I swore that my next paddle would also have a grippy shaft. On September 27, 2018, I went to Capital SUP and East of Maui (both in Annapolis) to see what they had in stock. They had no paddles with the kind of grippy shaft I was interested in. I contacted the folks at Kenalu and got recommendations. Then I read on-line reviews of Ke Nalu Konihi and Ke Nalu Mana. In the end, I ordered the Kenalu Konihi 95 with the Ergo T handle and xTuf(S) Stiffer shaft.
  • Blade Length: 18" (457mm)
  • Blade Width: 7.5" (190.5mm)
  • Blade Area: 95 sq. in (613 sq. cm)
  • Weight: 453 grams, about a pound
  • After shipping, the cost was $335. Based on what I read, it sounds like Kenalu is as good a paddle as any. The Konihi is their gold standard with the Mana being their platinum standard. But the Konihi was $130 cheaper. The weight is about a pound (453 grams) for both the Konihi and the Mana. I also considered the xTuf Maliko 95 which would have been heavier but more durable. However, the technology in the Konihi (winglets) had me sold. Hopefully, it will last at least six more years.

    How is the "grippiness" of the Kenalu shaft? Good but not great. If I race, I'll still wrap the shaft with athletic tape so it won't be slippery when my palms sweat.

    Over the years, the standard for surface area of SUP blades has decreased, resulting in a faster cadence. I'm not sure what the reason is or if it is really better, but there are a lot of paddleboarders who are much better than me who subscribe to this school of thought so I'm going to assume this is a good choice. My Kenalu Konihi 95 does have a smaller blade surface area than my Riviera Expedition Danny Ching paddle but the surface area is still a little bigger than most SUP paddle blades from that time. My Kenalu paddle is lighter than the Riviera, but otherwise, I don't really have a strong preference.

    I kept my Kenalu paddle for five years until I lost it on July 1, 2023. After that, I started putting a sticker on my paddle with my phone number.

    It was a very good paddle but I think it was starting to have problems at least a year prior. It sometimes made a clicking sound when I paddled hard.

    After getting a lot of suggestions for a new paddle, I purchased the QuickBlade UV88 Hex Flex from East of Maui.
  • Shaft: Diamond Elite full carbon fiber. Smaller diameter than standard for those of us with small hands. Tapers near the top. Grippy (not smooth).
  • Blade: Hybrid composite with a Double Dihedral Scooped V. I was told this design really "grabs" the water and is equivalent to paddling with a blade having a larger area
  • Blade Width: 7"
  • Blade Area: 88 sq. in
  • Length: Cut to 74"
  • Weight: 483 grams (17 ounces)
  • Before tax, it cost $449.
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    Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)Open accordion icon
    I think the number of times I have not worn a PFD while paddling you can count on one hand. It has become as second-nature as wearing a seat belt while driving.

    Kokatat Sea O2 Life Vest: Having a comfortable, reliable kayak personal flotation device (PFD) that fits well is important. In 2008, I purchased this in cobalt blue, small/medium from Backcountry for $151.96. I like it because it is inflatable via CO2 cartridge so it isn't bulky. If the CO2 cartridge were to fail (unlikely), then I can inflate it manually. It also provides some flotation without inflation, though not much. It has a zippered and unzippered pocket and a compartment for my very high frequency (VHF) radio.

    I usually wear a different PFD for my SUP. I prefer the belt-style PFDs which are much less bulky and allow more freedom of movement.

    I purchased the Onyx M-24 Inflatable Belt Pack SUP Lifejacket model 3045M for $111.95 in 2012. Like my kayak PFD, it is inflatable via CO2 cartridge and can also be inflated manually. It is a Coast Guard approved type 5 with type 3 performance. It also has a small zippered pocket. After three years, the Velcro wouldn't stay locked after a full day of paddling so I sewed on more Velcro. This helped for another year but by the end of 2016, it was time to purchase a new SUP PFD.

    In the autumn of 2016, I purchased an NRS Zephyr (model MB100M1001S) USCG approved type 5 user assisted inflatable SUP PFD with type 3 performance. This provides 16 pounds (minimum) buoyancy after CO2 inflation and 23.5 pounds after full inflation.

    I thought about dividing this section up between my kayak PFDs and SUP PFDs but kayak PFDs can also be used on a SUP. I recommend doing so if paddling in places where there is a good chance of falling and hitting your head on something hard, like in whitewater conditions. If you get knocked unconscious, then you'll definitely want a PFD to keep your head above the water. A non-inflatable kayak PFD or an inflatable one that has been inflated will suffice.

    Are there drawbacks to using inflatable PFDs? Yes. In 2022, I tested out both PFDs by inflating the CO2 cartridges. They inflated well but the triggering mechanism was a little stiff. I had to use one hand to pull the cord and the other to hold the trigger in place. If I was paddling in whitewater or places like the Pacific coast, I think I would want something that would provide instant buoyancy. Inflating manually via the blow tube works well but it does take a few seconds. Know the conditions you'll be paddling in before choosing your PFD.
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    AttireOpen accordion icon
    In my opinion, the most important things regarding non-PFD attire when you're on the water is maintaining a suitable body temperature.

    If I'm hiking, I try to start out cool because I know I will warm up once I get moving. On the water, it is the other way around.

    Unless it is going to be very warm, I typically bring an extra layer of insulation that I can put on later. All too often, people dress for how they feel starting out but if you're out on the water for a couple of hours and getting wet, it is easy to have hypothermia sneak up on you.

    They say to dress for the temperature of the water, not the air.

    If you're paddling in really cold conditions, you'll need a dry suit. These often cost $1000. I don't have one because of the cost and the fact that I am not a big fan of winter paddling, though that might eventually change. I do have two farmer john wetsuits: a 3mm and a 5mm. These are a fraction of the cost of a dry suit but are generally not suitable for winter paddling. I also have a long sleeve neoprene shirt, neoprene boots, and neoprene gloves. Neoprene is great for retaining heat if it isn't too cold. If it is windy, I also wear a splash jacket and/or splash pants.

    If you're not prepared to be totally submersed in the water, then you shouldn't be on it.

    Native Hardtop XP: I don't usually wear sunglasses while kayaking because they always end up getting wet. But on a SUP, that's not an issue because I'm high up enough so they can stay dry. I like the Native Hardtop XP polarized sunglasses in charcoal grey. They are lightweight and fit well. The first time I wore them in 2013, I saw 14 rays/skates in the water! Supposedly, polarized sunglasses are good for seeing critters in the water on a sunny day and I believe it.

    Sacramento Workflex Cap by Carhartt: This cap is moisture wicking and breathable to handle the hot, 100+ degree summer days in Sacramento. Like most of my hats, I sewed in an elastic loop that tucks under my hair to keep the hat from blowing away and to keep hair out of my face.

    Teva: Footwear is very important to me. On the surfski and SUP, I don't wear shoes unless it is cold. But otherwise, I prefer Teva sandals. I like the simplicity and the fact that they provide a nice, firm sole that is sufficient for walking on rocks. I don't like sandals that provide a lot of closure because then pebbles get in but they don't get out so easily. I prefer something more open. The straps are secure enough so I know they will stay on even if I sink down to my hips in mud. I've had a few pair of Tanzas and find them durable as long as they get rinsed off with clean water after use. In 2023, I switched to the Teva Terra Fi 5.

    Under Armour compression shirts: I like the long sleeve shirts when I'm on the water for a few hours on a hot day. It keeps me cool and gives me sun protection. If you're kayaking and practicing good torso rotation, tucking these shirts into your shorts will help prevent chafing. If you're out doing wilderness paddling and portages, this shirt will snag easily on things (e.g. breyers) but in open water, it is great.
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    CameraOpen accordion icon
    I take a lot of pictures and I post only the best. This leads some people to think I am a good photographer and have a good digital camera. The fact of the matter is that I am a mediocre photographer with a moderately priced camera (less than $300).

    As of 2006, I've gone through several digital cameras.
  • Olympus: This was my first. It took great shots and I would definitely consider purchasing another Olympus. It ended up dying from water damage while backpacking. I don't remember what model it was.
  • Panasonic Lumix: I hated this camera. It was unreliable and their customer support was terrible.
  • FujiFilm Finepix F850EXR: This was a great camera and I got a lot of use out of it. But eventually it suffered some damage resulting in pictures at one edge always being blurry. I would have purchased a similar camera as my next, but the FujiFilm Finepix F-series cameras were discontinued.
  • Canon Powershot SX720 HS compact digital camera: I bought this in March 2017. You can see my initial reviews in my March 25, 2017 blog. Six years later, it still takes great shots but it has its limitations. On cloudy days, it is often just mediocre. For flowers surrounded by other foliage, it sometimes has a hard time focusing on the right thing. But since film is not an issue, I often take a lot of shots on various settings. I get home, pick the best one, and then sometimes do some image enhancement. The result is usually pretty good.

  • None of my cameras have been waterproof because I am concerned about having a lot of optical zoom, which waterproof cameras seem to lack. So when I'm on the water, I need a good waterproof case that gives me quick access to my camera. I have tried dry bags but have found dry boxes are much more reliable.
  • Otterbox 8000 series dry box: I've gotten a lot of use with this. To ensure my camera fits snuggly, I pad it out with minicell foam. Unfortunately, this dry box has been discontinued.
  • S3 Dry Box T4000: This is almost the same as the above but with a clasp on the front rather than the side. I much prefer the side clasp.

  • FUJIFILM F Series Camera Case: This case fits my FujiFilm and Canon cameras when I'm on land and water damage is not an issue. I like its minimalism.
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    Other EquipmentOpen accordion icon
    3M TM Marine Dual Lock Reclosable Attachment System 06539 is stronger than conventional hook-and-loop fasteners. It is great for attaching things to kayaks. If you use lots like me, you might want to just buy the roll, 3M TM Dual Lock Reclosable Fastener System MP3560. I use it to secure hip and seat padding to my boats. The stuff secures well to smooth hard surfaces but for attaching to foam, I use Weldwood Contact Cement. Don't use a plastic stirring stick with the cement, it may dissolve in the cement.

    ABUS 160/50HB50 Weatherproof Resettable Chrome Combination Padlock: If you're looking for a highly weather resistant padlock where you can set your own combination, this is the best I've found.

    Brunton 58-Kayak Marine Compass: Even though I carry a GPS when I paddle, I still like having a compass sometimes. I mount it using E-Z Plugs, described below.

    BullFrog Water Armor Sport Quik Gel SPF 50 Sunscreen: This is the most water-resistant sunscreen I've found. It like to use it on the backs of my hands; also on the tops of my feet when I'm paddleboarding. Unfortunately, this sunscreen can be difficult to find in a brick and mortar store.

    Devcon High Strength 2 Ton Epoxy: I've used this for attaching my Futura/Huki S1-A kelp cutter. Also for attaching my Riviera Expedition paddle handle to the shaft.

    Drying Rack: I made my own boot drying rack based on plans I found at free boot rack plans.

    ECOXGEAR Floating Bluetooth Speaker: EcoExtreme II: When I paddle alone, I sometimes listen to music. I used the Grace Eco Extreme waterproof speaker case for my iPod for a few years until I dropped it in the water when it was open. So I replaced it with the EcoExtreme II for $80 in 2021. But since this uses Bluetooth technology and my iPod does not have this feature, I also had to purchase a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver, 2-in-1 wireless 3.5mm adapter for $30. Paired together, they work pretty good as along as I can remember to keep them both charged.

    E-Z Plug: This product, sold by Surfco Hawaii is a peel and stick, surface mounted leash plug. This is great for attaching things to your kayak such as deck riggings. It also works great for boats with a gel coat. I'm not so sure how it would do for plastic boats since you need a very smooth surface. Just a warning...you will have to lightly sand the surface of your boat before making it stick. Also, it is only for flat surfaces. If the place you want to stick it on your boat has some curvature to it, then it may not lie perfectly flat and fail.

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st: This is described under "Other Equipment" at Hiking Equipment.

    Hydration: I use a Platypus to carry 60 fluid ounces. It mounts on kayak decks or inside the cockpit. If I do a long trip on the surf ski, I sometimes carry mine on the back of my personal floation device (PFD). For more information, see Hiking - Hydration.

    J-B Weld Plastic Bonder: I've had good luck with this.

    Keel protector: There are various things you can purchase to protect the front and bottom of your kayak/canoe/SUP from scraping. Do a search on "kayak keel protector" and you should see several choices.

    KwikTwist is an industrial size twist tie able to hold up to 100 lbs. of weight. The interior components consist of a heavy gauge steel alloy wire covered with two (2) millimeters of plastic shielding. The exterior is soft and easy to wrap or tie around various objects. KwikTwist will float in water and withstand sunlight. Too many uses to describe.

    Minicell Foam: Kayakers use this to pad out their boats to make them fit better. It is flexible, fairly firm, won't soak up water like a sponge, and sandable so you can get it just the shape you want. I've purchased various thicknesses and colors from Foam for You.

    Pelican micro case 1040: I've tried various waterproof bags for keeping my Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx dry but after time, they all end up leaking. The only thing I trust now is a hard case. The main drawback with these, as compared to a bag, is that you have to open them up to operate the buttons. A lot of kayaking electronics are advertised as water resistant or waterproof but I still try to keep them dry unless they specifically say "submersible."
    One things about a clear hard case is that they can get hot because they doesn't ventilate. A GPS is basically a computer and we all know how bad it is for electronic components to overheat. So I take a white cotton handkerchief, cut it up, and sew it back together in a way that I could easily slide it over my GPS to protect it from sunlight. I use a thin cloth because the GPS already fits pretty snug in the box. Note how the antenna sticks out the top so it can still pick up signals. I call it a "GPS sock."
    GPS sock

    Roleez kayak/canoe cart RZ1-KCC: This has a heavy duty aluminum frame, kick stand, and large detachable wheels with pneumatic tires to help you move your kayak or canoe easily over all terrain. I've also used it for my SUP. Whatever you purchase, I suggest buying something with inflatable tires.

    Wellnuts: Use these if you need to drill holes in your boat to attach a drain plug, deck loops, foot wells, etc.
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    KnowledgeOpen accordion icon

    Chine Tape

    Some paddlers use a high angle aggressive stroke where the catch of the stroke is very close to the side of the boat. It is easy to hit your paddle against your boat if you are not careful. To prevent damage to your boat, this little bit of protection helps. I think of chine tape as a skateboard rail guard except for a kayak.

    Hull Speed

    Sometimes referred to as displacement speed, [this] is the speed of a boat at which the bow and stern waves interfere constructively, creating relatively large waves, and thus a relatively large value of wave drag. Though the term "hull speed" seems to suggest that it is some sort of "speed limit" for a boat, in fact drag for a displacement hull increases smoothly and at an increasing rate with speed as hull speed is approached and exceeded, with no noticeable inflection at hull speed. Heavy boats with hulls designed for planing generally cannot exceed hull speed without planing. Light, narrow boats with hulls not designed for planing can easily exceed hull speed without planing; indeed, the unfavorable amplification of wave height due to constructive interference diminishes as speed increases above hull speed. For example, world-class racing kayaks can exceed hull speed by 70%, even though they do not plane. Semi-displacement hulls are intermediate between these two extremes.
    - from Wikipedia - Hull speed

    Maximum hull speed = 1.34 * sqrt(length of the hull at the waterline)


    I don't fear drowning when I am out paddling. As long as I wear my PFD, that is highly unlikely. What I do fear is hypothermia.

    Reduced core body temperature devlops more slowly than the immediate effects of cold water immersion. Survival tables show that an adult dressed in average clothing may remain conscious for 30 minutes at 40 degrees fahrenheit and perhaps one hour in water at 50 degrees fahrenheit. Any movement in the water accelerates heat loss. Without thermal protection, the victim, though conscious, is soon helpless due to swimming failure. Without the life jacket, drowning is unavoidable.

    Cold water conducts heat 25 times faster than air. Water removes heat from the body 4 times faster than air at the same temperature. Physical activity such as swimming, or other struggling in the water increases heat loss. Survival time can be reduced to minutes. Strong swimmers have died before swimming 100 yards in cold water. In water under 40 degrees fahrenheit, victims have died before swimming 100 feet.

    Shivering occurs as body temperature drops from 97 degrees fahrenheit down to 90 degrees fahrenheit. Muscle rigidity and loss of manual dexterity, physical helplessness, and loss of mental capacity occurs at about 93 degrees fahrenheit. Unconsciousness occurs at a core temperature of about 86 degrees fahrenheit. Death follows at a core temperature of about 80 degrees fahrenheit.

    If you are in the water, unable to get back in your boat, wearing a life jacket, but are not dressed for cold water immersion, fold your arms, cross your legs, and float quietly. This is the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (HELP). If 2 or more people are in the water, put your arms around one another. Stay still and close together (Huddle Posture). Swim only if safety is nearby.

    - from "Operation Paddle Smart" flyer


    An average of 73 people are killed by lightning every year. Kayakers are particularly at risk when an electrical storm is near. To determine how far away lightning is occurring, count the seconds from the time the bolt is sighted to when the thunder is heard. Divide the seconds by 5 to approximate the number of miles away the lightning is occurring. The National Severe Storms Laboratory suggests that when the flash-to-bang count is 30 seconds (about 6 miles away) or less, all people in the area should look for a safe location. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder before resuming activities. Note that this rule of thumb was not devised for boaters who might want take extra safety precautions.
    - from "Flash Dance" by Dwayne N. Jackson which appeared in the September 2004 issue of "Muscle and Fitness"

    The most likely times to be struck by lightning are from late spring to early fall with the highest risk being in the summer from 1500 to 2000.

    If a storm catches you in the open, protect your ears, remain low, and make minimal contact with the ground.

    If you hear thunder 30 seconds or less after you see lightning:
  • Stop outdoor activity.
  • Go to a substantial building or get into car.
  • Wait 30 minutes before resuming activity.
  • - from Skyline Hospital Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Department

    Other lightning facts.
  • Only about 10% of people struck by lightning are killed, while the remaining 90% are left with varying levels of disability.
  • According to the National Weather Service, the USA averages 67 reported lightning deaths each year. Due to underreporting, the number is estimated to be closer to 100.
  • Salt water conducts electricity, which means that it can easily travel through the water toward you. The lightning current may spread out in all directions and dissipate within 20 feet or so, but don't bet your life on how close the strike will be. As the highest object on the water, you may be the most likely target.
  • Sound travels around a mile in five seconds at the Earth's surface.
  • Thunder can be heard about 10 miles away in a typical situation. In a noisy place, if the wind is blowing or it is raining, thunder can only be heard for few miles. In very quiet places, thunder can be heard up to around 15 miles. At night, lightning can be seen up to 60 or 80 miles away if there are no other clouds between you and the lightning, and the sky is reasonably dark. During the day, lightning can't be seen more than 10 or 20 miles away.
  • We recommend a 30-minute wait after the last flash or thunder. The two together provide the basis for the '30-30 rule'. The first 30 is for the 30-second flash-to-bang time when a safe place should have been reached. The other 30 is for the 30 minutes' wait after the last lightning or thunder.
  • A car, with its windows up, can protect you from lightning because the lightning will follow the metal of the car to the ground. If the windows are down, the lightning could jump into the car. A car's tires do not insulate it from the ground as you sometimes hear. A lightning bolt that's jumped through a couple of thousand feet of air - which is a good insulator - isn't going to be slowed by a quarter inch of rubber in a tire.
  • - from "Lightning Safety - USA Today"


    One nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude.
  • 1 nautical mile = 1.1507794 statute mile
  • 1 statute mile = 0.8689762 nautical mile

  • Visibility to the horizon on a clear day is about 12 miles.
    One knot is equal to a velocity of one nautical mile per hour.

    For more information on navigation, see Hiking - Skills and Knowledge.

    Operation Paddle Smart

    Non-power boats such as kayaks, canoes, row boats and small sail boats typically do not provide a way of identifying the owner or allowing them to be contacted. To help address this problem, the USCG and Coast Guard Auxiliary have launched Operation Paddle Smart to create an improvised means of vessel identification for small non-power watercraft. This program, although primarily aimed at paddle craft owners, can benefit all vessel owners, boaters, emergency responders and taxpayers (by reducing the money wasted on unnecessary search and rescue cases).

    Sit-On-Top Kayaks

    These are usually more awkward to carry than cockpit kayaks, especially for those of us with short arms. When purchasing one, make sure you can carry it around by yourself unless you know without a doubt that you'll always have someone else with whom to paddle. All too often, the salesperson is more than willing to help you load up your newly purchased boat so you won't realize just how awkward it is to carry by yourself.

    After your purchase your sit-on-top kayak, use marine grade tape to mark the center of gravity. Since these kayaks are so awkward to carry, you'll want to make sure you lift it so that it is balanced.

    When paddling a sit-on-top kayak, your legs will be exposed. Make sure you stay covered up or wear sunscreen on your legs, feet, and ankles. Left uncovered, these areas will burn quickly since they will catch the direct rays of the sun at midday.

    Tide Terminology

  • Ebb tide: The tidal phase during which the water level is falling.
  • Flood tide: A rising tide.
  • High tide: The time when the sea is at its highest level because the tide is in.
  • King tide: See "Spring tide."
  • Low tide: The time when the sea is at its lowest level because the tide is out.
  • Neap tide: This occurs seven days after a spring tide. It refers to a period of moderate tides when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other.
  • Perigean spring tide: This occurs when the moon is either new or full and closest to the Earth.
  • Slack tide: This refers to the time period where the tide appears to neither be rising nor falling
  • Spring tide: Popularly known as a "King Tide," this refers to the 'springing forth' of the tide during new and full moon.
  • Yule tide: The Christmas season. This has nothing to do with kayaking.

  • Tie Down Straps

    After tying down my boat, I'll typically let the ends of the straps hang in the car, sometimes tied around the headrest. This keeps the ends from flapping in the wind and whipping the car.

    Then one day, I was transporting my boat during a heavy rain. The ends of the straps hung in the car, as usual. After a few hours, there was a considerable amount of water in my car. The nylon straps soaked up the water and pulled it to the lowest point which was the ends of the straps. Now if there is a remote chance of rain, I make sure the straps remain outside of the car.

    Night Paddling

    Some kayakers recommend moonlight paddling a few days (three is good) before the moon is full. That's because the pre-full moon rises earlier, and will be well up in the sky by the time it gets dark.

    Waterway terminology

    The difference between a swamp and marsh is that swamps have an upper tree canopy and marshes do not. An expansive marsh is a wetland that surrounds a small body of water. A fringe marsh is a wetland that lies on the edge of a large body of water.

    I've seen other sources that describe a swamp as a wetland surrounded by trees but without mentioning a canopy.


    Here are sources for improving your technique:
  • "The Barton Mold: A Study in Sprint Kayaking" by William T. Endicott. Published by the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Team, 1995.
  • "The Kayak Forward Stroke" by Greg Barton and Oscar Chalupsky. A DVD produced by Epic Kayaks, 2003.
  • "Paddling Canoes and Kayaks" by Istvan Granek. Written by a Hungarian coach about sprint racing.

  • These are sources for exploration in the mid-Atlantic region:
  • Garden State Canoeing: A Paddler's Guide to New Jersey by Edward Gertler.
  • Keystone Canoeing: A Guide to Canoeable Waters of Eastern Pennsylvania by Edward Gertler.
  • Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails by Edward Gertler.
  • Sea Kayaking the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. Area by Michaela Gaaserud.
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    ChecklistsOpen accordion icon
    It's easy to forget things when you're packing. That's why I like to keep a checklist for various occassions. These are just ideas to keep you from forgetting things you might need. Don't think I'm suggesting you need to bring everything I list.

    Day Paddle

    This is anything from a trip around the Inner Harbor to a 30+ mile Rich Stevens marathon paddle.

    Float Plan: Be sure to let someone know where you are going, when you will return, a description of the car that takes you to your embarkation point, any special medical conditions of you and people in your group (e.g. epileptic, asthmatic, or diabetic), and any other important information.

    Water: This will of course vary for individuals. Better to carry more than needed if uncertain.
  • One quart for five miles or less with moderate temperatures, paddling at a comfortable pace.
  • One additional quart for each additional five miles under the same conditions (e.g. two quarts for 5.1-10 miles, three quarts for 10.1-15 miles).
  • One additional quart in very hot weather or if paddling with a considerable amount of effort (fast pace, against a strong wind, upstream, etc.). Hence, if I am paddling in moderate temperatures and traveling 13 miles, I would bring three quarts of water. If it is hot, I'll bring four quarts.
  • An efficient means of carrying the water.

  • Food: Another rule of thumb from me.
  • 600 calories for every two hours with moderate temperatures, paddling at a comfortable pace.
  • Be sure to include complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. A large percentage of the calories consumed should be in the form of complex carbohydrates. A few simple carbohydrates are fine but the bulk of the carbs should come from the complex.
  • 200 additional calories if paddling with a considerable amount of effort (fast pace, against a strong wind, upstream, etc.).
  • Leave bulky food with few calories at home. Instead, pack calorie-dense, low maintenance foods if space is of concern. Nuts, jerky, and trail mix are perfect for this. Tortillas are better than bagels. Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are calorie-dense, well balanced, and last for years if unopened.

  • If you paddle a cockpit kayak (not sit-on-top), you may need a few extra items:
  • Paddle float.
  • Bilge pump.
  • Spray skirt.
  • Floatation devices for your boat.
  • Sponge for soaking up water the bilge pump doesn't get.

  • Cold weather gear, depending on the season. Remember to consider both the air temperature and the water temperature. Don't assume you will remain upright on your boat at all times.
  • Wet suit in spring or late fall. I wear a farmer john wetsuit and I also have a neoprene long sleeve pullover. If wearing a neoprene top with sleeves, consider wearing an anti-chafing shirt underneathe to reduce friction in your upper arms.
  • Dry suit in the winter.
  • Insulated footwear. Sometimes I'll wear neoprene diving footwear with sandals two sizes too big (for my feet) on top of them. The neoprene footwear keeps my feet warm but offers little protection from rocks when I go ashore. That's where the sandals come in.
  • Splash jacket/pants. These are especially good if it is windy.
  • Heargear. In really cold conditions, you might want a drysuit hood or a neoprene hood but be careful you don't overheat.
  • Gloves or mittens. The dry suit or neoprene gloves work fine. There are also special handwarmers called poggies which cover both the hand and the paddle.

  • Personal floatation device (PFD; aka life jacket).


    Spare paddle. I rarely bring one but I know a lot of folks that do.

    Paddle leash if the water is rough.

    Kayak seats/cushions.

    Saw and loppers, if you plan on paddling through areas where there might be fallen trees.

    Cable and lock for securing your boat if left unattended.

    Tow line if you are leading a group or you are paddling with people whose physical abilities are questionable.

    Whistle or horn. This is required by law.



    Tie down straps and/or bungee cords.

    White light if there even a remote chance you will be paddling at night.

    Flare gun and flares if paddling in really remote places.

    Long sleeve/long pants: It only takes a thin barrier to protect yourself from jellyfish stings and sunburn. I like the Under Armour compression shirt/pants.

    Though I haven't tried it myself, I've heard that Nidaria will prevent jellyfish stings. If you get stung, you can use After Sting to reduce the pain, though my personal experience is that Chesapeake Bay jellyfish stings aren't that bad and the pain disappears in about a half hour. For more information, see Jellyfish Sting Treatment.

    Ivy Block to create a barrier between your skin and poison ivy/oak/sumac. For more information, see Hiking - Skills and Knowledge - Urushiol.

    Something to break the ice (literally) if you are a hardcore winter paddler.

    Any boater or safety certification cards that might be required by law in the location you will be paddling.

    A hat keeps the sun out of your eyes, provides sun protection to your face, and helps retain heat. It is especially valuable on the water when there is no shade and there is glare from the water, especially when the sun is low.


    Insect repellant.

    Dry bags.

    A Marine Very High Frequency (VHF) radio, if you have one. If not, be sure to check the weather report at the latest possible moment before launching. It is highly suggested there be at least two of these in a large group.

    Tide information.

    Sunglasses. Keep in mind that you will almost certainly get water on your sunglasses while kayaking. If you want clear vision at all times, consider going without and wearing a hat instead.

    Snot rag (handkerchief).

    Hair ties if you have enough to tie back. Always bring a spare.

    Photo identification.

    Map of area you are paddling and a waterproof map case.


    Notepad and pen for taking notes.

    Global Positioning System (GPS) and spare batteries. Don't let having one substitute for basic map and compass knowledge.

    Keys to your car.


    A first aid kit, espcially if you are leading the trip.

    Camera. Bring a waterproof bag/box or other suitable storage device. Don't trust non-submersible objects to stay dry in your storage compartments. Don't forget spare film and batteries too.


    Toilet paper in waterproof bag.

    Small shovel to bury your toilet paper and number two.

    Binoculars if you think there might be something interesting to look at from afar.

    Also keep in mind the journey home. If you're smelly, sticky, and sweaty, you may not want your skin or clothes touching your car's upholstery. Bring a clean towel and/or a change of clothes for the ride home, especially if you caught a ride with someone else. Doing so will increase your chances of being invited back. If it is a long drive, consider bringing a pillow and snacks.

    If you caught a ride with someone else, be sure to compensate them for gasoline plus a little extra for auto maintenance/repair. Or, offer to pay for their meal if stopping to dine.

    Oh yeah...don't forget your kayak.

    Afterwards, be sure to wash/rinse/dry or air out your wetsuit, drysuit, and anything that came in contact with salt water, brackish water, polluted water, or sweat.

    Car Shuttle

    This assumes a car is waiting for you at the take out to take you (and possibly your boat) back to your car. Include everything from the Day Paddle checklist plus the following.

    Lock and chain to secure your boat to an immovable object if it will remain unattended.

    Straps to secure your boat to the car.

    Car keys.

    Drivers license.

    Option 1
  • Change of clothes.
  • Towel to offer privacy while you change clothes covering your private areas. You can wrap the towel around your waist/armpits, remove your undergarments, then put on dry undergarments while the towel provides privacy the whole time.
  • Bag in which to place wet clothes.

  • Option 2
    Plastic sheet on which to sit so you don't get the car all wet if you don't change clothes.

    Bicycle Shuttle

    This assumes a bicycle is waiting for you at the take out so you can ride back to your car. Include everything from the Day Paddle checklist plus the following.

    Lock and chain to secure your boat to an immovable object.

    Bike helmet.

    Bicycle repair kit.

    Change of clothes.

    Towel to offer privacy while you change clothes covering your private areas. You can wrap the towel around your waist/armpits, remove your undergarments, then put on dry undergarments while the towel provides privacy the whole time.

    Option 1: This assumes you do NOT have a hatch that can be secured or other means to secure items at the take out.
    Large bag in which to place items to carry back to car. Must be able to carry PFD and paddle. Be sure paddle can be broken down.

    Option 2: This assumes you DO have a hatch that can be secured or other means to secure items at the take out.
  • Lock or zip ties to secure hatch if necessary.
  • Something to cut zip ties.

  • Map of roads.

    Hike Shuttle

    This assumes you will be walking back to your car. Include everyting from the Day Paddle checklist plus the following.

    Lock and chain to secure your boat to an immovable object.

    Change of clothes to include walking shoes.

    Towel to offer privacy while you change clothes covering your private areas. You can wrap the towel around your waist/armpits, remove your undergarments, then put on dry undergarments while the towel provides privacy the whole time.

    Option 1: This assumes you do NOT have a hatch that can be secured or other means to secure items at the take out.
    Large bag (preferrably a backpack) in which to place items to carry back to car. Must be able to carry PFD and paddle. Be sure paddle can be broken down.

    Option 2: This assumes you DO have a hatch that can be secured or other means to secure items at the take out.
  • Lock or zip ties to secure hatch if necessary.
  • Something to cut zip ties.

  • Map of roads/trail.

    Car/Kayak Camping

    This assumes you will be camping a short distance from your car.

    Include everything from the Day Paddle checklist plus the items under "Car Camping Trip" at Hiking - Checklists.

    Primitive Kayak Camping

    This is for camping at those sites where your car will not be accessible.

    Include everything from the Day Paddle checklist plus the items under "Backpacking" at Hiking - Checklists.
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    LinksOpen accordion icon
    Most of my paddling information is at Launch Sites. The links I felt did not fit in there but were still noteworthy are shown below.

    Adventures, boat rentals, lessons, outfitters, and guided tours

    Atlantic Kayak

    Bay Kayaking, LLC: Kayak lessons, trips, and demos.

    Chester River Kayak Adventures

    Kayak Training and Tours

    Shank's Mare: Located on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.

    Shore Pedal and Paddle: Kayak, stand up paddleboard (SUP), and bicycle rental and transportation in the Saint Michaels area.


    Sun Outdoors: Formerly known as Tall Pines Harbor Campground. I camped here back in 2004. It was a very nice campground with waterfront group campsites along the Pocomoke Sound, southeast of Janes Island.


    Annapolis Canoe and Kayak

    Aquabound Paddles

    Cobra Kayaks: Sit-on-top kayaks.

    Current Designs

    Epic Kayaks

    Huki: Outrigger canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and surf skis.

    Kajner: Hungarian paddles.

    Kayak Pro

    KeelEazy: An add-on product used to protect the bottom and front of your boat.

    Maas Boats

    Malone Auto Racks: Because Thule and Yakima aren't your only choices.

    Mirage Sea Kayaks


    Ocean Kayak: Sit-on-top kayaks.

    Ocean Paddle Sports

    Roof Racks - The Best Kayak Roof Racks


    Rutabaga Paddlesports

    Salamander Paddle Gear: A good source for minicell foam.

    Sea Eagle Inflatable Kayaks

    Seal Line Water Sport

    Werner Paddles

    West Marine

    Wilderness Systems

    General Information

    Extreme Kayaker

    Paddling: More information than you can shake a stick at.

    Surf Ski Info


    Department of Natural Resources - Maryland

    Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Launch Information

    Almost all my launch info is at launch sites. Here are the things that didn't fit in.

    Northern Forest Canoe Trail: 740 miles from Old Forge, New York to Fort Kent, Maine making it the longest organized water trail in the world!

    Riverfacts: Includes whitewater paddling routes. For sea kayakers like me with plastic boats, look for class I-II routes.

    Thoreau Wabanaki Trail: An over 200 mile circuit water trail through central Maine.

    Local Clubs

    By "local," I mean the mid-Atlantic region.

    Annapolis Rowing Club

    Baltimore Canoe and Kayak Club: These guys are more whitewater focused.

    Baltimore Dragon Boat Club

    Canoe Cruisers Association

    Canton Kayak Club: This is a good options for folks that don't want to buy a kayak.

    Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA): A sea kayak club based primarily in Maryland and Virginia.

    Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association

    Kent Island Outrigger Canoe Club

    Monocacy Canoe Club

    Watersedge Kayak Meetup Group


    Also see "Miscellaneous" under Hiking - Links.

    Find Latitude and Longitude: Websites like Google Maps use a latitude and longitude format that doesn't always match what some of the kayak websites use. This website is good for mapping those formats and converting them to something recognizeable by Google Maps.

    Swim Guide: Determine water quality. Note that the numbers indicate the number of beaches. You then have to zoom in to get the info for each.

    Non-Government Organizations

    American Canoe Association (ACA)

    Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF)

    Friends of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

    Team River Runner (TRR): Helping our wounded veterans.

    Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Organization: Call to report birds in need of rescue.

    Weather, Tide, and Navigation

    Coastal Water Temperature Guide

    Maryland DNR - Tide Predictions

    Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center

    National Data Buoy Center, Station TPLM2 (Thomas Point): This includes water temperature. Use the map to find other buoys.

    National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration (NOAA)

    NOAA Nautical Charts

    Salt Water Tides: Maryland

    Salt Water Tides: Potomac

    Statute and Nautical Miles Calculator

    Tides and Solunar Tables: Provides tide tables and solunar tables.


    TideSpy: This is my absolute FAVORITE site for finding tide information. It lists each tide info point on a map to make things easy to find.

    U.S. Geological Survey - Current Water Data for Maryland: Waterflow information.
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    Daphne and I on SUP at train bridge
    Paddleboarding on Big Gunpowder Falls, Independence Day 2023