June 2007

Paddler’s Notebook

Try Before You Buy

By Kayak Jay

The City of Peoria paddling program at Lake Pleasant continues to offer the best bargain for anyone wanting to give kayaking a try. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the tours and classes are starting at 7 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.

Super soakers are being issued as additional equipment to provide for some good wet fun during the paddles. Don’t forget to give Kevin Naughton a call at (623) 773-7936 for more information.

Tours are being scheduled for nearly every weekend for the next several months. Only holiday weekends are being skipped.  The minimum age is 13, but younger children can participate in a double kayak with another family member for an additional $5. You can register on-line at the City of Peoria Web site, which has information on current schedules.

The City of Peoria has another great opportunity for people interested in rafting. The city is sponsoring a raft trip down the San Juan River in Utah. The San Juan canyons have rapids, petroglyphs, and ruins of earlier civilizations.

The trip is scheduled for June 25-28, and still has a few spaces left. The cost of $330 includes all transportation, river guides, equipment and food. This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity at a great price.

Lake Pleasant Park sponsored a water safety expo in May, and it was a great opportunity. Don’t miss this one next year.

The Coast Guard did a helicopter rescue demonstration, the Coast Guard Auxiliary did free power boat inspections, and the Power Squadron raffled free PFDs every half hour. The sailing club provided capsize-recovery demonstrations, and the Peoria Paddling program provided re-entry demonstrations and samples of kayak gear.

 Terry Gerber, the talented park ranger, gave knotting demonstrations, and Lake Pleasant Park provided lots of freebies. There were food, drink, and other goodies left over at the end.  So the expo was not over-crowded.

I’ll be sure to give notice in this column, but keep your eye out for information about the next free water-safety program at Lake Pleasant. The Lake Pleasant Paddlers had a kayak fishing exercise this month and has super trips planned for June and July.

Give Ranger Gerber a call at (602) 372-7460 x 202, or e-mail him at terrygerber@mail.maricopa.gov  for more information.

I have repeatedly advised people not to buy kayaks from big-box stores because the sales people know less than the buyer in most cases. This came home at one of the Peoria classes.

After the class, a woman came over and asked for help with her new kayak. She was trying to add a skeg to the boat and didn’t know how to do it.

What she had was a white-water kayak with a flat bottom that couldn’t go in a straight line no matter how you paddled it. She had just bought it at a big-box sporting goods store.

I’ll just call it SA to protest the guilty. She said the salesman recommended the white-water boat because it was “designed for lake paddling and would fit easily in her van.” He also recommended a paddle that was on sale – it was the kind used for raft-tenders on power boats: heavy, square-ended and sharp metal.

She then showed me the PFDs he had recommended, also on sale. They were water-ski vests!

Her young son was so excited at his chance to have fun paddling. I tried not to show my disappointment, knowing that the poor equipment choices would probably stop his paddling for good.

My advice continues to be this: Talk to a kayak professional, a current paddler, or look up on the Web at a site like, paddle.net, or topkayaker.net. Try out any boat before you buy, either by a demo, or by renting. Many dealers will credit rentals toward your purchase.

We are in the prime time for kayaking in Arizona, so don’t waste another minute. The Peoria courses are a definite bargain, but there are many other possibilities. If you want to hear more about it, call Kayak Jay at (602) 359-1354, or send me an e-mail at kayakjay@msn.com. I hope to see you on the water soon!