May 2007

Paddlerís Notebook
Peoriaís Paddling Program Underway

By Kayak Jay

The City of Peoria paddling program at Lake Pleasant has started with a bang as recent discovery tours have filled all available equipment. Some paddlers are already signing up for additional tours, and the leaders are trying to make every trip a unique experience.

If you have any interest in paddling, now is the time to try it. For less than the cost of a rental you can receive a full lesson and tour with all the necessary equipment. Discovery tours are scheduled for both weekdays and weekends, so you can always find one that meets your needs.

All tours are led by certified instructors, including Kayak Jay. You can get information from Program Director Kevin Naughton at (623) 773-7513.

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 paddling program uses sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks from Ocean Kayak. They are very similar to equivalent-cost boats from Malibu, Cobra, and Emotion.

They are made of rotationally-molded plastic and stand up well to rocks, bumps and other abuse. Many tourist and resort rentals use SOTs, and with good reason.

The entry-level SOTs are easy to use, very stable and forgiving, and stand up to just about any abuse without danger to the user. They are extremely valuable for people who may be mobility-constrained or lack flexibility.

Iíve been challenged in the past for saying that SOTs are less stable than Sit-in-Kayaks (SINKs). Iíve been speaking from a design standpoint because if all the dimensions are the same for the hull, the paddler in the SINK will be sitting much lower than the paddler on the SOT.

This creates a higher center of gravity, and a tipsier boat. For this reason, most SOTs are designed to be broader in beam and have flatter bottoms than a SINK.

The result is a boat that is far more stable. For example, it is relatively easy to stand up on the Peoria boats without falling over.

On one trip I had the participants crawling all over the boats from front to back, and spinning around on the boats. We could play games and have fun with a minimum of instruction and skills development.

Although I brag about the boatsí being relatively un-tippable, Iíve had a chance on every trip to demonstrate how easy it is to climb back aboard a SOT from a spill into the water.

As the summer heats up, we will incorporate some in-water fun into the discovery tours. Because of the broad beam of the SOT, an individual can climb back aboard without assistance, and doesnít have to do any bailing.

For even the most skilled paddler, climbing back into a SINK requires the use of a paddle float to provide an outrigger, or another paddler to hold the kayak while being re-entered. The little pumps carried in the deck lines of SINKs are necessary to empty water out of the boat after a capsize.

I will once again point out that the native peoples of the North manufactured traditional kayaks to enable them to stay warm, paddling on cold water in a hostile environment. They learned to roll their boats upright after a spill, because they would die if they fell out of the boat.

The SOT boats were developed by the South Sea Islanders because they didnít need to protect themselves from the bitter cold, and an enclosed vessel would be too warm for comfortable use during the day. They fished, swam, and dove from SOTs and developed designs that were most practical for these uses.

On a straight comparison of climate, a SINK would be most uncomfortable in the entire southern portion of Arizona.

We are in the prime time for kayaking in Arizona, so donít 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 I hope to see you on the water soon!