September 2006

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September Is One Of The Best Kayaking Months

Paddlerís Notebook

By Kayak Jay

Kayaking is a year-round activity in Arizona, but September has to be one of the best months for paddling, Grab a friend and come on out to one of the lakes.

The Lake Pleasant Paddlers have been active all summer with two trips a month. Ranger Terry Gerber makes sure everyone has a great time. Call Gerber at (602) 372-7460 x 202, or e-mail him at terrygerber@mail.maricopa.gov to find out about the September trips.

Kayaks come in many styles, shapes and sizes. They also come in a variety of materials.

The lowest-priced kayaks are made of plastic. Plastic kayaks are flexible, durable and extremely heavy.

The rough-finish plastic kayaks canít be stored on their hulls, or they will "oil pan" in our heat. You canít strap them tightly on a rack without making a groove in the bottom. They can be stored on end and transported on their side in a "J" rack.

Some plastic kayaks have a shiny finish and are a compound material that is a little lighter and stiffer. They are easier to transport and store, but will oxidize in the sunlight and heat and become very brittle through time.

Some of the early composites would "die" in a year or two, but the more modern compounds offer a longer life.

The more-expensive kayaks are composites. While the plastic kayak is generally formed from a rotational spray, composite kayaks are constructed with overlaying a fiber mat on the form and saturating it with epoxy resin.

Composite kayaks are markedly lighter than plastic, with the weight and price dependent on the material used in the fiber mats.

The standard for kayak use is fiberglass. Although fiberglass boats are about twice the price of plastic boats, they are lighter, more durable and repairable.

The only drawback in Arizona lakes is they will not withstand hard bangs against rocks. A 16-foot sea kayak may weigh 70 pounds in plastic, but the same model might be 45 pounds in fiberglass, depending on the quality of the lay-up.

Composite boats can be made lighter by using more exotic materials in the fiber mats.

The next step up from fiberglass is Kevlar, which is a lighter and stiffer material. Our 45-pound fiberglass kayak might be about 38 pounds in Kevlar. The weight reduction will cost $50 to $75 a pound. Kevlar boats are stiffer than fiberglass and suffer more from impacts.

If you want the lightest composite, you will use a carbon-fiber mat. The 16-foot kayak in carbon fiber will be around 34 pounds.

The reduction will cost about $100 a pound and will give you a boat that you had better not drop. Carbon fiber is very stiff and very brittle. It is much more apt to crack from an impact rather than dent as heavier composites might.

Many of the racing kayaks and surf skis are made with a Kevlar hull and carbon-fiber deck. My Futura II surf ski has a Kevlar hull and carbon-fiber deck and weighs in at 30 pounds.

It is living proof that a kayak is difficult to load on a roof no matter how light it is.

The lightest and most durable kayaks are made from wood with an epoxy resin topcoat. Dealers donít sell wood kayaks, but you can make one from a kit.

A well-made wood boat is a beautiful work of art. Building one is truly a labor of love.

A final word about paddles. They come, in increasing order of expense, in aluminum, plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and wood. Although the difference in weight of paddles from different materials is small, it has a great effect on how you feel at the end of a day of paddling.

In the case of paddles, the stiffer and lighter materials are much better.

Now that you know more than you wanted to about kayak materials, donít buy one yet. In future columns we will talk about design and use.

If you want to give local paddling a try, call Thor at (480) 968-1140 for a rental; call Kayak Jay at (602) 359-1354 for a lesson or introductory tour, and donít forget to get on the Lake Pleasant Paddlers list by sending an e-mail to terrygerber@mail.maricopa.gov.