Your Guide to Kayaking

By: Kyle Maatman

Stop by a popular lake access this summer and it is likely a fair number of cars will have roof racks for carrying one or more kayaks. Kayaking has become one of America’s fastest growing outdoor pursuits over the last decade.

Retailers say the small boats are popular with children and adults. Men and women of all ages are paddling them—they are easy to handle and enjoy with a basic level of instruction and safety.

Kayaks come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Their prices vary depending on their size, design features, and the materials used to construct them. “Kayaks offer people freedom on the water,” said Fidel Carino, Summit Sports Brighton store manager, a kayak dealer with three Michigan locations. “You can use them on the lake behind the cottage, sneak into a marsh and watch the ducks and turtles, float down a river, or use them for fishing. There are also designs suited for trips on bigger waters like the Great Lakes.”

“Recreation kayaks are a booming area in kayak sales,” Carino said. “They are stable, comfortable, and affordable.”

Legitimate entry-level plastic kayaks run from $400 to more than $700. Seaworthy, fiberglass and composite kayaks for touring the Great Lakes can cost $2,000 to $3,000 or more.

“It’s all about what people will use them for,” Carino said. “You don’t need an expensive boat if you are just planning to paddle on the lake. Any quality recreation kayak will do. But if you plan to run rivers or want to do adventure kayaking, there are other boats that are designed to give paddlers a better and safer experience.

Picking the right one depends on a number of things such as: where they will be used, how far offshore a paddler plans to travel, whether they will paddle solo or tandem, a paddler’s skill level, body type and scope of their budget.

“Still others are set up for fishing. They have low sides or you sit on top of them and they have built in rod-holders, tackle-box and lunch stowage, and even pedal-powered drives so your hands are free to handle a rod.”

The popular MirageDrive, introduced by Hobie several years ago, took the kayaking world by storm in 2009 with its hands-free propulsion system. The drive is available on several models. It’s also a popular option for nature photographers who want to quietly sneak up on photo subjects without the disturbance of a moving paddle.

Kayak fishing is the latest rage in the world of kayaking, due to its appeal to young and old anglers who like the simplicity of the sport. Anglers have the ability to get into flats and shallows where bigger boats have trouble. The kayaks are quiet and have a smaller carbon footprint than fishing boats with outboard engines.

Increasingly, kayak fishermen are appearing on big waters like the oceans and the Great Lakes where a new breed of angler is using them to hunt big fish like salmon or steelhead. Tournaments and other events are organized for kayak fishermen across Michigan.

Carino strongly recommends that first-time boaters take the time to attend a kayaking lesson.

A boating instructor can teach a user how to properly use their kayak and maximize safety resulting in greater enjoyment on the water.

Carino also suggests trying out a boat before buying. His company offers several demo-days during the summer where prospective buyers can test-paddle different models to see how they handle and fit. Summit Sports Demo Days are scheduled throughout the summer in Brighton, East Lansing and Keego Harbor. The times and dates can be found at SummitKayakDemos.com.

To find a kayaking event near you, be sure to visit our calendar.

Kyle Maatman has been an avid outdoor sports enthusiast since he was three years old. He has a strong focus in kayaking. Currently, Maatman also is a store manager at Summit Sports in East Lansing, Mich.

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