Waterways Resource Series: The 3 W's to Recreational Paddling

The 3 W's to Recreational Paddling 

Recreational kayaking proves itself to be one of the best ways to get outdoors in a fun and enjoyable way. Due to the fact that many models come with wheels built in or implement lighter-weight designs throughout, the level of independence and enjoyment one can achieve on the water is unparalleled by other sports. Whether you’re going for a several day trip in a touring kayak or darting around the docks on Lemon Bay here in Englewood, FL, for a few hours, kayaking is a unique way to get outdoors and immerse yourself in nature in an accessible manner. However, for those of us who have yet to take the plunge, or are new to the activity, there are a few things to consider before you start. 

I’ve been paddling all my life. Whether it was with my family in tandem sit-on tops around the many waterways throughout the US, or in solo sit-ins with my cousins around Aunt Martha’s property, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the water. Before each trip, my father would figure a few things in order to make sure we were adequately prepared to have a great time out there. I have narrowed down the prep work he did into the Three W’s: Weather, Water and Wheels. 
Let’s start with Wheels which cover transportation and launching. For starters, let’s consider what car we are using. I drive a Honda CRV with a Yakima roof rack system with J-cradles. The roof rack system maxes out somewhere around 400 lbs, and I've only got enough space with the J-cradles to comfortably seat two kayaks without too much effort. If I was considering bringing something like a Feelfree Dorado all by myself, I would need to consider purchasing something like a kayak trailer instead as roofing a vessel of that size alone would leave me cursing and sweating in the parking lot. For recreational paddling I could instead, easily bring an Aventura 140, a Juntos or the Flash all by myself without much of a problem. Cam straps looped through the J-cradles will give me just the right support to get to the launch without any worries.

A kayak launch at Lemon Bay park prevents some kayaks from launching.

Now that I can transport my kayak in a safe manner, I need to find a launch point viable for my kayak and near to a section of water that I want to explore. There are a few things you might not consider if you haven’t had to deal with using a kayak launch before. For one– not all kayak launches are built the same. Just because an area says that it has a launch, it might not be ideal for your setup. For instance, at the local Lemon Bay Park here off Old Dearborn St., the kayak launch has a series of steps that go down to the water. If you were carrying something like a Big Fish 108 down there, you’d need two people or a pretty macho style kayak cart to get it down to the water. Luckily, most recreational boats are light enough to be carried solo down  at this location so it shouldn’t be an issue, but certainly something to watch out for. Now, Indian Mound, the other park located a mile or two up the road, has a small beach and even a boat launching ramp. Here, you’d have a way easier time getting out into Lemon Bay regardless of your chosen kayak.

The launch at Indian Mound park is far more accessible when compared to Lemon Bay.

Tying into finding a launch point, location is super important and can drastically change your level of enjoyment out on your adventure. Water covers everything related to your experience while on your kayak. In order to maximize your time and enjoyment, I strongly encourage you to do some research around the location you’re attending prior to launching. Look before you leap, so to speak. This includes checking out local topographical maps to see if there are any shallow areas that could prevent you from reaching certain locations, or they could be beaching points for a picnic or photoshoot. Another thing, what kind of water are you entering? Intercoastal paddling is far different from flat-water and requires different styles of kayak depending on what you’re trying to do. For instance, I would have a great time messing around in the light surf of the Gulf Coast down here in a Roamer I, but if I was trying to paddle all the way out across the bay to go see one of the local rookeries, I might consider bringing something like a Moken 12.5 or one of the Aventuras for better tracking for the long haul. Know what your kayak is meant to do and make sure you don’t exceed your comfort level while considering the specialization of your specific vessel. 


Beyond looking for shallows and chop, check tide charts and water temperature. Down here in Florida, the tides can shift drastically. At one point on a paddle with my buddy Cole the tide kicked up against us. It increased in velocity to such an extent that the only way we could make any progress up the beach was by paddling as hard and as fast as we could. On the other hand, once we tired out, the tide easily swept us back to the launching point. If you can time your paddle to go out with the tide, and then follow it back in turn, you’ll be able to cover a sincere amount more ground even on a light paddling session when compared to the alternative. 
This is pretty self-explanatory, but I must stress the importance nonetheless. UV index can make or break a trip. It’s no fun paddling up the coast if your shoulders and ears are frying in the process. Always prepare to be out longer than you intend and bring the necessary supplies to ensure a comfortable experience if something goes wrong. Know the forecast! Lightning storms roll through Englewood like clockwork while places like Asheville will have storms that might sneak up on you more so. Bring dry clothes in case it’s cold out– paddling while battling hypothermia is a helluva thing.  Another thing– it doesn’t even need to be that cold out. Being soaking wet in high winds can zap your energy and leave you in a scary position even at 60 degrees air temp. 


Down here, I try to plan my trips around the temperature and time of day. Early morning and later evening sessions cut the amount of time I spend baking in the sun by a sincere margin. Leaving at 7:30 am and getting back by 10 keeps me cool, and the sun out of my eyes.
By keeping the three W’s in mind, you will be vastly more prepared to have your next adventure in a safe and fun way. But, don’t stop here. There’s a host of different apps, maps and locals that can add to your understanding of this sport and elevate your enjoyment out there. If you have any other specific questions regarding recreational paddling, please reach out to me or another store associate– we are waiting in the wings to help you get out there on the water with a big ol’ smile.  
Sam Hager
Waterways Englewood
Store Manager