F. A. Q.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paddling:

1. Where can I take paddling lessons and get kayaking instruction?

Several ACA certified instructors offer lessons to JSSKA members at a discounted price. These classes are not given by JSSKA but are available to our members at a discount. Classes are offered for both beginner and experienced kayakers.

Bryan Mitchell is a long time friend and member of JSSKA. He is an ACA certified instructor who runs greenwavepaddling.com and offers instruction to JSSKA members at a discount. A portion of the proceeds of his lessons is donated to non-profit environmental organizations. For more information see: Greenwavepaddling.com

Chris Raab is a long time friend and member of JSSKA. He is a certified instructor who offers instruction to JSSKA members at a discount. Chris also teaches paddle making skills and Greenland skills. For more information see: Tuktupaddles.com

Mike Busch is a long time friend and member of JSSKA. He is a certified intructor who also offers a discount to JSSKA members. A prior officer of the club, Mike continues to be an active and enthusiastic supporter of JSSKA. Contact Mike at http://www.jerseyshorekayak.com/ or by phone at 732.232.0294.

The Jersey Paddler Store also offers kayaking instruction throughout the year at 1756 Rt 88 West, Brick, NJ. 1-888-22-KAYAK. See http://www.jerseypaddler.com/ for more information. Ask if the class is offered at a discount to JSSKA members.

The Paddle Shack store, located at 5045 Mays Landing-Somers Point Rd, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. 609-909-5250 also gives classes and winter pool sessions. Ask if the class is offered at a discount to JSSKA members. http://www.paddleshack.com/

The local park systems in Monmouth & Ocean Counties offer beginner instruction and guided trips for sea kayaking and kayak surfing. Contact the parks department in your area to find an up to date schedule of instructions.

The American Canoe Association (ACA) also offers padding skills training both in person and through on-line courses.
http://www.americancanoe.org/site/c.lvIZIkNZJuE/b.4343455/k.86FB/Learn_to_Paddle.htm For new paddlers who just purchased a boat, ACA offers SmartStart for Paddlers, a paddlesport safety presentation from iPaddleOnline and the ACA. The presentation contains some basic information on safety, and tips on boating skills. It can help you learn to avoid some of the simple mistakes that can cause problems for a new paddler, but please remember that there is a lot more to know about paddling safely than you can learn here

Basic safety information is also available through online videos. This Canadian site has some good information: http://www.oceankayakingsafety.com/rescue-videos.html

2. I just bought my first boat - now what do I do?

The two most important things for new paddlers to do are:

  • Have the proper equipment to operate your boat safely in all conditions.
  • Educate yourself on paddling, self-rescue, navigation, coast guardregulations (what do buoys & markers indicate, etc.), tides & weather. Education involves taking lessons, attending workshops, reading books; learning from other paddlers and watching videos.

The Proper Equipment: The minimum essential safety equipment includes*;

  • A light weight paddle that fits your size & paddling style
  • A Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device -PFD (life jacket).
  • A paddle float to assist in re-entering the kayak should you capsize
  • A spray skirt to prevent water infiltration into the kayak.
  • A communication device such as VHF radio, cell phone, whistle, horn, signaling mirror (or all of the above). These devices should be attached to you at all times (in a PFD pocket, etc.) so that you will have them in the event that you are separated from your boat and gear bags.
  • Proper clothing for the WATER temperature (not the air temperature)
  • This includes quick drying fabrics, non-cotton (warm water
  • Wetsuit (water below 65 degrees)
  • Drysuit (water below 60 degrees) with hood, gloves and booties.
  • Drinking Water & Food
  • Weather Forecast/Weather Radio
  • Charts, maps & compass

 Additional Equipment you may want to bring:

  • Pump
  • Sponge
  • First Aid Kit
  • Survival Knife
  • Spare Paddle
  • Towline
  • Rescue Sling
  • Solar Blanket
  • Flashlight
  • Sun protection (hat, sunscreen)
  • Leave a float plan on vehicle dashboard
  • Navigational Lights
  • Kayak Repair Kit
  • Waterproof Matches

*This equipment list is meant to serve as a guide only. Paddlers are solely responsible for their own safety and should take precautions to be properly prepared for weather and water conditions.

Kayak Education: Please see our section on Finding Lessons. Nothing compares to individualized instruction with a certified instructor. These lessons & classes will be invaluable for you and your paddling enjoyment.

Additional Kayak Safety Information to Keep in Mind:
Sea Kayaking can be a dangerous sport. JSSKA urges all participants to take ACA or BCU approved instructional courses and learn about safety and self-rescue. Paddlers should be knowledgeable about protective clothing, hypothermia and cold shock, waterway navigation and basic Coast Guard rules before launching on any trip. Kayakers should also be aware of wind, tide and weather conditions predicted for their time on the water. On any paddling trip, each individual is ultimately responsible for their own safety, and JSSKA assumes no liability.

Clothing & Gear: Paddlers should wear a PFD (life jacket) at all times. Use a spray skirt to minimize water infiltration and practice releasing the skirt and exiting the kayak (wet exit). Paddlers must dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, by wearing protective clothing which would allow survival should you unexpectedly be in the water for any length of time. Wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is below 65 degrees; wear a dry suit with insulation if the water temperature is below 60 degrees. In cold weather, a hood can minimize heat loss. Always be prepared for hypothermia, even if the air temperature is warm. Use a helmet when paddling in whitewater or surf.
Prepare for any emergency situation by having water and food with you on every trip. Always carry a paddle float, pump, signaling device, radio or phone, and survival kit even on a short trip. Bring any emergency medications you might require if your trip lasts longer than expected.

Float Plan: Whether your trip is a short and simple hour on a local waterway or an overnight excursion, it’s important to leave a float plan with a responsible friend or family member who can contact the Coast Guard or other authorities should you be unusually late in returning. A float plan should include your launch, route, departure and return times, and the color of your kayak and PFD. Also leave a float plan on the dashboard of your vehicle in an envelope marked “float planâ€. Information about your medical conditions and medications should be included.

Wind: The wind can cause increased challenges for kayakers. Wind speeds can pick up rapidly, creating difficulty in making headway and staying on course. If you start your trip going with the wind, your return trip will likely be against the wind, causing chop and resistance that may require more time, effort and skill.

Know Your Limitations: Be a careful judge of your physical limitations and ability to operate your boat. Do not plan trips which might exceed your skill level, physical capabilities or endurance. Always respect the power of the sea and avoid paddling in difficult weather and water conditions.

Know the Water: Paddlers should learn how to read the water and should understand the meaning of channel markers and buoys. Paddlers should always consider the power boat traffic possible in the area they wish to travel, and should avoid paddling in boating channels. The flow of tides should always be considered to avoid being stuck in mud or low water. Navigation capabilities are needed on open waterways.

Signaling Capability: Kayaks are difficult to see given their low profile in the water, and can be especially hard to see in rough water or low light. Choosing brightly colored gear, clothing and kayaks will make you more visible. Placing reflective tape on your boat and paddle can also improve your visibility. Carry an electronic communication device preferably a VHF marine radio, or a cell phone, which should be carried on the PFD in a waterproof housing, to be accessible in the event that you are separated from your boat and gear bags. Carrying a signal mirror in a PFD or other signaling device such as safety flares is also recommended.

3. Where can I paddle?

JSSKA maintains an extensive launch site directory and interactive map that gives information on over 160 places to launch your kayak in New Jersey and nearby states. Launch sites are sorted by county. For most launch sites, the directory provides photographs of the launch site, satellite images, driving directions, GPS coordinates, topographical maps and charts, information about parking, facilities, fees and launch restrictions at the site. For a complete alphabetical list of all the launch sites, click here.

4. Should my kayak have a rudder or a skeg, and what is the difference?

Both devices are designed to help a boat to “track†(to paddle in a straight line and/or stay on course, particularly in the presence of wind, current, following seas, etc.). In determining which is most appropriate, you should consider the design, size and weight of your boat. To some extent, the choice depends on where you will be paddling and on personal preferences. For long journeys over open water a rudder may be more suitable, and for "general" kayaking, a retractable skeg may be best. Most experts agree the choice is a difficult one and discussion usually ends in a tie as to which is best. Both options have pros and cons.

A skeg: is dropped down from inside the kayak via a cable. When not deployed, it rests inside the kayak’s rear compartment in a “skeg boxâ€. Because it is inside the kayak when not deployed, an un-deployed skeg will not effect the kayaks performance (where as an un-deployed rudder can catch the wind and effect the boat’s ability to track) but the skeg box will take away storage room from the rear compartment. Because it is smaller than a rudder, there is less drag when it is deployed and no wind resistance when not deployed. The skeg can be adjusted in depth in response to the conditions, to assist in tracking but will not assist in turning. Skegs add less weight to the boat than do rudders. With a skeg, be prepared for the real possibility of it jamming in its housing due to accumulated sand, pebbles, etc. You must be careful during launching and landing so as not to damage the skeg & housing.

A rudder: sits on top of your deck when not in use, when deployed via a cable, it flips up and then under the water. A rudder can be “steered†to turn it side to side using the foot pegs inside the boat. Since it is moveable, a rudder can assist in both tracking and turning the boat, whereas the skeg can not assist in turning (the skeg is fixed in place -horizontally). As the rudder sits on top of your deck when not in use, it is vulnerable to damage, and can catch the wind which may influence your boat’s tracking. However, a rudder is much less subject to becoming jammed or affected by sand and pebbles than is a skeg. When not deployed, the rudder may get in the way when trying certain types of re-entry techniques. Because the rudder is controlled by the foot pegs, they tend to feel “mushy†when bracing against them. A rudder has several moving parts that can break but is less likely to jam than a skeg. Rudders add more weight to the boat than do skegs.

5. Greenland Blade or Euro Paddle...does it really matter?
To say one type of paddle is better than the other is a broad generalization at best. Once again, as with many aspects of paddling, the type of paddle you use is really based upon the desires and needs of the individual paddler.
The concept of the Greenland blade being a "traditional", and therefore "orthodox" type of blade for sea kayaking is nostalgic at best. Afterall, if you are paddling around in a high-tech, modern Kevlar kayak used for recreation that is modeled after a skin on frame Greenland hunting vehicle...well your kind of "out of the traditional" already.

Based on knowledge and experience, the Greenland blades have some great benefits:
The narrower, longer blades and the Greenland paddle offer less resistance over a comparable surface area to a Euro blade. Certainly easier on the back and shoulders. If you practice with a Greenland often enough and your technique is correct you can paddle with great ease and flexibility. Also, combined with good edging and bracing skills, a Greenland paddle makes for very effective boat control

You can complete some very interesting and fantastic rolls with a Greenland paddle. Many of which cannot be done effectively with a Euro.

The design of the Greenland blade limits the impact of wind since the narrow blade does not catch wind like a Euro blade. A Greenland blade made of wood is very bouyant and floats easily on the surface.

But Euro blades also have some great benefits:
Euro blades provide great "catch" on the water. Properly used (feathered or unfeathered) a Euro blade will easily move you through the water just as well as a Greenland blade. The "resistance" and "stress issues" often stated by Greenland users have less to do with the blade style and more with how a paddler uses the blade. The real difference is cadence. The narrower blade of the Greenland paddle allows for a higher cadence of paddle, while relatively the same momentum can be achieved with a Euro blade if properly used.

I noticed this paddling the other day when I passed a Greenland paddler on RV. He had a much higher cadence rate than I, but I passed him just by using proper technique. And sufferred no "burn out" in the process. Therefore, efficient paddling has less to do with the blade type and more to do with the efficiency of your paddle stroke.

It has been said that Euros "catch wind" especially in high winds on feathered paddles. OK, but this can be resolved by using a lower, touring stroke in windy conditions and using a Euro blade with a narrower, longer blade instead of a short, wide blade. Also, it is important to have a Euro paddle that is not too long for you. As big as I am, a 220 or 230 cm. paddle is long enough. The longer paddle I own (240 cm) sometimes does catch wind. So using the right Euro is important as well as adjusting your technique to changing conditions.

OK, you can't perform 125 types of rolls with the Euroblade. This might be the paramount advantage of the Greenland blade. But really, if you have mastered two or three solid rolls that you are confident in and have a good off-side roll...do you really need to know the other 123 rolls?

Another advantage with the Euro is a solid brace. There is definately more confidence with the larger, Euro blade when it comes to bracing in real ugly waters. And this is without having to adjust your hand position with the blade.

Finally, it still has to do with body shape and size. If you are a taller, heavier paddler with limited reach and agility...the Euro seems to work better for you. I've never met or seen a 6'3, 275 lbs. Inuit. Should I sometime in the future perhaps I would change my view on this, but the truth is a smaller, more nimble person will find a Greenland paddle more useful than a larger, bulkier person. Being the latter, a 220-230 cm Euro with a narrower, longer blade works well.

What does this all mean? Paddle what works for you! What is "better" is really a relativistic concept when it comes to your paddle. Choose what is most efficient for you.

It is certainly a good idea to try a Greenland paddle if you never have. But I would recommend testing it in a place you feel comfortable and in choppy waters. I found my Greenland paddle very efficient in smooth, flat conditions, but when it come to rough waters I always returned home to my Euro blade. It just inspired more confidence. The above section 5 contributed by CDI...Ed.

6. What are the proper lights for night paddling?
For human powered vessels “under oars†the Coast Guard requires white lights. The traditional red and green lights are reserved for motor-powered boats. Lights for kayaking should be steady and not flashing. (Only use flashing lights to indicate an emergency situation.) The Coast Guard requires kayaks to have a flashlight that can be used to signal an oncoming vessel. To increase your safety; however, experienced night paddlers recommended that you make yourself visible from all angles.

Lights can be mounted on the kayak via suction cup, attached to the bungies and deck lines, or attached to the paddler by head lamp or clipped on the PFD. The advantage to fastening the lights to yourself is that should you capsize or become separated from your boat, you will be visible in the water. Lights designed for bicycles are especially bright and will increase your visibility; however, they can be blinding to other paddlers in the group, so they should be used with caution.

It is important to make sure your lights can be seen from 360 degrees so that a power boat approaching from any direction can see you, and your fellow paddlers can account for you. Many paddlers make the mistake of attaching a 360 deck light to the stern (rear) of the kayak and assuming they are covered â€" however, if a boat approaches in front of you, your torso will be between the boater and the stern light, making your light impossible to see. Adding a headlamp or bow light can eliminate this problem.

Due to our low profile in the water, kayaks are especially difficult to see at night. The small lights available for kayaks often get lost in the reflections on the water, or are too dim to be seen from a distance. A flashlight waved at an oncoming boat can be helpful in this regard. Affixing reflective tape to your paddle, boat and PFD can also increase your visibility.

Given the difficulty in seeing a kayaker at night, you should always assume that the power boater does not see you and you should take action to move out of their path whenever possible. In addition to lights, it is helpful to carry an easily accessible whistle or other sound producing device to alert a powerboat that may not see you.

For more information see: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/mwv/navrules/rules/Rule25.htm

7. How should I dress for cold weather paddling?
This question would be more accurately phrased as, “How should I dress for cold water paddling?†as kayakers should always dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature. Cold water removes heat from the body 25 times faster than cold air, so protection from the water is imperative. Immersion in cold water can be fatal. It can rapidly drain a kayaker’s strength, coordination and judgment and cause an uncontrollable gasp reflex that can result in drowning. Sea Kayaker Magazine notes that “immersion in cold water kills more sea kayakers than any other factor in our sport.†Paddlers should approach cold water paddling with significant caution.

How cold is cold? The American Canoe Association recommends that special cold water clothing be worn when the water temperature is 60 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, or the combined air and water temperatures are below 120 degrees. These temperature ranges can occur in the spring, summer, and fall, so even if you don’t paddle in winter, precautions and knowledge of the water temperature are important. Some experts feel that the risk of cold shock occurs in water lower than 70 degrees.

While paddling in cold water can be an adventure and a unique experience, is not for the beginner paddler. Paddling in cold conditions is not just about how you dress, but also about your ability to stay out of the water and survive. Given the considerable risks involved with cold water immersion, cold water paddling should be reserved for experienced paddlers with strong skills, proper equipment, and training. Paddlers should be adept at staying upright and avoiding a capsize. Practiced self-rescue and/or rolling skills are essential to ensure that the paddler can get themselves out of the water quickly in the event of a capsize. Competence in boat control and bracing are required, as is the ability to read the water and adjust to rapidly changing conditions.

A wetsuit should be worn in mildly cold water and is designed to keep the paddler relatively warm while in the water for a brief period. Once the paddler is out of the water and exposed to wind and air, a wetsuit can have a refrigerator effect and can rapidly pull heat away from the body. Getting back to shore and changing clothes quickly will be important. Wetsuits come in many styles and thicknesses. Many paddlers prefer a “farmer†style wetsuit which is sleeveless and causes less restriction in arm movements and reduces chaffing. A wicking shirt worn under the wetsuit can increase your comfort. Wetsuit boots, gloves and hoods are also recommended to minimize heat loss through the extremities.

A drysuit is imperative when paddling in cold water (60 degrees or less). It seals out water so that the water does not come in contact with the paddler’s skin. While designed to keep you dry, the dry suit has no ability to keep you warm, so thermal layers worn under the dry suit are important. Layers of fabrics such as fleece, polypropylene, wool, fuzzy rubber or other synthetic, quick dry & wicking fabrics work best. Avoid wearing cotton clothing at all costs. While a dry suit seals out water, it can seal in air that can become an unwanted source of floatation. Air trapped in the drysuit legs can flip a paddler over in the water. Before paddling, drysuit wearers should always “burp†the drysuit â€" that is, open the gasket to let out any trapped air.

While wet suits and dry suits may buy you some extra time in the event of a capsize, they can not completely protect you from the risks of being immersed in cold water. These risks include hypothermia, swimming failure and cold shock, each of which can be fatal.

Cold shock refers to a complex set of involuntary reactions occurring when a person suddenly encounters cold water. These can include immediate loss of breathing control, incapacitation, cardiac arrest and sudden drowning. At the heart of cold shock is a reflex that causes an involuntary gasp in breathing. (Just think of the last time you were splashed with cold water or your morning shower suddenly turned cold â€" you automatically take a startled and rapid breath in.) If the gasp occurs when the paddler’s head is underwater, the paddler will breathe in water and can drown instantly. Cold shock can not be controlled by the paddler and there is no clothing that will completely prevent the cold shock reflex. Some feel a hood and a dry suit reduces the risk of cold shock, while others do not. It may be possible to condition yourself to cold water by immersing yourself rapidly in cold waster daily for several weeks.

Swimming failure occurs when a person has lost essential body heat so that muscles will not work properly and movements can not be controlled. The name is very accurate as the person can no longer swim or make purposeful movements with their hands, arms and legs. Wearing a PFD becomes even more important under these conditions as it can keep a paddler afloat after swimming failure or confusion occurs.

Cold shock and swimming failure can be fatal in as little as 3 minutes or less. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature begins to fall from its normal 98 degrees. It can occur even in mild air temperatures. In the early stages, hypothermia can cause a slowing of circulation to the hands, feet and extremities which can cause a loss of dexterity that can make it impossible to open a skirt or hatch, properly use a paddle float, or maintain a grip on the kayak.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that anyone operating on the water in spring, early summer, late summer or fall take steps to “minimize the risk of accidental
immersion, and to develop a personal emergency plan in the event of immersion, which should include:
The ability to maintain buoyancy [to stay afloat & stay upright]
The ability to quickly exit the water.
The ability to summon assistance if you cannot exit the water.
The ability to preserve body heat while waiting for assistance.
The ability to rewarm after exiting the water. (quote from: http://www.uscg.mil/d1/sectornne/SafetyAlerts/96-03%20Cold%20Water%20Boating%20Advisory.pdf )


For more information see: