Whitewater Kayaks

Learning Curve

Aug 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

IN THE STORE When trying on a kayak for size, remember that slightly loose is better than too tight—you can always add more padding to the cockpit. Be sure to check the manufacturer's suggested weight range for each boat. Push the recommended bracket and your performance will suffer.

IN THE FIELD Don't let your kayak bake in the sun: UV light degrades plastic, fiberglass, and fabric. When racking up your kayak on your vehicle, strap it down hull up. Doing so prevents the boat's underside from "oil-canning," or denting. Scraped the rocks? Don't sweat the small stuff; if the ding didn't penetrate the plastic, don't bother with it. Pack your kayak with the heaviest gear low and centered; in rough water, you won't end up fighting your boat as much.

IN THE FUTURE Bomber polyethylene plastic still rules the world of whitewater-kayak construction, but in coming seasons expect to see more craft hewn from so-called composite materials such as Kevlar—which offers responsiveness, light weight, and sturdiness. This summer, German boat builder Robson will release the Prodigy, made of a new blend of plastic and fiberglass. Robson claims the boat is 22 percent lighter and stronger than regular plastic—good news for hucksters everywhere.

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