Review, May 1997
Since sea kayak accessories don't change fashion with the seasons, you'll be owning your gear for a good long time. Choose wisely.
The biggest design variable is blade width. Wide blades (seven or eight inches) provide more power and stronger bracing, while narrow blades (four or five inches) catch less wind and are easier to use for long periods, reducing the chance of injuries. And since you'll be wielding it all day, get a lightweight paddle.
A good entry-level laminated wood paddle, such as the Sawyer Sea Feather ($146; 541-535-3606), with its seven-inch blades, will weigh around 40 ounces. My favorite all-arounder is the Werner Little Dipper ($205; 800-275-3311), a 35-ounce fiberglass model with four-and-a-half-inch blades. The Eddyline Swift ($239; 360-757-2300) lets you choose from three blade widths, the lightest and narrowest of which weighs just 28 ounces and has five-inch blades. One further note: Always carry a spare, but don't economize here. If you lose your main stick, you'll likely be in rough conditions — just where quality counts most.
Blowing cash on mundane necessities like personal flotation devices is no fun, but one full day of kayaking will convince you comfort is worth paying extra for.
Water can breach even the best cargo hatches, so stash your stuff in dry bags, which coincidentally provide backup flotation. I prefer Dry Sacks from Seattle Sports Company ($7-$20; 800-632-6163) and the heavy-duty Black Canyon bags from Cascade Designs ($27-$41; 800-531-9531).
And should you become inextricably tied to your boat in rough waters, you'll appreciate a folding knife that can be opened with one hand. I like the Spyderco Clipits, such as the Delica ($45; 800-525-7770). You won't be sorry you spent the money.
Photographs by Clay Ellis