Insights from a First Time Paddler

Reading and sharing paddler’s stories is something we love to do, and when we came across this story from Wes Turner on our Google+ Kayaking Community we thought it was a great opportunity to share some insights for first time paddlers. Wes had recently found a great deal on a very old Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T Tandem Kayak and decided to take it out with his wife for their maiden voyage despite some high river conditions, strong flow and cold winter water. Here’s his story.. 

Photo by Wes Turner

Well my initial trip on the Catawba was eventful to say the least. I got a late start due to some Military duty but the weather was nice, so about 3pm we headed out with a friend and his canoe and me and my wife with the Wilderness Systems 145T I just purchased. The river is actually very high now and flow was around 1,1000 cfm and temp around 50 deg. F (not exactly optimal for my first trip). I started out by myself to get a feel for the kayak. Let me say, it was a bit wobbly, and I was very leery to let my wife get in as she was quite comfortable riding with my friend in his canoe.  Let me take that back.  The kayak felt like I was walking a tight rope over Niagara Falls without a net! After a while I was finding my happy place and we found a bank and she decided to give it a try with me. I am the only one paddling in the back and she is just chilling in the front seat. Tons of screaming ensued whenever we would wobble as to almost flip over every 5 minutes when one of us actually moved slightly.  It truly was unstable to say the least and my butt muscles got a workout from being clenched so hard for hours.

Photo by Wes Turner

Well the short 2 hour trip to the next landing was almost over without incident, and my buddy wanted to switch and give the kayak a try so we made our way towards an area that was sketchy to dock at to say the least. He had his canoe length wise to a large downed tree on the bank and I tried to make my way to a somewhat flat area that in reality turned out to be a red muddy clay cliff in disguise. At the last minute I realized the current was angry Hulk super strong here, and it was almost all I had to try and get it in a place to dock. Well the current was winning and it was turning us backwards to the direction of intended travel and into some overhanging limbs and sticker bushes (as we like to call wild thorny plants here down south).  I placed the paddle down to try and abort this tortuous bloody hell sticking torture trap but I guess between us moving from limbs and the current pushing us the same way we moved a little too much and over we went upside down!  Cold Cold Cold!.  Instant brain freeze!  My buddy said he heard the scream and when he looked back all he saw was the upside down kayak.  Then saw me exploding out of the water like Superman avoiding kryptonite.

Saving grace was the water here was only chest high but the bad thing was there goes my phone, paddle, cushions. etc. downstream.  I was able to swim and actually retrieve everything and throw them on the bank but realized as I turned around my wife was losing the battle trying to hold the kayak back from sinking and traveling downstream. At this point I almost didn’t care but quickly realized how the hell am I going to finish this trip. I sped back to help and was able to hold it and let her get to the bank. My buddy was able to dock his canoe and get in to help me pull this up out of the water and turn in over and pick it up to drain the water.  All of this probably took 5 minutes but seemed like eternity standing chest high in 50 degree water.

Needless to say all was not lost.  We saved the kayak luckily along with paddle and everything else and luckily I had purchased a floating waterproof bag for my phone so it was undamaged. My wife was done with this kayak as she got in the canoe.  I got back in the kayak and we all laughed our way to the end of the trip. Albeit shivering with the sun sneaking behind the tree line.

Believe it or not my wife is for going out again (as early as this next weekend) but either wants a canoe or hopefully can talk her in to a more stable sit on top kayak this time around. I dunno but back to the drawing board

Lets just say this kayak went back up that night on craigslist, and hopefully will sell for what we have it and we can find something more stable! Its not that fun if you are wondering the whole trip if any move you make will send you into the cold drink!

Anyways thanks for listening and hopefully laughing at my expense. I know I was (and still am!)

We encourage readers to avoid situations like this by visiting our ACK Resources like our Articles & Research, ACKTVNetwork and our blog.  Some dry wear, bags/boxes and research into kayak stability could’ve saved some trouble for this paddler, but we’re very glad that both he and his wife are still pursuing some paddling adventures and thankful that they shared their story with us.