Five Things to Do Before the Summer Kayak Season

Late winter, early fall is a good time to clean up, refurbish and do maintenance chores on paddling and fishing equipment. I'm fortunate enough to live in an area where I can paddle year round but I still slow down a bit in the winter. Here are five things you can do before spring and summer paddling picks up.

Clean up

I know some people religiously spray down their kayak, dry and store it after each use. Well—I don't. When I come in from a paddling trip I've usually done 20 to 40 miles. I'm tired, it's probably dark, the boat's wet, and there's any number of reasons why I just unload, open the hatches, and go take a shower. Before the next trip I rub off dried mud and sweep the boat out. I'm ready to go.

Kayaks and canoes should go through a major refurbish at least once a year. I remove all rigging. Regardless of boat material the first step is to scrub it down inside and out with your favorite detergent. I pay strict attention to hatch compartments and any mold or mildew. Then rinse.

The boat

Inspect the boat. Repair any damage. Varnish or otherwise apply protective coatings. Pretty simple.

Plastic boats are inexpensive, very durable, but relatively hard to repair. Shave down scrapes and scratches if possible. A judiciously applied blowtorch does wonders for small scratches. Don't do this unless you know what you're doing! Practice! Cracks and holes can be repaired following manufacturers recommendations or plastic welding.

Composite boats can be sanded and refinished as needed.

Replace and install any rigging as needed.

The paddles

Smooth and trim blade edges. Rebuild the edge if necessary. Apply a protective coating. Since there are so many materials used in paddles you'll have to determine which coating to use. My paddles are all carbon fiber or wood composite. I use epoxy and UV protected varnish.

Clean the socket on two piece paddles so they assemble easily without sticking. I use a very fine sandpaper. Some people have good luck with dry spray lubricant. I don't.

Fishing equipment

Ask 10 different people how to care for fishing equipment and you'll get 10 different answers. Some people paddle only to catch fish. I catch fish only because I paddle. There's a big difference. Fishing is not that important to me. I clean all the equipment. Throw out rusty hooks. Sharpen trot line hooks. Replenish my lure assortment. I replace fishing line when needed. Then I'm ready to paddle.

Do what makes you happy.

Exercise

A lot of people think that paddling is done primarily with arms, but this is far from true. When I first start paddling the muscles on the outside of my shoulder, the deltoids, tend to tire, but this is because I'm not paddling right. It takes me a few miles to get in the groove and utilize my entire body. Once I'm in the groove I'm ok. I'm a marathon paddler so sprint is a relative term, but for sprints or shorter races my lats (latismus dorsi), or lower back muscles tend to fatigue. For longer marathons like the 100 mile CR100, which I will do for at least two more years, my inner thighs tire and cramp. A good indication that I need to pay more attention to that area.

The point of all this is that paddling is a full body activity. You need to exercise every part of your body starting with your core body then arms and legs. Never try to make one part of your body stronger than any other part. Imbalances in strength cause injury. As individuals we are all unique, so this means exercise regimes need to be unique. Tailor your exercise program to fit your personality and requirements. The greatest exercise program in the world won't work if you don't do it.

So there you go with a list of things to do before the summer paddling season. Take away or add to it as you need. Have fun. I'll see you on the river.

Gerald is an avid outdoor sportsman who travels by land or water over mountain forest, rocky foothills, or rolling sand dunes. In his spare time he designs and builds wood composite kayaks and canoes and still competes in select marathon races.

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Updated Saturday, Feb 11, 2012