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ANY SHOP


worth its salt is staffed by paddlers who know as much about how to


maneuver a boat on the water as they do about steering customers towards making the right purchasing decisions. We asked four of North America’s top shop staffers what they


wish every paddler looking for the perfect canoe, kayak or board would think about before setting foot in their shops. Read what they have to say, show up to the shop with the right information, leave with the right boat and get on the water already!


KAYAK TOURING


Find a shop near the harbor with an excellent rep built on legendary experience and you can be confident you’ll walk away satisfied. Find it in Victoria, British Columbia, and it’s Ocean River Sports. Around Ocean River Sports, owner Brian Henry is called the Big


Kahuna. In the ‘80s, he founded Current Designs Kayaks, designing and building some of the world’s most well recognized kayaks. His shop is now going into its 30th year and Henry still has a special relationship with brands and builders all over the world. He also con- tinues to teach, guide and work with the community so we knew we could count on him to share his knowledge.


“How do I need my boat to perform?”


Tere are limitless options out there when it comes to touring kayaks, from high-performance to recreational, and it can be tough to nar- row down the field. It helps to determine what your expectations are in terms of what Henry calls the “five essential factors”. Tink about weight, speed, comfort, stability and storage. “Lightweight is becoming important as the demographic shifts,”


Henry says. Weight will also affect the boat’s speed on the water. Most paddlers aren’t out to break records but if you’re looking for ef- ficiency on the water, speed can be an important consideration. Te amount of stability needed will depend on how calm or rough the water you’re paddling is, how much performance you’re after and your confidence on the water. Comfort will affect the outfitting you go with as well as your ability to paddle effectively. And finally, storage capacity will be determined by whether you’re packing a lunch and a rain coat, or a month’s worth of gear. “It’s not as easy as telling the basic nuts and bolts,” says Henry. He


knows that specs can be very misleading and always encourages pad- dlers to take the boat off of the rack and onto the water to understand how all the components work together. “I try to get them to feel what each boat does,” he says.


HANDS-ON WITH THE BIG KAHUNA. PHOTO: COURTESY BRIAN HENRY


“What kind of outfitting is right for me?”


Whether you’re day touring or headed on an expedition, there are some basic outfitting elements that are necessities on any touring kayak. “Te industry has pretty much figured out that paddlers need waterproof hatches, so focus more on hatch access and how and where you’ll fit your stuff,” says Henry. “Deck rigging is also a must for res- cuing and carrying gear.” Whether to go with a rudder or skeg seems to be a question Hen-


ry’s hearing less and less these days. “Skegs are a little more simple,” he says. “A rudder is a little more like power steering.” A skeg offers more agility with the option of tracking while rudders are handy for maneuverability, especially if you’re still building your skill set. Tis decision usually comes down to personal preference so be prepared to try both. Also know that neither replaces proper paddling technique. Manufacturers often put a lot of emphasis on their seating system


and it can be an important selling point. Most experienced paddlers agree that a low backband-style seat will help with paddling form and improve your core strength. “I’m a little concerned about the migra- tion towards high-back seating in touring boats because they get in the way of a rescue,” adds Henry. Just remember the bottom line: if it’s uncomfortable you’re unlikely to paddle it.


PADDLING BUYER’S GUIDE | www.rapidmedia.com 51


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