Kayak: You should try it before you buy it

July 30, 2011 

If you're thinking about taking up the sport or purchasing a kayak, there are a few things you should consider before spending your money: the amount of time you will have to devote to the sport and what you're getting yourself into.

Get the basics first. Sign up for a kayak day trip. A few hours on the water will convince you if this is the right choice of watercraft for your needs.

There are other alternatives that can provide a similar experience without the squeeze. After all, if you aren't going to use it, you have simply added another item to an already crowded and overstuffed inventory.

One size does not fit all. Getting in and out of a kayak is a matter of fit and balance. Make sure your choice has enough room. Finding out after the fact is like buying a sailboat with no sails. You will look funny standing on the shore watching your latest leisure investment sitting on the water, unoccupied. I highly recommend that you check the fit before you purchase.

Operation and ease of handling is a major concern. If you have difficulties with control due to a model's design, it is not the right choice. Being able to enjoy your kayak keeps your interest and is less like work.

One thing you should realize is that until you've actually spent time in a kayak, and ventured more than a few yards from the dock, you will not know exactly how well it handles and how it suits you over an extended period of time.

Know the options and what the purchase includes. I once purchased a complete fishing outfit for my son prior to a last-minute fishing trip. When it was delivered to the cabin, he was not amused. As it turns out, I purchased clothing rather than what I thought to be an offer for a fly rod and reel.

If you don't know the dealer, ask questions and request referrals. It's your money and your time -- make the best of both. If you've used rental kayaks in the past, then you might consider a purchase that is similar to those you are familiar with.

Know your limitations. There always will be surprises, so make sure you are physically up to the task of long rows in tidal waters before you commit to a purchase. Try rentals or use a friend's, but always be aware that you can't walk back.


Water Intoxication -- If you replace lost body fluids with water alone and do not replace lost sodium, it could lead to a condition similar to heat exhaustion that is referred to as water intoxication. Symptoms include but are not limited to nausea, vomiting, headache and possibly an altered mental status.

Treatment for water intoxication is simple; eat foods high in sodium and restrict further water intake.

In extreme heat conditions, the body averages a loss of 1 to 2 liters of water an hour and each liter contains 20 to 50 mg of sodium. This is why it is so important to replace lost body fluids throughout the day and, if possible, try to replace lost body fluids with an electrolyte replacement fluid that contains sodium, such as sport drinks.

Once you suspect any signs or symptoms, move to a cooler environment immediately and contact medical help. If left untreated, heat exhaustion coupled with a loss of electrolytes can lead to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening illness.

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