Get Started: Kayaking can paddle cares away

Hitting the water a great way to get away

Get started: kayaking

BEND, Ore. - There's no better way to beat the Central Oregon heat than taking a slow float down the Deschutes River. But I always wanted to try something a little more active, like kayaking.

So I met with Keoni Chung of Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe in Bend, to get started.

"There's just a lot of great paddling opportunities with the water resources we have here," said Chung.

As much as I wanted to head right for the water, we started inside, where Chung taught me about the different gear.

"The most important factor about choosing a boat is making sure that it's designed for the weight range of the actual paddler," Chung said.

Pretty simple: smaller boats for smaller people, bigger boats for bigger people.

"Every boat has a cockpit and a seat. These particular boats have hatches in them," Chung said. "They're semi-dry hatches, so you can store gear in it (and it) also offers an added floatation. So if you were to capsize, you know the boat's not going to sink  -- it's going to stay afloat."

If you just want to try the sport, like me, rentals can cost you anywhere from $40 to around $70. But if you're planning on buying, you're looking at anywhere from about $400 to a couple thousand dollars.

But Chung said it's the paddle where you should really spend the dough.

"If you're going to spend a little extra money, it's always good to spend it in a paddle. It's just nice to have a nice light paddle, something that's easy to paddle with," said Chung. "We have paddles that are, you know, in the $50-$60 range, and go up to $475, made out of carbon fibers."

Now to safety: The law requires paddlers to have a fitting lifejacket and a working whistle.

"Once you have everything snugged up, you just want to tug on the jacket (to make sure it) is just not going to lift off you," said Chung.

With all my gear picked out, we finally got to take to the water -- almost.

Getting the feel for the boat on shore. Chung showed me how the knees should brace the side of the kayak, and your seat back should be vertical.

Chung also let me in on a trick to get my paddle grip just right.

"With the paddle centered on top of your head, you want to make sure you have a nice 90-degree bend in your elbow, so you can look out and just see -- and then that's ideally the position you want to keep your hands in," Chung said.

Finally, it was time to get in the water.

Immediately, it was clear why Chung loves paddling so much.

"I think people starting out tend to be a little bit tense, and that tension translates to overreacting and over-compensating," said Chung. "So getting into your boat, when you first get into it, staying relaxed."

And who couldn't be relaxed on the Deschutes River?

For me it was love at first paddle.

Chung did caution that if you're ever going out kayaking alone, be familiar with the spot, and have a plan on where you're putting in and taking out.

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