IMAGE: basil childers
gear & action table of contents
HOW TO GET ACROSS THE STREET
Foot Traffic | Pop Cycle Coolers | Auto-Erotica
HOW TO GET UP THAT HILL
Two Ways to Mount Hood | Backcountry Jammin'-boree | Mountain Climbers
HOW TO GET DOWN THE RIVER--OR UP THE CREEK
Paddling-4-Dummies | Get Your Motor Running
My previous water-sports experiencetaking a blow-up raft out on the Pacific Ocean with my best friend, a six-pack of beer, and paddles made of blocks of wood duct-taped to old broomstickswas in no way adequate preparation for my first experience in a kayak. Kayaking requires patience, a love of being strapped into enclosed spaces, and way more gear than a bikini and a Bud. On the other hand, the rush of adrenaline from the close connection to the water I received paddling around (and around and around) in a kayak inspires me to trade in my homemade paddles for the real thing.
Stick Your Necky Out: Recreational sea kayaking begins with comfort; when I'm out on the water, I want to feel steady and look good. Beginners will want to try the Necky Sky ($399, Ebb and Flow Paddlesports, 0604 SW Nebraska St., 245-1756), a virtually indestructible plastic kayak known for its stability and maneuverability. Take this versatile ride out on rivers, lakes and oceans! Just shy of 10 feet long and weighing less than 50 pounds, this all-occasion boat is easy to transport, lightweight and flashy.
Dag, Girl!: The Dagger G Force 5.9 ($1,060, Alder Creek Kayak Supply, 250 NE Tomahawk Island Drive, 285-0464), on the other hand, is an "advanced, radical playboat" that will suit more seasoned whitewater paddlers ready to tumble through some of the Northwest's faster, more furious rivers. This short, stubby plastic toy (under six feet long and just 23.5 inches wide) promises serious action when riding those rapids. A recent lesson improved my ability to maintain balance on this tip-friendly boat and triggered my claustrophobia, since riding in the G Force is a bit like being wrapped in sausage casing. I never knew sausage casing could be so much fun.
Piddle, Paddle: Of course, without a good paddle you're up the proverbial creek, so fork over some serious cash for the newest designs made of carbon fiber. Weighing considerably less than those made out of fiberglass or molded plastic, the Werner Double Diamond paddle ($425, Alder Creek) is a sleek, sexy, high-end whitewater paddle under three pounds.
Life Saver: Don't forget about safety when out on the water. While capsizing in the kayak may be your idea of a good time, you should be prepared with a personal flotation device, or PFD. While the thought of wearing a life vest may once have sent Portland hipsters running for cover, these days style and comfort combine to outfit the paddler for safety and good looks. Stohlquist offers the Wedge-E ($85, Portland River Company, 0315 SW Montgomery Drive, Suite 330, 229-0551), a compact, lightweight, side-zip PFD for recreational types, designed to fit both men and women. Find it in such flashy colors as red, royal blue and mango yellow.
Blow-Up Fun: Strapped for cash? Short on storage space? Don't let the seemingly demanding nature of paddling and all its gear get the best of you. Inflatable kayaks are an affordable and cargo-friendly way to get floating down that river. G.I Joe's carries the Sevylor Renegade ($110, G.I. Joe's, 3900 SE 82nd Ave., 777-4526, and other locations), a two-seater kayak that's twice as nice! And if fluorescents are still calling your name, head over to G.I. Joe's for Wellington's America's Cup PFDs ($13, G.I. Joe's) in the brightest shade of orange you can imagine.
Aqua in the Family: Taking care of your toes while out on the water is a crucial aspect of staying comfortable. You don't want to be complaining about your freezing piggies when you're miles from those clogs in the car. Luckily, some comfy footwear is not out of your price range. On a recent visit to Next Adventure (426 SE Grand Ave., 233-0706), I scored brand-new Teva Neutron aqua socks for $30.
Back to Basics: A blow-up raft, broomstick paddles, a six-pack and your best friend. Just don't try an Eskimo roll.