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Mon, Sept. 23

Kayaking for beginners: First get a boat

The Daily Courier/Les Stukenberg<br>
Katie Baird and her son Dylan paddle through the shallows on Watson Lake in their kayaks on Wednesday.

The Daily Courier/Les Stukenberg<br> Katie Baird and her son Dylan paddle through the shallows on Watson Lake in their kayaks on Wednesday.

A tiny boat on a tiny lake opens up vast possibilities for relaxation and exercise.

"I just love being on the water," said Katie Baird, 55, of Prescott as she paddled her kayak on Watson Lake Wednesday morning.

A kayaker for about seven or eight years, Baird says kayaking is a form of recreation just about anyone can do. She stressed that she's not an expert and only kayaks for recreation.

Beginners basically just need to know what gear is important and then how to get in and paddle.

Baird recommends renting a kayak for the first few times. Rushing out and buying one could be a waste of money if you end up hating it.

Prescott Outdoors handles kayak rentals at Watson and Goldwater lakes.

According to the company's website, a solo kayak costs $20 to rent for the first hour and $15 for each additional hour.

For information on their hours of operation, visit the company's website at www.prescottoutdoors.com.

Baird says that in addition to the kayak itself ­- which can run anywhere from $200 for an inflatable one to well over $1,000 - a beginner will want a well-fitting lifejacket and either a bilge pump or a big sponge for getting rid of the water that a kayak can take on.

Baird also carries a floatation device called a "throw bag" that's good in emergencies if someone ever needs to be towed to safety after they've capsized.

Although there are plenty of strokes and paddling techniques to learn, Baird said, simply knowing how to go forward and how to get close to something are the basics.

Baird demonstrates how to grip the paddle with hands slightly more than shoulder width apart.

As the paddle is slicing into the water on one side, use the other hand to kind of push the other side of the paddle forward so that both arms are moving in one motion.

Dig deep into the water instead of just skimming the paddle over the top of the water, Baird said.

Paddling forward means you're basically pushing the water behind you.

To get close to something, like a pier, use short, choppy strokes into the water holding the paddle upright.

To turn, just dig into the water with one side of the paddle.

Getting into a kayak takes a little practice. You can do it one of two ways: either by stepping into it while you're in shallow water - which tends to scrape the bottom of the boat - or by stepping into it from a pier.

Baird gets into her kayak from the pier by using a bungee cord she attaches to the boat. She hooks the cord to a post on the pier at the front and back of the kayak.

"I did it with great trepidation the first time," Baird said.

"Oh, and you want to make sure your paddle is in the boat, not on the pier, after you've untied. I did that once," she said sheepishly.

Luckily, a friend was on the pier and threw Baird her paddle.

For more information on kayaking, people also can call Bob Kane at the Prescott Paddle Club, 717-0638 or e-mail him at arkane57@yahoo.com or visit the club's website at www.prescottpaddler.com.

Manzanita Outdoor in the Frontier Village Shopping Center also has employees knowledgeable about kayaking, said employee Bob Massarotti. The store sometimes provides free demonstrations at area lakes. Call them at 778-0980 for more information.

Contact the reporter at tshultz@prescottaz.com

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