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Prepare to Paddle

kayaking on the west coast swell   kayaking along the rocky shore   Dave Pinel guiding with a group of paddlers

June 9, 2014
Prepare to Paddle - What you need to know
for your first sea kayak adventure of the season

Sea kayaking is a great way to enjoy the beauty of BC’s coastline and lakes.
These tips help make that first trip of the season a safe and enjoyable experience.

Courtenay, B.C. – At this time of year many people are getting ready for their first sea kayaking trip of the year – looking forward to fresh air, exercise, and unparalleled access to wildlife in its natural environment. To help make sure that first trip is a safe, enjoyable paddle, Dave Pinel – owner of West Coast Expeditions, offers some easy-to-follow advice for anyone getting ready for their first kayak trip of the season.

“Preparation is key, both for your body and your equipment,” says Pinel. “Whether your first paddle of the year is a short jaunt around your local waters for a few hours, or a multi-day adventure.”

On the physical side, Pinel points out that while kayaking relies on your hands, arms, and shoulders to control the paddle, much of the exertion comes from your core muscles.

“I think kayakers can forget how much it involves the lower body, especially because you are sitting in a position with your legs in front of you. For those with tight hamstrings, this can lead to lower back pain if you don’t limber up. Whether it’s yoga, your favourite stretch after a good warm-up, or anything to loosen up your hamstrings and calf area, it makes it easier to paddle more comfortably for a longer time.”

Lower body strength and flexibility also helps in building power and boat-handling skills says Pinel.

“As people develop their kayaking technique and ability, the core muscles and lower body actually does an incredible amount of work for boat control, power, stability, and maneuverability. You’re engaging your lower body even though all that can be seen is your upper body.”

To stay safe on the water, Pinel believes a little preparation goes a long way.

“Plan to stay out longer than you expect, even if it’s just a short trip. When you are prepared, bad weather or an equipment malfunction is usually just an inconvenience. When you aren’t, it can turn a great day into a scary situation. Start with a checklist. And make sure somebody knows where you’re going and how long before you expect to return.”

Pinel suggests keeping your paddling gear in a dedicated tote box, along with a contents list.

“If you take something out, like rain gear or a tarp to use for something else, make sure you leave yourself a note, so you can do a quick inventory before each trip.”

Most beginning paddlers start out by renting equipment and using the gear that comes as part of the package. For those who catch the kayaking bug, but aren’t yet ready to buy their own boat, Pinel says there are two pieces of equipment worth owning.

“Get your own PFD. It’s great to have one that fits well, so your arms and upper torso don’t get chafed. You’ll know where the pockets are and can keep them filled with handy little essentials like snacks and lip block, so you don’t forget them on shore. The other item many people like to own is their paddle. They come in a variety of sizes and styles. When you match your paddle to your hand size and paddling style it gives you more control and helps you to paddle more efficiently.”

Pinel believes comfort is the key to a great paddle.

“Your skin is exposed to wind, sun, and salt water. Sunscreen is an obvious ‘must have’ but for fair skinned people like myself, some zinc, whether it’s sunscreen like Badger Balm, or regular zinc oxide diaper cream will do an amazing job of protecting key areas like your nose and lips.”

For post-paddle skin care, Pinel recommends high quality coconut oil to moisturize and soothe skin exposed to the elements.

Lastly, this veteran of countless paddling expeditions reminds both novice and experienced paddlers to make sure they give themselves lots of time to enjoy their adventure.

“It’s fun to paddle fast, but it’s not so great when you are in a rush. You never know when you will be presented with an amazing opportunity to view wildlife, or choose to linger on a deserted beach for an extra hour, or even a day! Kayaking is truly an activity where the journey is as important as the destination, so padding your itinerary to allow for the unexpected might just deliver a once in a lifetime memory.”


Dave Pinel
West Coast Expeditions
Tel: 1-800-665-3040

About West Coast Expeditions
West Coast Expeditions was established in 1972 and is one of BC and Canada’s first companies to practice ecotourism values - before there was such a label. WCE was the first sea kayaking company in Canada to achieve the Green Tourism Gold Award and was selected by the Canadian Tourism Commission in November 2013 as a ‘Canadian Signature Experience’ for its Sea Otter Kayak Tour. The company is based out of Courtenay, offering 4 to 9 day sea kayaking tours in the Kyuquot/Spring Island area of northwest Vancouver Island. WCE has developed a close relationship with the local Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. The company has been co-owned with a member of the Kyuquot-Checleset First Nation since 2008. West Coast Expeditions is active with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC, Aboriginal Tourism BC, the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC, 1% for the Planet, and is a member of BC Parks’ Volunteer Ecological Reserve Warden program. To learn more about the company please visit: