While the warm water paddles may have a limited shelf life as winter looms on the calendar, there is one advantage for consumers.
This may be the best opportunity of the year for those interested in buying a kayak. Resorts, camps and kayak rental establishments often put used kayaks on the market this time of year to save themselves storage space.
That could add up to a good deal.
Even in this lake-rich region with water at nearly every turn, without lakeshore property or a boat, it can be a challenge to find ways to enjoy the water.
Camps and rental facilities offer an option for kayakers to explore the mine pits or area lakes. If the time has come to move from renter to buyer, there are numerous options from area retailers from Costco to Gander Mountain and Dunham’s Sports to name a few, along with the used kayak market as well.
What kind of kayak will work depends on what the buyer wants to do, camp, fish, take day trips on small protected waters or go on large lakes or even ocean excursions. Numerous online resources and YouTube videos from kayak manufacturers provide assistance on determining the right type of kayak. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
At Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby, owner Jenny Smith said the 14-foot Current Designs Kestral 140 kayak with a rudder is one of the most popular rentals.
“I’m seeing more people interested in a shorter boat for ease of maneuvering,” Smith said.
Purists may believe the paddler should use paddle strokes and edging to direct the kayak. For others, using a rudder or skeg to help steer the boat is makes for a better experience.
Skegs, a blade that extended from a compartment in the keel, provides another option. Dropping the
skeg can help a kayaker keep a straight line when faced with wind or current. As the skeg is below the water line, it doesn’t detract from the kayak’s shape, which can be an important aesthetic factor for some.
On the bigger lakes, the rudder may add a comfort level for paddlers. Rudders are controlled by foot pedals and cables and will assist in turning the kayak or keeping it straight in windy conditions or challenging currents. A skeg or rudder system may add $200 to the cost of the kayak. The rudder system may come standard on certain models or may be added later.
“So much is personal preference,” Smith said. “You just need to get out there try out the different equipment, you have so many options now really you need to just try them all and find what is the most comfortable for you.”
There are lessons available for those interested in more technical paddling or guided kayak excursions. Also area kayak clubs — Paddle Pushers www.paddlepushers.com or Paddle Folk at www.paddlefolk.com — provide a place to get basic instruction for beginners and offer regular weekly group outings with a nominal fee to rent a kayak.
Kidder Kayaking of Baxter is another offering sales and instruction through the winter and spring through Brainerd Community Education. Kidder Kayaking also has small group classes in the summer.
With additional gear from a two-wheel cart to help move a kayak from car to boat landing and multiple types of roof-top transport kits, there are plenty of options to haul and launch. There are multiple price points for roof racks from $50 for a simple system to about $200 to $300 for a roof rack with a roller system that assists in getting a kayak on and off the vehicle. There is even a hydraulic lift that basically loads and unloads the kayak itself, lifting it to the roof and down to the side of the vehicle with prices in the $500 to $600 range. Other more simple accessories include a step that fits over the top of a vehicle wheel to make it easier to reach the roof rack to load and unload for about $50.
The roof rack systems are nearly as plentiful as the types of kayaks out there. If all else fails, find a friend with a truck who is willing to haul the boat and provide a pick-up service. Either way, it’s likely to be less than the cost of a motor boat and trailer.
As for the kayaking itself, Smith said the benefits come in relaxing on the water.
“You can pick it up really pretty fast and once you are comfortable in your boat it’s such a relaxing sport. It’s a really nice way to unwind.”
Smith said getting out on a kayak is a good way to access the water without a big investment in equipment.
“I love paddling in the early morning,” Smith said. “The mist coming up off the river or the lake — there is nothing better.”