It’s still a little cold for most people to be paddling in Wisconsin since most of the water is still frozen. But it won’t be long now. Temperatures going above freezing and the shrinking snow piles incite almost terminal cases of spring fever. The only real cure for paddlers is the coming of warmer air and water, but in the meantime you can treat the symptoms with a little anticipatory and retail therapy.
Friday, March 11th, marks the start of Canoecopia. If you are planning to make this the year that you get your own canoe or kayak, this is one of the first opportunities of the season to wander through the lilies (as it were). Even if you’re not in the market for a boat, it just seems easier to get you through the next couple months when you can walk around and touch all those boats for a few days. And it sure is a kick to be around all those other people who share your passion for paddling!
I’m not planning to buy a boat this year, so for me, Canoecopia therapy involves the “kick in the butt” it gives me to go through my gear and plan out what I need to acquire or replace for this season. If you already have your boat for this year, you could probably also benefit from the addition of some accessory gear. If you need to do some research on what to look for, I have several archived blog posts from last year that can help you sort out the important features to look for when making your purchases.
For those of you who are relative novices and are wondering what your next gear purchase should be, here are a couple suggestions:
- For anyone, canoeist or kayaker, beginner or veteran, you will never regret upgrading your paddle. Spend as much as you can afford. Look for light weight and good blade designs. Take it from any expert paddler, a good boat is nice, but you’ll never enjoy it to it’s fullest if you have a substandard paddle. Even a “so-so” boat starts to feel like a dream with a great paddle in hand.
- For sea kayakers, I find that an often overlooked piece of safety gear is a tow belt. If you don’t have one already, make it a priority to buy one this year!
- For anyone who doesn’t wear their life jacket every time they go paddling, buy a new PFD! There is no reason not to wear a life jacket whenever you are on the water. There are so many styles. You should be able to find something that is cool and comfortable enough that you will hardly know you are wearing it.
- Finally, if you just can’t wait to get out paddling until the water temperatures get up to 60 degrees, you need to make sure that you have clothing that will protect you when you capsize (please note that I said “when”, not “if”). There will be lots of wetsuits and drysuits on display for you to try on and buy. Some of them may seem pricey, but with reasonable care they will last decades. Ultimately, they are really very cheap insurance for your safety in cold water.
If you run out of things to buy, you can always attend any of the many really terrific presentations for ideas on places to paddle and ways to improve your skills. I’m looking forward to all of it, and I hop to see you this weekend!