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Kayaking Gear and Outfitting Tips For Women

Jul 17, 2008
Ladies, you don't have to settle for gear that doesn't fit right or look good! Almost every manufacturer is now making gear specifically designed for women. There is a variety of women's PFDs that fit the shapes of your upper bodies, small shaft paddles that are easier to hold, helmets with funky designs, sport tank tops and other comfy underlayers in groovy colours. So shop around and have fun picking out your gear!

By buying gear designed for women you're not only investing in yourself, but also in the future generations of girls and women who will enter the sport. Your buying power lets manufacturers know that there is a market for women's gear and encourages companies to invest money in R & D for those products. Your dollars can go a long way in improving the sport for all women.

Since whitewater kayaks are designed mainly by men, they are made with a man's body shape and performance potential in mind. For this reason, some female paddlers have a frustrating time in playboats that are not small and narrow enough for them to consistently perform tricks.

As the industry progresses, boat manufacturers are designing more boats in multiple sizes with women in mind, and you should now be able to find a suitable boat from most of the major companies. Each company makes boats that have their own unique shape and slightly different performance characteristics, so be sure to test drive as many as you can and don't settle for a mediocre fit.

To help create a better fit for comfort and performance, try the following outfitting tips.

Raise your seat. Raising your seat will counteract the sizeable depth of the kayak and give you more leverage, which translates into more power. You can achieve this by placing foam under or on top of your seat. Choose the thickness of foam depending on your height and comfort level. Usually one or two inches of additional height will be enough. The higher you raise your seat, the more leverage you will have. Remember also that the higher you raise your seat, the more unstable you will feel! If you feel too tippy after you raise your seat, take some of the foam out to lower it a little. Trial and error is the best way to find the balance point between stability and leverage for you.

Move your seat forward. Most production kayaks come with the seat moved all the way back. It is important for women to move their seats forward so that their body weight is centred over middle of the boat. This aggressive position makes it much easier for women to sink the bow of the boat when performing tricks like the cartwheel. It will also make it easier for you to maintain or regain control of the boat, because less of your weight will be towards the stern. This isn't just important for playboats, but also for river running kayaks because it will help your balance, stability and can keep the stern of your kayak from catching and flipping you over.

Be sure to have a strong, supportive back band. Having a good back band that keeps the body in a forward position is especially important for women, because they often find themselves being thrown backwards. Be sure that your back band is snug and supportive.

If your hips are uncomfortable and your feet are falling asleep a lot in your kayak be kind to your body and take out some of your hip padding. In general, women have fuller hips than men and that means that some of us don't need a lot of hip padding, if any at all. That's ok. You can still fit snugly in your kayak without a lot of hip padding.

Personally, I don't use a lot of padding for my hips so I make sure that I have a lot of foot foam or move my bulkhead closer to my seat which helps my knees stay in place under the thigh braces. Your kayak should fit like a glove, but it should also be comfortable.

"Believe in yourself. Know that you can, and you will succeed!" (Ruth Gordon)
About the Author
Anna Levesque was the 2001 Freestyle Kayaking World Championship Bronze Medalist and is a motivational keynote speaker . Her company Girls At Play, LLC offers white water kayaking tours , trips and classes for women.
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