A paddler is a person who propels a watercraft using a paddle, but a happy paddler is a person who propels a purpose built watercraft using a paddle designed for maximum performance with minimum effort, and has additional gear to help them stay safe on and off the water.
Getting the right gear the first time is much easier with expert assistance from knowledgeable paddlers. The advice provided here relates to the three categories of paddle propelled watercraft that you might buy yourself: kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards (SUPs). It was compiled by Australian Canoeing certified Kayak Instructor Scott Rawstorne with input from other paddling professionals, including Travis Frenay from Paddle & Portage Canoes, Nick King from Sunny King Paddleboards, Simon Fitzpatrick from Northern Rivers Sportfishing and Wayne and Mel Hanley from Greenland Downunder.
The information here is general in nature and explains various design features and materials. Once you have an understanding of them, you can make an informed decision about which brands have products that suit your needs. The appropriate equipment for you will depend on your choice of watercraft, your physical attributes, conditions you expect to experience, how far you want to paddle, the amount of gear you need to take, whether you want to fish and how you plan on getting to the water.
It pays to have an idea of what you want before you go shopping, rather than be guided by what a retailer has in stock. If your local store doesn’t offer a try before you buy service, contact a kayak, canoe or SUP club and ask if you can join them on a trip or two. Paddlers are usually more than happy to show off their gear.
All Global Paddler kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding (SUP) advice is free for Global Paddler members. Memberships can be purchased through the Global Paddler online store.
This advice is also contained in The Paddler’s Guide to New South Wales 2nd Edition, The Paddler’s Guide to South Australia, The Paddler’s Guide to Queensland and The Paddler’s Guide to Victoria guidebooks, which are available now from the Global Paddler online store and selected retailers.