Three classifications of kayaks – and where they belong

There are three main types of kayak classifications. White Water, Recreational, and Sea kayaks. Within these classifications, there are sub classifications and variations of each boat design. However, I will be explaining what the three main types are, what type of water one should paddle these, and what unique attributes they have over the other.


A WHITE WATER KAYAKWhitewater kayak – These are quick, responsive, nimble, and usually short and wide. They have great stability, and are designed to take a beating from a rock, or from rapids. One normally sees these yaks on moving water, with a current present – and depending on the paddler’s skill level – class V rapids are no problems for these kayaks. There are also different types of whitewater yak classifications, such as playboating, river running, squirt boating, and creeking. Depending on how serious of a paddler a kayaker is, they can require very specialized boats for each type of whitewater paddling.

Majority of these yaks have a drain plug near the stern (rear of the yak), in which to empty additional water. There are numerous grab handles in which one can use to carry the yak, or use to rescue others. Float bags are an important feature in which should not be overlooked. These are inflated, and placed behind the seat, and/or in front of the foot pegs. Their intention is to displace water which may fill up the yak if there is a capsize, and keep the kayak better afloat.




Recreational Kayak – These are the ‘Big Box Store’ special. They have become the economy line kayak and can be seen in nearly every store. Problem is, they are so reasonably priced, but lack many safety features. Now, they do have a place on the water, but should ONLY be used on the following types of water (that kind of fine print one never reads). Recreational kayaks should be paddled on the calmest of waters, shoreline within swimming distance of the paddler, small ponds or lakes, and a gentile creek/river. Many of these kayaks have a lot of free space behind and in front of the paddler (within the kayak).

Problem is, with all this free space…. that is a lot of volume for water to collect, should there be a capsize and the kayak fills up with water (swamping). Now the positive aspects of the design of these kayaks, they are very stable for the first-time paddler – majority of these are about 25 or 27 inches wide, or wider. Comfort is one of the highest attributes of these kayaks. Most of them can be thrown in the back of a pick-up truck and brought to the nearest pond.







Sea Kayaks- They are long, sleek and made for dynamic waters. For a person sitting in a sea kayak for the first time, these may feel “tippy” – the reason for this is, it provides the paddler a better ‘feel’ of what the kayak is doing in the water, and provides a closer bond between paddler and yak. Normally, a sea yak’s length is between 14 and 19 feet, and is about 18 to 22.5 inches wide. They do take considerate amount of time to turn them in a 360, but over time and practice one can make them dance on the water. Sea kayaks normally are found on large open bodies of water where there are waves and plenty of shoreline.

However, depending on the paddler skills, they can be seen on deeper creeks, rivers, and small inland lakes – usually they don’t run whitewater, way too many rocks. There are numerous added safety devices on these, from the deck lines (which are used for rescues, to a good hand hold placement), hatch covers, and at least two bulkheads which trap air and keep the kayak afloat – even if there were a capsize) as long as the hatch covers are in place). Other variations of this type of kayak are: Touring, Greenland, and Surf-ski.



With all these types of yaks out there, before you buy one – go rent, or try out a friend’s kayak. There are some in which you may grow out of in a few years.. and others will provide you years of entertainment. In a future blog, I will be posting how to pick out a kayak which will fit the bill for you.


For the Paddler within…..

The paddle float rescue

Every kayaker who spends any amount of time in their boat will at some point end up flipping over in their kayak. It’s just a part of the sport really. There are many ways to remedy the situation, namely getting the kayak back upright with the paddler in the kayak. Kayakers can learn to roll their kayaks, do assisted or “buddy” rolls, or wet-exit and have to make their way back into their kayak. There are rescues such as the T-Rescue where another kayaker assists in getting the flipped kayaker back into their kayak. And then there are the rescues that employ the use of a paddle float. While all of these safety techniques are important to know and practice, it is always essential that each kayaker know how to get back into his or her kayak on their own (Self Rescue). It is for this reason that the paddle float was invented.

There are two different styles of paddle floats, a rigid and an inflatable. They both preform the same function when preforming a rescue. It is paddler’s preference in which style one prefers.

rigid paddle float     inflatable paddle float


After a capsize, maintain contact of both your paddle and kayak. Your kayak will be deck down. Using hand over hand technique, grip onto the deck lines and position yourself near the cockpit. Once in position, locate your paddle float (I keep mine on the front deck at all times, so I do not have to look for it when needed). Once this has been obtained, slip your leg inside the cockpit to maintain further contact and control of the kayak. Slip on the inflatable float onto a blade, secure this to the shaft, and fully inflate the chamber(s).

Right the kayak, and maintain contact. Locate the deck line behind the cockpit, slide the blade under the line – power face down. This secures the one end of the paddle to the boat. The paddle should be perpendicular to the kayak so it acts much like an outrigger.

paddle float rescue

You are now ready to begin getting back into the kayak. You should be behind the kayak paddle. Depending on the side you are on, take the closest hand to the kayak cockpit and grab the kayak cockpit and the kayak paddle in that hand. Place the closest foot on the kayak paddle shaft just above the paddle float. Push with your foot on the kayak paddle and pull your chest up onto the stern of the kayak with your hand. Maintain the kayak paddle position with the paddle float on the surface of the water and the other end placing pressure on the kayak.

At this point you have pulled your body onto the kayak and have one foot on the kayak paddle, just above the kayak paddle float. You will need to get the other foot on the kayak paddle shaft because during the next step you will remove the first leg from the shaft to place it in the kayak and you’ll need the support of the other leg. Bring the other foot into the place where the first foot is on the kayak paddle shaft. Slide the first foot up to make room.

You are now ready to enter the kayak from the water by leveraging your weight on the kayak paddle float. While supporting yourself on the back deck of the kayak and on the kayak paddle blade, remove the closest leg from the kayak paddle shaft. Bring the knee toward the kayak and place your foot and leg inside of the kayak cockpit.

To get into the kayak from this position, simply place the other leg inside of the kayak. You will still be applying pressure to the kayak paddle float by the pressure you are placing on the kayak paddle shaft. In this position, the kayak paddle is acting like an outrigger with the paddle float preventing the kayak from tipping over. Once your body is in the kayak, it might feel awkward because both legs will probably be in one leg hole of the kayak cockpit. That’s ok, the main goal is to get in and to adjust your body once in the kayak. Make sure that the kayak back rest is upright and out of the way before the next step.

At this point you will probably be face down in your kayak and on the back deck. You will need to roll over and into the kayak seat. This can be tricky because there will probably still be water in the kayak which will make it “tippy.” Keeping two hands on the kayak paddle shaft begin to reposition your legs and roll over and toward from the kayak paddle float. Once half way over, remove your closest hand from the kayak shaft and bring it across your body and onto the other side of the kayak paddle, keeping pressure on it against the kayak. Once you are in the seat the kayak paddle will be behind you but you will still have a hand on both sides of the paddle. One will be keeping pressure on the paddle against the boat and one will keep pressure on the paddle float against the water.

Now, secure the spray skirt back on the combing. The paddle float is still in place and may be used for additional stability. If needed (and in calm water), the excess water may be removed from the kayak by creating a small opening on the side of the spray skirt and inserting the bilge pump.  Once water has been removed, remove the paddle from the deck line behind you, deflate the paddle float and secure.

Paddle float rescues are a useful tool to incorporate when other self-rescue techniques fail. Practicing and improving your technique for any self-rescue limits your exposure to the elements, and lets one resume to the enjoyment of paddling. Like any rescues, practice in a calm body of water, perfect your technique, and then attempt variations.

For the paddler within……

Paddle Float Plan

As a paddler, one should always notify others of your intentions. A simple phone call to a loved one, or a friend can be that ONE thing which may save your life. Simple communication is all it takes. With our digital age and access to cell phones – there should be no reason why we can not express to others what we have in mind.

Like most, when the day and the water are calling – the need to get the kayak and hit the water beckons us. We are excited to have great paddle weather, and even better water conditions. As the endorphins makes it way through our bodies as you load the kayak, paddle gear, and all other related items for a great trip – take a moment and think, have I let anyone know what I am doing?

One phone call can make or break your outcome. Prior to the paddle season, establish a contact list with people you know you can count on, should there ever be a need for assistance. Another great option is to send text messages to those trusted people – and ensure they have replied to your text message before hitting the water.

So, what information should one provide (assuming they know you really like to paddle)? When I paddle, I will notify my contact person of my intentions (I have a scheduled paddle pattern). I inform them of the number of people who are present, where I am, my destination/ planned route, ETA of when I should get back to the car, and what the conditions are like. I bring my phone along with me and place it on airplane mode (to conserve battery life), and place it in a water-proof container, within reach – should I ever need it. Once I completed the trip, and returned to the car, I immediately notify my contact person of my safe return. This reduces the stress and worry factor with my contact, and creates trust between the two.

What happens if there is ever a need for a rescue, or the people you paddle with don’t know you/your contacts, or nobody else knows where you had gone, or you went for a solo paddle and never notified anyone (I DO NOT recommend this)? A Paddle Float Plan is a great way to inform others of your intentions as a paddler. Even alerting my contact person, I complete this form. This plan offers the information to others outside your contact circle, a means in which to find you, and to make contact with you should the need arise. This form provided can be laminated and can be used for multiple years.  Just use a grease pen or wet-erase marker to write the information on the sheet. Once completed, place it on the dashboard in clear view for others. Rescue agencies can easily spot vehicles with kayak racks/trailers, and will look for this information (should it ever come to that). This provides a quicker response time, narrows the search location, and provides information in which others may not know.

On your next paddle trip, take a moment to complete the form, and keep in handy in your car. Your kayaking pals will thank you – as this may just save your life, but your paddle partners as well.


For the paddler within,


Welcome to Silent Wake!

After several years of planning, our company is up and running. We expect to officially serve the public late April, or early May 2019 (it all depends on our winter). Be on the lookout for scheduled events to hit the pages. Please leave us feedback, questions, or comments – as we eagerly await to serve you.