Easykayaking Basics

by Gary Backlund and Paul Grey

Published by Harbour Publishing

160 pages, 2004

Buy it online



Paddling into the Sunset

Reviewed by Cherie Thiessen


According to Gary Backlund and Paul Grey, authors of Easykayaking Basics, sea kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. What's the appeal? As sports go, it's relatively inexpensive to get into, it's environmentally friendly and uses sustainable energy, assuming the kayaker is able to renew his or her energy level every day. It's great exercise, it gets the kayaker up close and personal with the ocean and its inhabitants, it's easy to learn and there are no age limits. It's also very quiet, as anybody caught skinny dipping can tell you. Those silent kayaks can move a whole lot more quickly through the water than a compromised bather. Kayakers can pull ashore and camp in areas where larger craft cannot follow and roads don't exist, thus ensuring the peace is not ground to powder by the violent assault of generators on floating gin palaces or three storey RVs.

But do we really need yet another book on the sport? The authors, whose earlier works include Easykayker: A Guide to Laid-back Vancouver Island Paddling, and Kayaking Vancouver Island: Great trips from Port Hardy to Vancouver, definitely think so

"Learning to kayak the hard way, by trial and error, isn't much fun and can be costly or even dangerous ... the seemingly simple task of buying the right kayaking equipment and clothing isn't all that simple."

Easykayaking Basics was born of the author's own experiences, both as novices and as experienced kayakers, and from questions that readers of their two previous books have asked. What sort of kayak and paddles to buy? Should equipment be new or used? Is neoprene or nylon better for sprayskirts? Should one wear a wetsuit while paddling? All these questioned are answered with the pros and cons often highlighted in sidebars.

With the assistance of Backlund and Grey, you can actually stroll into a kayaking outfitters' shop and sound credible. You can confidently advise a sales rep that you're looking for a softer chine, a skeg and possibly a Greenland style bow.

The kayak, however, is only the ripple on the sea. To counter the idea that you are going to get into the sport for a song, the authors also include chapters on transporting and caring for the new purchase and remind you that the kayak is only one of many expenses: footwear, flotation devices, navigational aids and radios are all on the list as well.

Chapters on safety issues, compass reading, rescue and tides and currents are interspersed with advice on paddling strokes, balancing and etiquette. This leaves the reader in no doubt that climbing into a kayak is not as easy as sitting in front of the television.

If you have an interest in kayaking, Easykayaking Basics would be a good investment before you so much as wink at the sea. It could save you a lot of grief and expense, but additionally it's just a darn interesting read. Succinct, matter of fact, with informative illustrations and pictures and an attractive layout, Easykayaking Basics is very seductive, even for those who are quite happy with their present mode of sea travel.

I wonder how long the photographer had to wait to get that great cover shot of the sun's orange rays stealing over the tops of the trees to turn the water, beach and kayak into a poem? No one can look at that image and not want to put themselves in the way of such a sunset. It may entice some to pick up the book, open it, and consider having a longer relationship. After all, haven't you ever noticed how much fun those kayakers seem to be having? | June 2004


Cherie Thiessen has been a scriptwriter, playwright, creative writing instructor and -- for the past 10 years -- a travel writer and book reviewer. She was the review columnist for Focus on Women Magazine for eight years and has also written numerous reviews for magazines including Monday Magazine, Pacific Yachting, Cottage Magazine, The Driftwood News, Linnear Reflections and Douglas College's Event Magazine.