Buying watersports kit is not always easy. I remember vividly my first experiences of buying my own equipment back in 2012. I was just back from living in Canada and I wanted to keep my new-found passion for paddling alive. But every time I walked into a surf shop, or a kayak store, I felt like I was an outsider, asking stupid questions and disturbing the peace! You should never feel that way at CBK Adventures. We 100% welcome your questions and we absolutely love talking to people just starting out as much as seasoned pros! We genuinely just want to put the right equipment in your hands, so you can start having the adventures you dream of.
Here are my personal top tips for finding and choosing the right equipment for your next adventure.
Start here. What do you want to do?
Be careful buying anything until you have the answer to this question clear in your head. Back in 2012 I knew my answer was "I live in Cullercoats and I want to get out and explore the coast by kayak". Once you know this, you can begin to assemble your essentials like a kayak, SUP or tow float for swimming. Always look for package deals when starting out as these can be a real money saver.
How do I stay safe and warm?
This is really important if you're getting on the North Sea. Even in summer, our water temperature around here is 15ºC, and that is still scientifically defined as 'cold water'. Shorts and t-shirt just will not cut it. So perhaps think about insulating your body with a wetsuit. In terms of safety, you should consider some form of flotation and how to communicate in an emergency.
Is this a summer thing, or year round?
This will really influence your kit choice. A 3mm wetsuit will be fine for short stints on the water in June, July and August. But if you are planning to be out there November to April, you'll need something higher quality and more insulating. I recommend a 5mm wetsuit for the colder months, except for wild swimming when they can be too buoyant.
How will you get to the water's edge?
It may sound like a no-brainer, but getting your kayak, SUP and even yourself to the water's edge requires a bit of planning. If you're gonna take your car, roof racks, padding and straps need to be considered. If you're travelling light and walking, do you perhaps need a trolley and some warm layers for your walk to the beach? Plan your journey from the front door to water's edge. Consider getting home too! Do you want that dripping wetsuit on your backseat? Probably not! IKEA bags, flexi tubs and drawstring changing mats are great for carrying wet kit.
How will you take care of your kit?
Remember the key to ensuring the longevity of your equipment is taking care of it. Rinsing your kit in fresh water after every use and ensuring it is thoroughly dried before putting it away is key. Which spaces do you have in your home and garden to permit this? When I first got into watersports I lived in a first floor flat, so I used to take my wetsuit in the shower with me and leave it to dry in the shower cubicle.
Who will you share your experiences with?
Maybe you're a rare lone wolf, but many of us like to share our adventures with friends. If all of your mates are pub-dwellers or your teenage kids are tied to the X-Box, it's not always easy to find people to paddle with. We created the CBK Members Club for just this reason. Come along and get involved with people who share that love of the water. You can also find a range of groups on social media where you can find advice, guidance and organised activities. Here are some that I like:
Get equipped and get out there!
Don't get too tied up in your buying choices, and never at the expense of actually getting out there. You will use some of your initial purchases for a very long time, but some you will upgrade very quickly, that is totally normal. The important thing is to assemble what you need now so you can start enjoying yourself and feeling the rewards. It's a cliche, but very true, that great equipment is no substitute for practice and experience.