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Adventure Magazine

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I AM A BEGINNER-LEVEL PADDLER LOOKING TO BUY MY FIRST KAYAK, ANY ADVICE?

For every type of paddling there's a boat to match. But narrowing your choices in this ever diversifying sport (steep-creeking, anyone?) takes a little careful consideration. For open-water paddlers, who tend to spend substantial time in the saddle, comfort is the number one consideration. "This is an instance when size does matter," says Contributing Editor and kayaking guru Jon Bowermaster. "You have to be able to fit comfortably in the cockpit." Any beginning boater who buys a kayak solely because it's got great storage and stability will usually find that the pain of an ill-fitting kayak makes everything else irrelevant. So find a retailer with a large selection—and start sitting. "Test as many boats as you can," Bowermaster says. "Like the human body, no two brands are exactly the same." As for boat length, he recommends a midsize model (14.5 to 15 feet, or 4.4 to 4.5 meters) for a beginner. If, however, there are loops and donkey flips in your future—that is, white-water freestyle kayaking—comfort can take a backseat to design. Your best bet is to find a cheap new or used river runner, which combines a flat, or planing, hull for maneuverability with moderate rocker (hull curvature) for stability.

I'M LOOKING TO GET CERTIFIED AS A WILDERNESS GUIDE, CAN YOU SUGGEST A SCHOOL?

Illustration: starting a fire with two pencilsThat depends on how strictly you define the term "certified." As of now, there is no official sanctioning body for outdoors-guide certification in the U.S., which means that there is no fast track to guidedom. As the guy in the bowtie says, good guides acquire a reputation the old-fashioned way: They eaarrrn it. First, build your skills by living what you love. Aspiring mountain guides should make time to climb; future trail leaders need to practice route-finding in real wilderness; and so on. And since guides are expected to bring their clients home alive, it's a good idea to enroll in an outdoors-survival or wilderness first aid course (www.geosmith.com/wilderness has numerous links); one thing you can get certified as is a wilderness first responder—courses, which teach backcountry first aid, are offered nationwide (www.wildmed.com). Leadership skills are of equal importance: "I look for people with a customer-service background; guides have to be able to relate to people," says guide Ian Elman. Finally, while there is no national certifying body, there are a number of comprehensive guide-training curricula, including Elman's Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (www.symg.com), which will launch its 21-day Guide's Training course in May, and the well-regarded (but expensive) American Mountain Guides Association (www.amga.com).


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Expedition Advisor
Read explorer-tested tips from adventurer Jon Bowermaster.

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April 2004



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