Your Kayaking Journey Awaits
Bring the Whole Family!
One word comes to her mind, as Mandy Streib carves her kayak through the flowing St. Joseph River – tranquility.
“I like being outside in nature. You see beautiful things like herons, otters and mink,” she says.
Don’t let her petite size and peaceful prose fool you though. She’s a competitive racer, a two-time national champion in the two-person canoe division. But she also has a passion for helping and encouraging others to try paddling sports.
Mandy and her husband Matt own Fluid Fun in Bristol, Indiana, a one-stop site for kayak and related gear, stocking over 400 kayaks and canoes onsite. Mandy is also a mother of four kids under the age of six and a recent nursing degree graduate. In her busy schedule, family time is important to her.
Family Fun on the Water
“Kayak outings with the kids are a great way to enjoy the outdoors as a family. I might like to paddle longer, but you really have to think about the little ones’ attention span,” Mandy says.
Mandy’s rule: when her 9-month-old starts fussing, it’s time to head to shore. “I want the trip to be enjoyable and fun, even if it means we turn back early,” she says.
To help make the trip fun, Mandy brings along snacks and recommends getting lifejackets sized to fit the children. Even properly sized lifejackets are often up in the kids’ faces when they sit down. “That’s no fun,” she says, “so, I try to remember that when it’s hot and keep the trip short.”
When selecting a kayak to use with little children, be sure to get a cockpit large enough for your toddler to sit in front of you, between your legs.
When Mandy’s kids are older, they get to paddle their own kayak. Her husband Matt sets the rule here: if they can ride a bike without training wheels, they can kayak on their own. A calm lake or pond is a great place for kids to solo. “We tie a rope from our cockpit to the child’s kayak to help guide or retrieve them if they get tired,” notes Mandy.
A Great Sport for Women
Lots of women have gotten into kayaking in the last few years. “Women are stability gifted.” Mandy says, “We carry our weight in our hips. That makes us more balanced in a kayak or canoe.”
Kayaking can also be a finesse sport. You don’t have to muscle or power stroke a kayak. That makes it ideal for couples or family members with different athletic abilities to enjoy together.
But what about transporting your kayak to the water’s edge? Mandy’s advice: “Think light.” That’s important if you want to be able to load and carry your craft on your own. Lighter boats, made from composites, are more expense, but they are worth it if it makes carrying and transporting easier and allows you to use your kayak more frequently. Select a lightweight paddle as well.
A Few More Tips
For families or beginners, avoid streams and rivers with downed trees. They can be dangerous.
The current is stronger than you think. Paddle in calm lakes and ponds, or wide rivers, such as the St. Joseph in Indiana if you are new to the sport or with children.
Remember that after a long paddle, you will still have to load your kayak for transport. Enlist help from others at the launch site, or look into rack systems that ease the loading process.
When shopping for a kayak, sit in several to find a cockpit size and shape that suits you and a boat style that suits your recreational interest.
If you’re interested in taking up kayaking or learning more, here are some resources to help you on your journey.
- Elkhart area: lazydayzcanoe.com
- South Bend and Niles areas: St. Patrick’s County Park, sjcparks.org
- New Buffalo: Outpost Sports, outpostsports.com
- Paddle Michiana: paddlemichiana.blogspot.com
- South Bend Paddlers: paddlefest.org/club.html
Tips on Selecting a Kayak:
Check out this website: fluidfun.com
To See Paddlers and Kayakers in Action:
Attend Paddlefest: Sunday, June 24, 2012, St. Patrick’s County Park, South Bend