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Snowbird Guide to Kayaking

Within the last few days I bought a kayak and took it out on the lake for a spin. Prior to this I had never been in a kayak. My concern about kayaks flipping over, I'm embarrassed to admit, was a big reason I hadn't bought one a long time ago. Several people urged me not to get in a kayak, claiming it would flip over. But last week I happened upon a middle-aged woman and what appeared to be her teenage daughter, getting ready to put their kayaks in the water. I asked them if kayaks flip over. They said words to the effect of no, their kayaks haven't flipped over, and there's no chance of it if you're on calm water. What I heard them say, however, between the lines was, "Mr. You must be a stark-raving idiot for thinking that's even a possibility." With that assurance, I bought a 10-foot, one-seater capable of holding all my weight plus a paddle, Buster, and a six-pack or two.

So here are a few dos and don'ts gleaned from my short personal experience so far:

1. Don't waste time looking around to figure out what kayak is right for you. You'll get used to whatever you end up with, so just buy one. Life and kayaks are full of trade- offs. Disclaimer: (Because we're in the land of gators and lawyers): If you drown don't blame me or this newspaper. It's free advice; you get what you pay for.

2. Do take your iPhone with you so you can take pictures, call friends, and maybe--if you get in trouble and your battery doesn't die--call for help.

3. Do wear a shirt with a pocket that closes securely so your iPhone doesn't drop in the water. It's especially important to tuck the iPhone away securely during take-off and return, the most likely times for droppage (the phone, not the call).

4. Don't worry about the kayak flipping over. On calm lakes, it's not going to happen.

5. Don't forget to wear your life vest, like I did. My brand new spiffy life vest remained safe and dry in the garage. It wasn't until about half way through the ride that I realized I wasn't wearing one.

6. Don't yap on the phone for a long time and not pay attention to where you are. You may end up lost, like I did. From the middle of a lake, all the shorelines look alike. No matter how much I strained my eyes, I couldn't get my bearings.

7. Do check your iPhone maps app if you get lost on the lake. Yes, it will help you figure out approximately where you are.

8. Do consider, that like a long bike ride, or a full round of golf, the last half is more tiring than the first half.

9. Do take a cup along, to bail water out in case water gets in the kayak. Do make sure the cup is a different color than the kayak. I made the mistake of bringing a cup that matched the color of the kayak. In an emergency the cup would have been camouflaged, hard to find, and perhaps worthless.

10. Don't answer your phone, like I did, if it rings at just the moment you're arriving at your landing. I told my buddy I'd call him back, but it was too late. I didn't have time to tuck away the iPhone (see #3 above). Getting out of a kayak, especially for the first time, if you're middle-age and out of shape (like I am) requires two hands. This ill-timed call, at just about the worst possible moment, left me one-handed for the tricky and difficult re-entry.

Here's hoping your first kayak trip was as enjoyable as mine.