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Tips for Spring Time Paddling

The sun is out, the grass needs to be mowed, and there is enough pollen in the air to have to use your windshield wipers. While it’s tempting jump straight into the water after being cooped up all winter, there are some crucial tips to remember before your first trip of the spring.

 

Pre-Trip:

Double check your bellyak…are all the handles tight? Is the pad adhered on all sides? No glue is perfect  (though ours is pretty close). If your pad is peeling up, take the time to make sure the boat is dried out and cleaned as much as possible, and use contact cement or our favorite, 3M Super 77. Spray both sides, allow to dry until tacky, then press together. Did you store your boat in the weather all winter? Need a new pad? Order one here.

Drain plug:

Some of you store your bellyak with the drainplug open. Is it still there? Screwed in? Your boat will paddle MUCH better if not full of water. If you are missing a drain plug, contact us. We’ll take care of you. In a pinch? A piece of ducttape over the hole will do.

Dress for the water temp, not the air temp:

Here in the southeast, springtime temps can vary more than 30 degrees between day and night. There can be a dramatic fluctuation between sun and shade as well. Don’t make the mistake of being hot at the put in because you are in a sunny parking lot…further downstream around the next bend could be a whole lot cooler! I wear a drysuit with thin layers underneath for maximum spring time comfort, or a 3/2 wetsuit. It’s better to be hot at the put in, since you will invariably cool off once you are in the water.

Speaking of water temp: it takes a while for most rivers to warm up past the fifties. Fifty four degree water is extremely chilly. If the nights are still regularly in the 30s and 40s, it will take a while for the water temp to catch up. Check sites such as this for water temp: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?03451500

Length of Trip:

If you’ve been working out and/or staying active all winter, then good on ya. If you’ve been like most people and only worked out the first two weeks of January, then take it easy on your first trip. Bellyaking is strenuous and uses a lot of energy. We suggest having an easy ‘break in’ run where you can get your arms and bellyak shoulders warmed back up. Check out this blog.

 

Post Trip:

The takeout will almost always be colder than the put in. We suggest a warm layer for when you get off the river. Our favorite? The Recover Brand Bellyak Hoody. Wear it commando style post paddling. Just remember to leave it in your takeout car.

Food and Beverage:

Leave your future self something when you leave the car at the takeout. You may not be hungry now, but you will be after paddling. Our favorites? Kettle cooked BBQ potato chips and any number of the great beers from breweries around Asheville NC. Sure it’s not the healthiest choice like cucumber kale slaw, but we believe in increasing your activity level in order to enjoy all of the deliciousness life has to offer. That’s the best part about owning a Bellyak: get fit, have fun, eat chips, repeat.

 

See you on the water!

Exiting the water with a Layla PFD

Gear Review: Astral Layla PFD

Prone paddling in whitewater requires specific gear to maximize the experience. For most aquatic recreation, the PFD is something that is worn if something goes wrong. You hope to not need it. For paddling a bellyak, the PFD becomes part of the user experience because it provides the interface between body and boat. Therefore, a properly fitted and comfortable PFD is a must.

There are many PFD’s that will work. Anything with a relatively flat/consistent thickness front that fits well, will function just fine. But there is one PFD that stands out above all others:

The Astral Layla

The Astral Layla

The Astral Layla is a women’s vest made to fit and support a womans body. But the flat front, kapok foam inside, and multiple ways to adjust make it just right for prone paddling. You see, a bulky vest made for kayaking may work perfectly for our upright butt-boating brethren, but we depend on our lifejacket not just for flotation, for prone paddling comfort as well.

The Astral Layla on a bellyaker

Key Features of the Layla

  • Shoulder adjustments: Finally! Someone realized that not every torso is created equally. This feature helps properly position the PFD in the perfect location for prone paddling. It also makes it an ideal vest for teaching, because this one feature alone allows it to be custom fit to a wide size range of paddlers.

Exiting the water with a Layla PFD

 

  • Side Zip: Another great feature. The side zip makes the vest much easier to get on and off, especially when your shoulders are sore from a long day on the river. It also helps accommodate every shape human.

Showing the Astral Layla's front zip

  • Front Pocket: Because you always need a place to store snacks/spare key/cellphone in waterproof case.

Waiting to bellyak with the Astral Layla

Designed for a Woman, strong enough for a man, and perfect for bellyaking!

For more on the Astral Layla and information on where to buy, check it out online: https://www.astraldesigns.com/shop/paddlesports/pfds/layla.