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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!

Astral Shoes

Top 12 Gift Ideas for Water Lovers

It may feel like the holidays are still very far away. Or you may be hyper-ventilating into a brown paper bag because you have to start holiday shopping. Don’t worry though – we’re here with the best ideas for the water lover in your life! Get your gift list out and happy shopping!

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Prone River Surfing

Prone River Surfing

By Adam Masters, bellyak Founder

There is no better feeling than having your face inches from the water while watching the river rush by. Going fast while sitting still. Prone river surfing causes time to stop, and everyone remembers their first time better than prom night. For most, it’s the only anniversary that matters. Most impressions of surfing conjure up Gidget standing effortlessly sliding down a perfect TV wave with nothing but palm trees and coconuts for miles. Those of us lucky enough to not go to bed every night stuck to sandy sheets have to look for our own endless wave, the waves created by the timeless forces of rocks, water, and gravity.

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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.

Bellyak lesson at the National Whitewater Center

From Bobsled to Bellyak – A Seamless Journey

BIO

Name: Natalie DeRatt

Age: 28

Bellyak Experience: 0

First Track: National Whitewater Center

Bellyak Used: Play 35

In my short life, 18 years has been dedicated to a sport. 12 of those years have been dedicated to competitive sports, and 3 of those years have been spent bobsledding professionally, for both Team USA and Great Britain. Up until recently, it was bobsledding that has given me the biggest thrill – hurtling down  mile-long ice tracks at speeds averaging 75 mph with no way out. That’s until I tried bellyaking at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.

via GIPHY

My bellyak background

Based in Asheville, NC, I’ve seen bellyaking before – floating down the river, pictures of them in the surf, and spending lazy days on the beautiful waters of Lake Jocassee.  However, nothing could prepare me for the experience of bellyaking in whitewater. The premise is simple: You hop on, you lay on your belly, you use your arms to direct you. But, what isn’t obvious is your connection with the water. Every little move – a slight lean to the right, a little turn to the left – all affect your ride, and so within minutes of trying one for the first time I felt like I was connected to the water (as frilly as that sounds). Within an hour, I was going down Class III rapids, and loving it.

Bellyak lesson at the National Whitewater Center

My bellyak fears

I’m not going to lie, I’m not the strongest swimmer. My biggest worry was getting knocked off my bellyak in a rapid, sinking to the bottom, and never being heard from again. I came to find out this was way too dramatic of me. It’s actually super easy to just hop back on if you are sent swimming because there are no spray skirts involved and you’re on the boat and not in it. Plus, the bellyak is so buoyant, it took quite the splash to send this lack-of-experience ‘yaker into the water. Imagine if you actually knew what you were doing?!

via GIPHY

I Became Michael Phelps

Although I was the most exhausted human in North Carolina after spending the afternoon bellyaking, it was the biggest thrill I’d had in a long time. While in driving school for bobsled, they let us try skeleton for a couple of runs – the bellyak of the ice. You simply lay on the sled, hold on tight, and ride the ride to the icy bottom. Having now done both, I can tell you bellyaking was SO much more fun. A sort of swimming/ kayaking hybrid, you feel you are literally flying through the water. Or swimming really, really fast. Like faster than Michael Phelps fast. Probably faster than Aquaman too. And it was so intuitive! You treat the boat as if it was an extension of your body.

Bellyaking at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte

Don’t Judge a Bellyak by its Bellyak

What did I learn from this experience? I learned you should never judge an outdoor activity by its cover. I learned that even if you’re not the best swimmer in the world, bellyaking is perfect for you (p.s. Always wear a life jacket). And I learned that exhilaration and adrenaline are available outside of winter sports and roller coasters, and they’re much, much closer than you think! As for  me, I’m already plotting my next bellyak adventure.