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Frequently Asked Questions
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How do I select a kayak?
When it comes to kayaking, choosing a boat is the most important decision you’ll make. Finding a boat that is comfortable, proportional, and matches the style of paddling you plan to do will lay the foundation for the journeys that lie ahead. All boats are a compromise of design features that give the boat its desired performance characteristics. While it is impossible to have a boat that does everything perfectly, it is possible to find one that has a blend of characteristics that are important to YOU, the paddler.
Three steps to consider when selecting a kayak: paddler, environment, and gear.
Paddler- It’s all about YOU. Your physical size, condition and aspirations are all going to affect which boat is right for you. Paddlesport lessons from a certified instructor are highly recommended and can help show you the way to more enjoyment and safety. Initially, take time to educate yourself on the terms associated with paddling and the necessary skills and gear that will be needed.
Environment: It’s all about the WATER. Where are you going to paddle? The type of environment you aspire to paddle will greatly influence the type of boat that will work well. Conditions on the water can change quickly and while many boats are versatile and can be paddled in rough conditions many are limited to relatively calm waters. You should take time to learn about the conditions you’re going to be paddling in so that you can choose a boat with features that are suited to those conditions. You will also want to learn the paddling and rescue skills that suit the style of paddling you plan on doing.
Gear: It’s all about the GEAR. After putting some effort towards learning about YOU and the WATER it’s time to choose some gear. The gear required for a leisurely summer day on a calm pond is going to be quite different from a multi-day trip on the sea or a trip down your local whitewater river. Along with some basic paddling skills, a boat, paddle and PFD (personal floatation device) will get you on that calm pond but a few accessories are going to make that trip safer and more comfortable.
There are four basic categories of kayaks: Whitewater, Recreation, Touring and Sea Kayaks. There are two distinct types of kayaks - traditional sit-inside called "decked” or “S-I-N-K" kayaks, and sit-on-top or “S-O-T“ kayaks Whitewater - typically short (6-10 feet), tighter-fitting cockpits designed to turn very quickly on fast moving rivers and rapids. See other Confluence Watersports companies Dagger and Wave Sport for models geared towards whitewater.
Recreational – typically short to moderate length (9-14 feet), wide, very stable, and usually feature large, open cockpits. Designed to track well and turn fairly easily on calm lakes, bays and gentle rivers
Touring – Typically moderate length (12-15 feet) and width, include ample storage space, and can often be equipped with a rudder or skeg for directional control. Designed for more challenging conditions and more efficient travel.
Sea Kayaks- –typically quite long (16 feet or more), fairly narrow, with lots of storage space, designed to move efficiently, track and maneuver well in rough conditions and may be equipped with a rudder or skeg.
Sit-on-top – A good choice for those who don’t want to be confined inside the cockpit of a decked kayak. . Sit-on-top kayaks vary in design, depending on its intended purpose. A very stable platform for most conditions. Excellent for fishing.
Your best option is to find a Wilderness Systems retailer and try out some different styles of kayaks. They can help answer many of your questions and help you decide which boat is right for you. Use our Dealer Locator to help find your nearest dealer.
How do I choose a paddle?
Choosing a paddle is largely a matter of personal preference. There are many sizes, shapes and materials available. If possible, try a number of different paddles and choose the one that feels best. Keep in mind, a paddle is an extremely important piece of gear that can make or break the pleasure of a full day on the water. Take the time to decide what works best for you....
Visit http://www.atpaddles.com for a complete overview.
Is it hard to learn to kayak?
Kayaking can be as easy or challenging as you want, depending on your choice of on-the-water environments. You can learn the basic skills for kayaking in protected waters in just a few hours. It's best to take a class with a qualified instructor, to get started quickly and safely. With a few basic paddle strokes and some safety skills, you'll be on your way! Most courses offer all the equipment needed and even different boats to try. Practice on your own, some additional lessons and/ or a guided trip, can all enhance your paddling experiences. Besides your local Wilderness Systems dealer there are a number of online resources which can help you locate paddling schools near you. See the Resources Section for links.
Can I try kayaking to see if I like it?
Many paddling shops offer on-the-water boats demos and weekend paddling demo events. They are generally on calm, protected water and staff people are on hand to answer questions. This is a chance to test paddle a wide variety of kayaks to see which type of boat style best suits your needs. Paddling clubs may have open houses or events to introduce people to kayaking. You can rent kayaks at many paddling shops and outfitters. Remember; never kayak alone. Taking an introductory lesson can also be a great opportunity to try kayaking and meet paddlers who are just starting out.
What should I take when I go kayaking?
The following list is an example of what you might take on a typical daytrip:
- Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with whistle (required)
- Neoprene or Nylon Spray Skirt
- Quick drying clothing suitable for the conditions
- Bilge Pump
- Paddle Float
- Boat Transportation Rack/Cartop Kit
- Water bottle or hydration system
- Spare warm clothes in a drybag
- 1st Aid Kit
- Cell Phone
- Marine Radio
- 2 piece Spare Paddle
- Dry Bag
- Chart Case with Regional Chart or Map
Do I have to know the "kayak roll" to go kayaking?
Kayak rolling is a great safety skill. For challenging conditions, such as whitewater or kayaking in rough conditions like strong wind and swells, it is important to learn to roll. However, you can enjoy kayaking in less challenging conditions without rolling skills. Assisted and solo rescue and recovery skills are very important to learn and practice! You will normally be introduced to the rescue and recovery techniques when you take a basic kayaking class. Most people require specific rolling lessons and lots of practice to perfect this skill. Rolling is based more on technique and coordination than on strength. With patience and practice, rolling is not difficult to learn and leads the way to confidence in rough conditions.
Do I have to be able to swim to kayak?
No, but it helps. Mostly it’s helpful because people who know how to swim are more comfortable in and on the water. Even if you can swim, you should always wear your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while kayaking.
Should I be afraid of getting stuck in the kayak?
Many people are afraid of this...until they take a class and learn the “wet exit”, a technique of rolling over and exiting the boat. Gravity isn’t just a good idea, it’s the LAW! Most folks slip easily out of the seat with little or no effort. In fact, when learning the kayak roll, learning to stay IN the kayak after a roll-over is an acquired skill! The larger the cockpit size the easier it will be to “wet exit”!
What is the weight capacity of a Wilderness Systems Kayak?
Many factors influence the amount of gear and the actual weight capacity of your kayak. These include: weight distribution, water and wind conditions, paddler’s weight and size, and skill level. That's why it is difficult to give an absolute answer, because there are so many combinations of factors. We rate our kayaks with a maximum amount of gear you might expect to carry on a trip and maintain a maneuverable, seaworthy vessel.
The performance of your kayak, and your comfort in paddling it, will also be affected by the amount of weight and how it’s packed. When packing a kayak, try to distribute the weight evenly, both side to side and front to back and keep the heavy objects low and towards the center of the kayak. It is wise to prevent heavy loads from shifting, which may upset the balance.
Where can I purchase Wilderness Systems kayaks?
See our Dealer Locator to find your nearest Wilderness Systems retailer.
Where is the serial number on my kayak?
Serial number will be found on right side (standing at stern looking forward) of kayak just below the side seam demarcating hull and deck. Position will vary from boat to boat but is usually within 8-18" forward of stern. Serial numbers are scribed into hull. For more information visit the Find Your Serial Number help page.
How should I store my kayak?
The best way to store your boat is on end, upside down or on its side. Don't hang it by the grab loops, and it’s better to not store it in direct sunlight. The plastic is UV protected but the color can fade and the plastic and nylon outfitting hardware can lose its suppleness and fade in prolonged exposure to sunlight. Use a cockpit cover to keep dust and critters out. Harmony has a Yak Rack made of webbing which is designed to make storing your kayaks easy.
How do I get my kayak onto my car rack? Can I load it by myself?There are many different methods for carrying and loading kayaks. One way to carry your kayak is by placing the upper cockpit edge on your shoulder. Another method is to lift it canoe style, holding it by the thigh braces. To load the boat onto your car by yourself, stand behind the car and rest the bow of the kayak on your rear car rack bar or roof. Move to the back/stern of the kayak (hold onto it!), then lift the stern and slide the entire kayak forward onto the rack. This same method can work from the side of your car. Rest one end of the kayak on your car, then lift the other end. If you are concerned about scratching your car or kayak, place a towel on the roof or rack for protection. (Minor scratches do not harm the kayak.) Tie your boat securely to the roof rack. Run bow and stern lines directly to your car, with only minimal tension. (These lines are just insurance, in case the lines holding your boat to the rack loosen.) Too much tension on the bow and stern lines can distort the shape of your boat. Your local paddlesports shop can help you find a kayak rack that fits your car and budget.
How should I transport my kayak?
If you have a car rack with small round or flat bars, place your kayak either upside down or on edge to lessen the chance of distortion. Foam pads can help prevent distortion. If you have specially designed kayak carriers as part of an aftermarket rack system, follow the rack manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, place the cartop racks under the boat's bulkheads, where the hull is strongest. If that is impossible, place the bars or attachments as close to the bulkheads as you can. Whatever the case, tie the kayak securely to the roof rack with straps or ropes, never shock cord or bungies. While you want your tie-down ropes to be secure, be careful not to make them so tight that you risk distorting the hull-shape of your boat.
As an additional margin of safety, loosely tie down the ends of the kayak by running a rope from the grab loops or security bars to the front and back bumpers of your car. Don’t leave your kayak tied to the top of your car for a long period of time unless it is in transport, and always remember that distortion created by improper storage or transportation is compounded by excessive exposure to heat.
Your local paddlesport shop can help you find a proper boat transportation system that fits your car and your budget.
Can I fix a dent in my kayak?
Occasionally kayaks of all types will develop indentations in their hulls - these indentations are sometimes referred to as “oil canning”, because they tend to pop in and pop out under pressure – similar to an oil can. Typically these indentations are due to improper storage or transport. Things like storing a boat flat on its hull or tying it on a car rack so that another boat or the rack itself pushes against the hull invite such indentations.
To remove a dent, set the boat in the direct HOT sun for a couple of hours with the dented area exposed. This process should be allowed to proceed for at least two hours. When the hull heats up, it usually reforms itself, but you may have to get creative with some weights or braces inside the boat to push the dents back out. Another method is to use your hands to push from the sides of the indentation to allow the center of the dent to pop back into shape. In the absence of HOT sun another way to remove a dent is to use a heat gun, hair dryer or HOT water to heat the dented area. Be careful to only heat the plastic to a soft state without burning or melting it. This will allow you to push the dent out and the hull should retain its original shape. The above methods can also be applied to dents in the side or chine of the kayak. These are often noticed after the boat is removed from vertical transport on a roof rack.
To prevent such dents in the future, be sure to store your boat either vertically, or on its side – never flat on the hull – and to be mindful of the hull during transportation.
Can my kayak be repaired?
YES! Our kayaks are made from a number of different materials that are all repairable. Contact your local dealer or our Customer Service department for the proper repair advice, or view our product instruction page for repair instructions.
How do I clean my kayak?
Your kayak is designed to need a minimum amount of maintenance. A simple fresh water rinse or mild soap washing is all that in needed, especially if the boat is paddled in salt water. Composite boats can be waxed with a good quality marine or car wax. You may also use 303 Protectant to add sun protection and bring back shine to your kayak's surface and keep the outfitting and hatches protected. This works for both plastic and composite kayaks.
What can I do to make myself fit better in my kayak?Most of our boats come with a comprehensive outfitting system. Consult the instructions that came with your boat to ensure that you are getting the full potential of the existing system. If that isn’t enough, you may also opt to bolster that system with additional padding. Many aftermarket outfitting options are available from a variety of sources. Your local dealer is an excellent place to start.
How can I keep storage compartments dry?
You will want to periodically check that your hatches are watertight. We use a very durable sealant for our bulkheads, but the flexing that occurs during transport and paddling may wear them out over time.
If your storage compartments are wet, first identify where the water is getting in. Are your hatch covers intact and securely fastened? Are your bulkheads sealed well? Are there any deck fittings that have broken or become loose? If the source isn’t obvious, do a "reverse leak test." Begin with a dry boat. Put about a gallon of water in the suspect hatch, seal the cover, then roll the boat around and see where the water comes out. If the leak is coming from a bulkhead, simply clean and dry it, then simply reseal it with a good marine sealant such as Lexel, 3M 5200 or Sikaflex. DO NOT use silicone as it does not stick well to plastic or composite materials. Replacement deck fittings and neoprene washers are available for deck leaks.
Remember to use dry bags for items that MUST stay dry.
What do I do if I think I have a warranty claim?
If you think your kayak may have a warranty issue, first be sure that it is in fact eligible for a warranty. To be eligible, your boat must have been purchased new less than five years ago, and from an authorized Wilderness Systems retailer. Keep in mind that our warranty policy covers materials or manufacturing defects - not damage caused by impact or improper use, or normal wear and tear. This includes damage that results from hitting rocks or other obstacles while paddling. If you think your boat may qualify, begin by contacting the dealer from which you purchased the boat. Have your serial number ready, and be prepared to give the date of purchase and a detailed description of the problem and what caused it. Your dealer may then contact us for further advice - at which point we may ask for photos or an even more detailed description of the issue. The more information you can provide the better.
Problems requiring warranty use on Wilderness Systems kayaks are uncommon, but when they occur, please be as thorough as you can with the dealer and your Wilderness Systems Warranty representative. Doing so will speed the process immensely, and get you back on the water as soon as possible. Our complete warranty policy can be viewed online. Please review it before you begin a potential claim.
How old should a child be to learn to kayak?
While any age child can participate in a tandem boat with a qualified partner, kids from seven to ten years old are at an ideal age to learn to kayak in their own boat. Young people in this age group have generally grown enough to fit smaller kayaks well and have developed the attention span, physical attributes, and fine motor skills necessary to see rapid progress in their skills development. Kids at this age are also mature enough to deal with the solo aspects of the sport, though kayakers should never paddle alone.
Does Wilderness Systems make kayaks for kids?
Yes we do! Kayaking kids should check out the Tsunami SP, the Pamlico 100 and the Ripper. Kids also need PFD's specifically sized for them, clothing that will protect them in the wet environment and a paddle with a smaller diameter shaft and blades which is designed for smaller paddlers. These accessories are generally available at your local Wilderness Systems dealership.
Can I add Orbix Hatch covers to my kayak?
Wilderness Systems does not supply Orbix Hatches for retro-fitting models which did not come factory-equipped with them nor does it authorize attempts to do so.
It would be very difficult to make the cuts necessary to install these hatches properly in an even and safe manner. Furthermore, there is significant probability that installation attempts would result in uneven cuts leaving gaps that would leak. Lastly, any boat retrofitted with unauthorized hatches will result in the loss of warranty coverage on that boat.
Where can I find out information on discontinued models?
Check out our (click here) Archived Catalogs page to see various product specs and pictures for Wilderness Systems models no longer active within the past 10-15 years.
How do I register for the warranty on my kayak?
The warranty registration form should be completed here within 30 days of original purchase to be activated. It is suggested that you keep your sales receipt should it be required in the future for proof of purchase.
How do I adjust my outfitting on my kayak?
For a good overview of how to perform some of the basic outfitting adjustments for your kayak, visit our product instructions section by clicking here.
Where can I find an owner's manual for my kayak?
Check out our care and repair page to download a variety of documents, including owner's manuals, for your Wilderness Systems kayak by clicking here.
Can I buy a kayak direct from the factory?
Unfortunately we are not set up to sell direct. We rely on our large network of knowledgable dealers to assist in choosing or finding the right kayak for you. You can locate your nearest dealer on the website by using your zip code and searching here at the Dealer Locator page.
Can I purchase the new Phase 3 seating system separately?
Currently we do not sell the new Phase 3 seating system as a stand-alone accessory for retrofitting or replacing seats on kayaks.
How is the Ultralite kayak material different from the standard model construction?
UltraLite is a co-extruded, high-impact acrylic over premium ABS. So it’s a material that is light and stiff like composite kayaks with the durability and price of plastic. And it also has the glossy shine that is lacking in polyethylene.
How can I find a dealer outside of the U.S.?
If you're interested in purchasing a product from a dealer outside of North America, please use our international distributor locator by clicking here to see if one is available in your country. They can put you in contact with someone locally (if applicable) to purchase a kayak.
I can't find the Kaos on your website.
The surf-oriented Kaos is still available! It is now a Dagger kayak. Click here to view the Dagger Kaos 10.2 product page (this will also take you to the Dagger Kayaks website).
What is that groove in my bulkhead?
Don't worry, this is a normal part of the bulkhead design. Read the complete article on understanding the groove that is in your bulkhead and what it is for here.
There is no bow foam wall in the front of my boat. Should there be?
You may notice some older recreational models include bow foam flotation while the newer models of these boats does not. After a review of flotation in (brand) recreational kayaks and comprehensive testing against the American Boat and Yacht Council ABYC H-29 guidelines, a decision was made to remove the standard foam wall from the bow area on select models as all Wilderness Systems kayaks are well above the required limit.
If you would like more information, read the complete bulletin here.