Each year the South Dakota Canoe/Kayak Association hosts a
paddling fair, an event designed to offer people who are interested in trying
out a kayak the opportunity to be fitted into one and coached through the
The paddling fair this year was held this afternoon at
Family Lake in western Sioux Falls.
Family Lake is a park largely built to provide for fishing within the
city. It is two connected man-made
lakes built over an old gravel pit near the intersection of the Tea/Ellis Road
and Highway 42. The lake is just
right for novice paddlers; there is a dock and an easy launching area for
kayaks – it is a nearly perfect spot for the SKCKA paddling fair. Importantly, it is located right on the
western edge of the city.
The event got underway at 1:00 p.m. and continued until
about 4:30 p.m. This year, the
paddling fair was sponsored by the SDCKA, Sun 'N Fun in Sioux Falls, and the
Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation Department. In addition, Team River Runners contributed several boats
and personal coaching for paddlers.
About 234 people took part in the paddling fair, and there
were about 40 boats provided by SDCKA members, Sun and Fun, and Team River
A variety of boats were available for paddling, including a
selection of kayaks, both solo and tandem and in lengths from short river
kayaks to long sea kayaks; several stand-up paddle boards; canoes, both solo
and tandem; and even two Hobie kayaks with the pedal powered propulsion device
– one was inflatable, the other a fishing rigged boat.
The event was characterized by families out to enjoy the day
and try their hand at paddling; there were lots of families where the adults
and kids each had a kayak to try and some where families filled up a
It was not at all unusual
to see parents with a small child seated in the forward section of a kayak
There were at least two SDCKA members out on the water at
all times serving as safety observers.
Other members were in action in the water, on the beach, and at the dock
working to secure a kayak and helping new paddlers launch and move out on the
The on-water SDCKA members
also assisted with paddling techniques for those who were just learning.
For so many people on the water, there were few incidents
requiring assistance. I helped one
young kayaker who had tipped and filled the hull with water. On another occasion, I towed a young
person back to the dock when she became unable to continue in the light
wind. There were very few such
Those trying out the
stand-up paddle boards sometimes took a tumble into the lake, but those were
situations where the paddler just lost his or her sense of balance on the
board. It was a safe experience
for these novice paddlers.
This was a great day for those who wanted a shared family
experience. It was also a great
time for anyone who has had a yen to go out in a kayak for the first time. Some of us took the occasion to try out
another type of boat. I was very
interested in trying the Hobie kayak with the pedal drive, and I took the
inflatable one out for a short spin around the lake. I have been looking at these boats on the Hobie website and
had a strong interest in them as a possible next craft. My experience today did not increase a
desire to get such a boat. Maybe I
didn’t spend enough time on the boat, but I left feeling that the traditional
kayak might better suit my needs.
I also tried out an Old Town Pack 12 foot solo canoe, and I
did like the feel of that craft.
Years ago I had a solo canoe and have always regretted letting it go. The older I get, the more attractive the
notion of a solo canoe to replace my kayak.
People attending the paddling fair seemed very happy for the
experience. More than one person
passed along a message of gratitude for this event. The motivation for the organizers of paddling fair is to
encourage a love of paddling sports and to expose more people to this really
wonderful way to enjoy another aspect of outdoor life.
In years past, we would sometimes have 10 to 20 people take
part in our paddling fair. Last
year there were about 75 people, and this year about 200. It is apparent that kayaking has become
a very popular sport in the Sioux Falls area.
The paddling fair fits alongside the many cruises, the pool
training sessions, the winter conference, and the South Dakota Kayak Challenge
as ever increasingly popular activities sponsored by the SDCKA.
For those interested in viewing all the photos that I took for this narrative, please check out my Flickr account at the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayheath/sets/72157630018214838/