Info for New Members

If you are reading this you are probably new to Explore North Coast. Welcome! Here are a few tidbits of information that will answer some of the most common questions.

Contact Us – don’t be shy about sending us a message with a question and/or request. Send emails to, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. You can also contact the ENC Board by clicking here.

Basic Skills  – we encourage new paddlers to take a few basic kayaking skills classes to get off on the right start. These classes focus on proper paddling techniques (strokes and maneuvers) and, most importantly, safety (e.g., getting yourself and/or your partner back into their boat if a capsize occurs). Basic kayaking instruction can be obtained through various local sources, including our club. The Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka offers incredible entry level kayaking classes at very affordable prices. We highly recommend their guided trips and/or classes as a way of developing basic skills or deciding whether kayaking is the sport for you. They also offer personalized private instruction, often times provided by our experienced members.

ENC can provide financial support for paddling skills instruction through grants to members with financial needs.  Click HERE to learn more about ENC grants.

Club Paddles – we recognize that some people prefer flat-water paddling over ocean paddling and vice versa. That’s why we offer a variety of club sponsored paddles, ranging from easy beginner, flat-water paddles, to more difficult surf zone practice. Group paddles are a great way to meet the paddling community, and to advance your skills by pushing yourself slowly outside your comfort zone. We really encourage new members to attend our club sponsored flat-water paddles on the lagoons and bay, because these are the calmest outings where we can work with you, if you need help developing skills.

Club paddles are hosted by experienced ENC members about twice each month. Hosts lead the paddles, making sure the outing is safe and you have fun. But, safety is ultimately YOUR responsibility so it’s important to know your skills and limits. Although it rarely happens, Hosts do have the option to turn away anyone they feel is unprepared for the trip or the conditions.

Check the Events Calendar before You Leave – club events are sometimes cancelled or changed at the last moment because of weather or other reasons, so it’s a good idea to check the Events Calendar before heading out for a club event.

Check Conditions before You Paddle – before heading out on the water, check the forecasts before you leave home. Our website has several links on the Forecast page that will help you do that. Remember, wind is probably the most challenging element when on the water, and water surface conditions can change quickly when the wind picks up. Paddling early in the morning will help avoid the stronger afternoon winds.

Launch Times for Club Paddles – times shown in our Events Calendar are LAUNCH times. We always try to launch on time, so please give yourself enough time to unload your boat and gear, and prepare to launch.

Clothing – if you capsize and end up in the water, hypothermia is a major concern. That is why we generally dress for the water temperature and not outside air temperature. The bay and ocean water temperatures are cold year-round, and lagoon water temperatures during the winter and spring months are as cold (or colder) as the bay and ocean water temperatures.  A hard fast rule when it comes to clothing on the water is DO NOT WEAR COTTON. Wear only synthetic or wool layers, because they provide warmth even when wet and they dry fairly fast. Bring a change of dry clothing with you whenever you paddle.

At a minimum, wear synthetic or wool layers with nylon pants and paddling jacket (shell). Farmer Johns/Janes, worn over a synthetic layer on top, will provide added warmth and are relatively inexpensive. For those who advance to ocean paddling, a dry suit (expensive, but worth it) is usually the clothing of choice, but Farmer Johns/Janes work well, too. Synthetic or wool socks and neoprene booties keep feet warm and comfortable. When in doubt, contact the Paddle Host who is leading the paddle you wish to attend.

Basic Safety Gear – ALWAYS wear a properly sized and adjusted life jacket, a.k.a. a Personal Flotation Device, or PFD when on the water. A loud whistle should be securely leashed to your PFD to signal for help, if needed. A paddle float and bilge pump, and knowing how to use them are also highly recommended.

Kayak and Paddles – these are by far the most expensive items you will buy if you decide to get into this great sport. One of the most common questions new paddlers have is, “What kind of boat do I need?” The best way to answer that question is to decide what type of paddling you want to do (flat-water and/or ocean) and then try several boats for fit, comfort and performance. Local merchants such as Adventure’s Edge and Pacific Outfitters usually have “Demo Days” during the year when they make their line of boats available to try. Call them to find out when they are planning their next event. Another good way of trying different boats is to attend an ENC flat-water paddle. Our members are usually generous about letting new members try their boats. The rental program at the Aquatic Center is yet another good way to try different boats and paddles. Try before you buy! And, try many different types of boats.

Paddle with a Buddy – it’s safer to paddle with a buddy when you are new to this sport. You can meet like-minded paddlers with similar skills by attending our club paddles.

General Resources – there is a wealth of information about kayaking in print and on the internet in the form of articles and videos. Links to some of our favorite sites can be found on the Useful Links page. Folks who are new to paddling should make sure to check out OOPS’s website, one of our favorites. Make sure to check out their Documents and Resource links. Do some homework. It will be a good investment of your time.

Rapid Media Magazine – as a member of the American Canoe Association (ACA), you should receive a free subscription of this magazine, and you can decide how it will be delivered – mail, online or to your iPad/iPhone. The magazine is available in four titles that focus on either canoeing, ocean/flat-water kayaking, whitewater kayaking or kayak fishing. To receive and/or manage your subscription, call the ACA’s Membership Department at 540-907-4460 ext. 109. Read more about the magazine options at the ACA website.