Book review: Kayaking Manual by Bill Mattos

If you have always considered kayaking to be just another word for canoeing, think again...

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 24th April 2013, 10:00 am
Kayaking Manual
Kayaking Manual

Because a kayak is kayak; not a scull, not a canoe, not a rowing boat but a special craft originally designed and built by the Greenland Inuit people – aboriginal hunters who named them kayaks meaning ‘man’s boat’ or ‘hunter’s boat.’

Understandable then that kayaking is a sport that possesses an almost tribal sense of belonging with ‘paddlers’ of all backgrounds and interests treating fellow boaters almost as family and always willing to offer help and advice.

So whether you are new to the ‘club,’ are interested in getting started on this exhilarating sport or are an old hand with a paddle, Bill Mattos’ fully up-to-date, illustrated manual delivers all you need to know with enthusiasm and a wry brand of humour.

Presented in conjunction with Haynes Publishing, this authoritative guide offers easy-to-follow, step-by-step, full colour photographic sequences and inspirational action images, covering every kayaking surface from flat water through to oceans and white water.

Perhaps the biggest difference between rowing and kayaking – apart from the use of a paddle rather than an oar – is that rowers face backwards and kayak paddlers always face forwards.

Beginners generally learn their kayaking skills in a sit-on-top boat on calm water and then move on to the general purpose closed-cockpit kayak which is perfect for learning almost all kayaking skills.

But no matter whether you simply fancy paddling gently and taking in the scenery around you, or prefer hurtling down terrifying rapids, Mattos reckons that being able to swim 50 metres unaided in normal clothing, including shoes, is a safe minimum for venturing afloat in any kind of boat.

A basic fitness level for basic kayaking would be the ability to lift your boat on and off the car, carry it to the water, climb into it and swim if needed.

Of course, there are many different kinds of kayaking, from whitewater boating, sea kayaking, creeking and playboating to adventurous paddling, squirt boating, running rapids and running drops.

This definitive book also explains the clothing and equipment required for every type of kayaking and, of course, the boats and paddles themselves, as well as weather, hydrodynamics, safety and rescue.

Kayaking is a growing sport both in Europe and in the US and Mattos takes us through all the different elements such as slalom, freestyle, sprint, marathon, polo and kayak surfing.

The Kayaking Manual is both a brilliant introduction to this exciting sport and a useful back-up for experienced paddlers and amateur or professional groups in need of an accomplished kayaker to guide them through the practices and pitfalls.

So with spring in the air and the great outdoors beckoning, there couldn’t be a better time to discover the thrills and spills of kayaking!

(Haynes Publishing, hardback, £21.99)