News Eagle writer Bill Deaton is a huge outdoors enthusiast and kayaking is high on his list of favorite pastimes...

Kayaking is perhaps my favorite summertime outdoor pastime.

Over the past few years, many people I know have asked me all sorts of questions about the sport and several have sought out my advice when selecting kayaks for their own purchase.

One of the first things I tell any prospective buyer is to find a store that rents kayaks or go to kayak demo. While renting a boat that you are contemplating buying is good, you are basically stuck with the same kayak for the whole day.

A demo is a much better way to try-before-you-buy. Typically there are many boats to choose from and in most cases, demos are free and experts are on hand to answer questions.

Local outfitting shop, Alice’s Wonderland, will be hosting just that sort of thing as a part of Wally Lake Fest on August 25-26. Owner, P.J. Karpiak informed me that he will be bringing eleven kayaks to the demo, which will be held on the Saturday and Sunday of the festival, from 10-3 both days, at the Palmyra Township Beach on Route 6.

The selection of kayaks available to try will be quite varied. According to Karpiak, there will be kayaks there for just about anyone. Paddlers looking for a smaller boat that is good for little lakes and ponds may be interested in shorter kayaks, such as Old Town’s Heron 9.

It’s a fairly basic recreational kayak well suited for beginners or casual paddlers looking for a simple boat that will be good for a couple of hours on a small lake or a short river trip. Recreational kayaks tend to be more maneuverable and offer more stability.

Most tend to be under 11 feet long so they are easy to transport but a shorter boats can be easily outgrown after a few years, so novices who think they might like to take longer trips may want to try longer boats as well.

Veteran kayakers seeking an upgrade might prefer a Necky Manitou 13. It is a touring kayak designed for lengthier trips. With sleeker lines and longer lengths, touring kayaks tend to be faster than recreational kayaks and generally are easier to keep straight.

The extra couple of feet allows paddlers to stow more stuff due to added room and the higher buoyancy.

There is a small trade-off though. Touring kayaks do tend to be less stable in rougher water, so lake swells and rapids may pose a challenge to kayakers not used to handling this type of craft.

Along with the kayaks, Alice’s Wonderland will have a Stand-Up Paddleboard there for demo as well. SUPs are an up-and-coming niche in the world of light watercraft.

They are gaining popularity with long-time canoeists and kayakers that are looking for something different, as well as fitness oriented folks that are seeking out a new full-body workout.

If you’ve never kayaked before, this will be a great opportunity for you to learn a little about the sport and give it a try. Maybe you’ve tried kayaking before but didn’t like it.

Perhaps you weren’t in the right boat or didn’t have any instruction? With experts on hand and plenty of kayaks to choose from, the demo might be just the thing for you to try it again.

If you are contemplating buying a kayak, whether it’s your first, or you are making a purchase for a family member, or you are thinking about getting a more advanced craft, then stopping by the demo is something you should do.

For more information about the Kayak Trials and all of The Wally Lake Fest activities, check out

Tips for Trying Kayaks:
•Dress for the weather. If you’re not comfortable you won’t focus on the boat. Wear a hat, sunglasses, bring some water, and bring sunblock. Be prepared to get wet too, just in case you flip a kayak. If you plan on trying a paddleboard, expect to go in the water.
•Adjust the seat and footrests before you get in. If you don’t know how to do this, ask a staff member. They can get you set-up correctly. This will help with comfort, stability, and proper paddling position.
•Plan to try 3-4 kayaks. Even if you love the first boat you paddle, try a few others to compare.
•Trying several different styles will give you an idea about general performance and feel. This is good for novices learning about kayaking as well as experienced paddles wishing to expand their knowledge.
•Trying several kayaks in the same style is suggested for people trying to zero-in on a boat for purchase.
•Allow 25-30 minutes for each boat you want to try. A boat may feel great when you first get in, but you may discover you don’t like the seat or may feel cramped after a while. If things are good for a half-an-hour, things will probably be good for the whole day.
•Make use of the experts. Ask questions about cost, performance, transportation, upkeep, accessories, and paddling techniques. Take any handouts and pamphlets that are available in the event you wish to get more information or make a purchase in the future.