Interview of The Great Jeffrey Chitek by Abbey Wise
Do you know of any physical or mental benefits of kayaking?
I am not a health freak at all.I love red meat and I live in Louisiana, one of our nations fattest states, with the temptation of fried chicken and lard baked catfish on every corner.Kayaking is just one of the many activities that allows me to give in to that temptation every so often while maintaining a slim figure.It’s a great core workout.As a silent, non-competitive “sport” it is also a great way to clear your head.Just put your kayak in some water and go…If I was not a kayak guide, I would most likely be a mentally ill blob, eating fried shrimps on a sad park bench somewhere. Not really but yeah… kayaking has proved to be good for my body and mind.
-Why do you enjoy kayaking personally?
It is the best way to explore new territory.This last year, I have been paddling various rivers and swamps around Southeastern Louisiana.Some of the most pristine areas, cluttered, dense Tupelo and Bald Cypress grottos, are not even accessible with a motorized boat.There is nothing like floating through a forest and surprising a sun bathing alligator because you came up so quietly.I see and learn new things every day I’m out there, and it becomes knowledge.
–Do you have any safety tips for a beginner who wants to start?
Get a wide, recreational boat.Sit-on-top kayaks are the best for beginners.These boats are much easier to get back in if one was to flip it over, it happens.Go on a waterway that you know well or at least bring someone who does.When I am exploring new, pathless, windabout swamps, I tie colored bands to low lying limbs as navigational tools and pick them up on the way out.It’s easy to lose your bearings on the water.Also, always check the weather.Things can get nasty quick in a tiny boat with 30 mph winds and lighting bolts going off.Basically, just call us and sign up for a tour, we will turn you into a pro.I have to say that
-What type of gear should they look into?
It really depends on the type of paddling you are going to be doing, and the conditions.I’m not a big gear-head.I say find something affordable and comfortable, put it in the water, and go.Get a life jacket. If a game warden or some officer comes by and you don’t have one in your boat, they will probably ticket you for that.Get quick-dry clothing and a dry bag or else you’ll get your car seat wet on the way home, a broken, water-logged cell phone resting on your lap.
-What about distance and location… where’s a good place to start? Should they always have a guide? etc.
Small lakes are appropriate for a first lap.Stay close to shore and remember where you started.Leaving an recognizable object, something you can see from a distance, at your launching spot is always a good idea.Get a guide if you don’t know the area.People far too often float too far away on a big lake, or unknowingly launch themselves on a river that turns to rapids or worse.Be smart and know your limits.
-How about those of us living in very urban areas — are there any ways that we can also get into kayaking?
Join groups.No matter where you are, I’m sure you can find an outdoor club, even specifically for kayaking that organize trips and activities open to the public.If there is an abundance of water in your area, check a map and find a connecting park to launch from.Here in New Orleans we have Bayous and canals scattered throughout the urban area so its easy.If you live in New Mexico, find a pool I guess.