Paddle Your Own Kayak by Gary and Joanie McGuffin, published by Boston Mills Press, is subtitled ‘an illustrated guide to the art of kayaking’. This subtitle really highlights one of the major selling points of this book, and the reason I impulsively purchased it, the superb and inspiring photography.

Paddle Your Own Kayak contains 207 pages and beautiful colour photographs and diagrams adorne every page. This coupled with well written and insightful content make this ‘coffee table’ style book a prized possession.

Joanie McGuffin

Joanie McGuffin

Paddle Your Own Kayak makes no reference to Sea Kayaking specifically in either its name or introduction. In fact certain sections cover basic white water technique however every boat shown within the book is a sea kayak of some description. It is in fact an guide/introduction to kayak paddling from a touring/sea kayaking perspective.

It takes readers from absolute basics to more advanced techniques as well as covering theory and practical advice for navigation, equipment and camping/touring. One of the final chapters even shows Joanie McGuffin building a sea kayak using the stitch and glue, plywood method – the finished boat is superb.

Clear Diagrams

In terms of the technique sections, I have yet to find such a well illustrated book. Most strokes are covered via a step by step write up illustrated with clear photographs of each stage of the stroke.In places annotations or arrows show key information such as force of water, path or boat and force of paddle.

For the more visual learner this proves very useful and the large size of the book lends itself perfectly to this style layout.


Rescue Technique

For Uk based paddlers, some of the terminology may seem alien as it stems from the American/Canadian system (ACA – American Canoe Association) however this is never a barrier or issue to understanding the technique described. For example what we know as Breaking In and Breaking Out of the current is referred to as Peeling and reference is made to J Leans and U-turns which was new terminology for me.

Building A Sea Kayak

Boat Building Course

I was pleased to see a modern approach to the equipment section of the book. Gear described and photographed is up to date and relevant. Useful lists of first aid/emergency and repair kits provide are useful and well illustrated. An interesting point is to see the selection of manufacturers and items chosen, some of which are less well known on this side of the pond. The selection of types of kayaks available covers everything from expedition sea kayaks through day touring boats and sit on tops.

I would never be without Franco Ferrero’s Sea Kayak Navigation book, however, Paddle Your Own Kayak contains a well written and again well illustrated section on navigation technique and a chapter on Weather, Winds and Tides.

Stunning Photography

Whilst the technique sections of the book are comprehensive and well executed, they provide only part of the appeal of this book. As a parent and someone looking to share my love of sea kayaking and the outdoors in general with my relatively new family in years to come, the plethora of inspirational photography cannot fail to delight. In particular, the books contains many images of the McGuffin family making the most of the their ‘natural playground’ for trips and expeditions with their daughter. Their obvious love of paddling and the benefits of seeing the great outdoors from the cockpit of a sea kayak is infectious.


Inspirational Images

For beginners, Paddle Your Own kayak offers an excellent introduction to Sea Kayaking. For more seasoned paddlers it provides a good starting resource for examining and developing your technique. Instructors could find the excellent images a powerful teaching aid for bank based instruction. However, I firmly believe all paddlers will find the superb photography a source of great inspiration and would heartily recommend this book.

Paddle Your Own Kayak: An Illustrated Guide to the Art of Kayaking can be purchased from Amazon or from Borders bookstore in the UK.

From the Publishers:

Paddle Your Own Canoe set a new standard for how-to-canoe books. In this much-anticipated follow-up, Gary and Joanie McGuffin use the same model for the art of kayaking. The authors discuss the kayak’s Inuit history, types of kayaking, recommended kayak sizes and shapes, and proper gear and clothing. They also offer expert, step-by-step instructions on all of the sport’s essential techniques.
Illustrated with more than 600 color photographs and illustrations, Paddle Your Own Kayak is designed for both seasoned and novice kayaker, offering guidance on:

  1. Balancing the body
  2. Strokes and maneuvers
  3. Paddling fundamentals
  4. Recoveries and rescues
  5. Carrying and launching
  6. Weather and water conditions techniques
  7. Staying centered
  8. Navigation methods.

A special section on kayak camping provides good advice on what to look for in a destination, how to select a site, packing your kayak, setting up tents and shelters, meal preparation, water filtration, first aid and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Boston Mills Press (May 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550464647
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550464641
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches