Simon Coward of Aquabatics in Calgary has kitted out thousands of people with whitewater kayaking gear. So we asked him to share some advice on what you need to get started.

Simon Coward is an avid whitewater enthusiast and owner of Aquabatics in Calgary. We recently reported on his efforts to create a mobile paddling app that would give real-time updates about popular rivers and their water levels, put-ins and take-outs, hazards and more. During our interviews with him, we asked, “What type of gear do you need to get started whitewater paddling?” In response, he offered to write us an article about the equipment. Below is his story.

So, you have committed to the idea of getting into whitewater kayaking, you have taken some courses and found friends or a club to head out with. Now comes time to commit to getting geared up! Like many outdoor sports it can all seem a bit intimidating getting set up with the right gear that won’t completely break the budget.

With this in mind, we put together a YouTube video to help aspiring paddlers get a good understanding of what gear they really need to get into paddling. We then added in some other items you may want to plan to acquire as you get further into the sport.

The video is broken down into three main categories, with different items listed, displayed and shown in use throughout the eight minutes run time. This is by no means a definitive list of everything you could get for whitewater paddling, just a start point to kind of reduce some of the noise of trying to figure out what you need.


It is hard to go kayaking without a kayak and paddle. The needs category in the video basically covers just that, the bare necessities you need to get out on the water safely. It doesn’t take into account geographic location, however. See the “Wants” section below for more details about that.


This category sums up some of the gear you may want to consider if you live in area with cooler water or climates. We focus on insulation and outerwear here.


As you get more into the sport there are many other bits of kit to pick up. In our luxuries section we focus on more advanced safety gear, dry bags and other bits and pieces that may be required for more challenging whitewater or multi-day trips.

There’s the basic outline of what gear you may need to get into the exciting, beautiful and fun sport that is whitewater paddling. We hope the video helps answer some questions and we also hope we will bump into you on the water somewhere in the future. Happy paddling!