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sunset over downtown seattle as seen from lake union

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Can I take the Kayak/SUP somewhere else?
    Our kayaks and SUPS must leave and come back to our docks. We do not allow car topping or overnight rentals. Rentals are not allowed through the Ballard Locks.
  • What should I bring with me?
    Usually the less you bring with you, the better. Water and a hat or sunglasses are a good idea on sunny days. Anything you take with you should be kept in a drybag to prevent loss or damage. We offer loaner drybags on a first come first serve basis but it's still possible to lose items in the Lake such as keys, cellphones, or glasses. We are not responsible for lost items.
  • Do I need to take a class before I rent a kayak?
    Taking a class is not required to rent a kayak on Lake Union. Our helpful and knowledgeable rental staff will help you adjust your kayak so you're comfortable and explain how to turn using the rudder as well as how to enter and exit the kayak from our dock. From there it's easy to explore the calm waters of Lake Union.
  • What should I wear?
    We recommend dressing for the weather, keeping in mind there will be splashing and drips. Capsizing is unusual but possible so don't wear or bring anything that can be ruined if it gets wet.
  • How old do you have to be to go kayaking?
    The minimum age required to rent a kayak by yourself is 18. Paddlers under 18 must paddle with a parent or legal guardian. Paddlers who are 16 years of age or older may paddle a single kayak or SUP so long as a parent or legal guardian paddles with them. Anyone under the age of 16 has to paddle in a double or triple kayak with an adult.
  • Can I bring my Dog?
    Well behaved dogs are welcome on our kayaks and SUPs. We strongly recommend a canine flotation device. In a kayak your pooch will be on your lap or between your legs so if you have a bigger dog it may be best to try a SUP or leave them at home. You are responsible for cleaning any unwanted messes created by your furry friend either on our equipment or docks.
  • Do you ever sell your rental equipment?
    We have a used kayak and gear sale at the end of the each season, typically in Mid-September. We will post a list of what we're selling and prices around Labor Day. To see any used gear we are currently selling please see our used gear list on our kayak sales page.
  • Will I fit in the Kayak?
    The Northwest Outdoor Center has a wide range of kayak sizes and styles to fit just about everyone. If you have specific concerns about kayak or PFD sizing please give us a call.
  • Can I swim in Lake Union?
    There is no rule about swimming in Lake Union. The Parks Department prohibits entering and leaving the water by Gas Works Park. Swimming from a kayak requires knowledge of how to re-enter the kayak from the water with a paddle float. Stand Up Paddle Boards are much easier to get back on from the water and are a much better choice for folks looking to swim and paddle on Lake Union. Just make sure you're well out of the way of all boat traffic.
  • Do I need a reservation?
    Reservations are strongly recommended on sunny evenings, weekends, and holidays. The better the weather is, the busier we are. On rare occasions we do book out so it never hurts to call ahead. Reservations are also recommended for parties of 5 or more. For larger groups, please see our group rentals page. Making a reservation is easy! Give us a call with how many kayaks and SUPs you need, a start time, on the hour or half hour, and an approximate rental length. The last reservation of the day is 2 hours before close or sunset, whichever is earlier.
  • What is included with the rental?
    Your rental includes the kayak or paddle board, a PFD, and paddle for each person. Kayaks also come with a bilge pump (and paddle float for single kayaks), and an optional spray skirt if requested.
  • Can I launch my own Kayak/SUP from your location?
    We are located in a private marina, and to keep traffic down on our docks there is a $7 per craft launch fee. This fee can be paid at the check-in window. If you are arriving with people who will be renting from us this fee will be waived for up to 2 paddle craft. Please inflate or assemble your craft upstairs to minimize crowding on our docks. The closest free public launch is located at South Lake Union Park (900 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109) approximately a mile south of our location.
  • Do you close for bad weather?
    We are open rain or shine. We will shut down rentals if it's windy (sustained winds >12mph, gusts >20mph), if there is lightning (minimum 30 minute wait period), or cold temps (below 40 for most of the day). We also reserve the right to stop renting if conditions on the lake are not suitable for beginners at our discretion. If the weather looks iffy it's best to call ahead to see if we are renting.
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