Hi @MT !

First, let me say that I am not an REI employee.  I do, however, have some experience in recreational kayaking, especially in and around Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.  In my opinion, you really don't need a lot of gear to get started in kayaking.  A kayak, a paddle, and a life vest are really all you need.  Other items come into play to enhance the experience.  Proper, or should I say, suitable, clothing. Swimwear, sunblocking, quick-drying are all things to consider.  Water shoes, sandals, or cheap sneakers.  A sun hat and/or sunglasses (polarized are best to block the reflective glare off the water).  Depending on the length and remoteness of your journey, a bilge pump, dry bags, and maybe even a deck mounted compass, may be recommended.  If you want to use your kayak for fishing, you can get fishing rod mounts.

If you haven't tried kayaking before, you might want to get some basic training on paddle strokes and safety practices, and then practice a little in a small, calm waterway before the tour,

Kayaking is a really fun sport with a lot of ways to have fun. Exploring, camping, fishing...

Since you've signed up for the Cherry Blossom Tour, I have to assume you are local to the Maryland/Virginia/DC area.  That's where I am.  We have some of the best paddling available in and around the Chesapeake Bay.  You have the John Smith Water Trail, Mallows Bay and the Ghost Fleet, and innumerable rivers and creeks to explore.

Have fun and be safe out there!

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