Good points Pete.
I was fortunate enough during the EMS 20% sale to find a composite paddle which definitely made a difference for me last weekend.
I also grabbed a 1/2 skirt which came in very handy when paddling against the wind in boat traffic.
I would strongly urge anyone who buys a full skirt to learn how to complete a wet exit (upside down) or learn to roll. I've done a bit of whitewater kayaking and it's amazing how disoriented you can become when you're upside down and feel trapped. I've seen several people panic.
I'm in the process right now of scheduling a winter pool session with some AMC kayak experts to cover the safety basics that we all need to know; wet exit, rolling, wet entry, etc...