If you’re a beginning paddler looking to buy your first kayak and try placid waters, an inexpensive, newbie- friendly inflatable craft — one that’s highly rated and known for both stability and durability — may be the perfect choice.

By captaining that first ship, you’ll learn enough to eventually choose a more advanced kayak to one day explore more challenging waters.

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is perfect for beginners. The K2 seats two adults (maximum weight capacity of 350 pounds) and looks sharp.

A recreational craft, it’s intended for simple fun on lakes, streams and other calm waterways (not on white water, ocean, or for carrying lots of camping gear). Because it’s inflatable, you won’t need to buy special car racks — it comes with a high-output pump for quick inflation, via a Boston valve.

The K2 is made from rugged vinyl, a removable skeg provides directional stability and it has a comfy inflatable I-beam floor for additional structural rigidity. The two seats have adjustable backrests and a grab line and handle are provided on each end.

Included are a U. S. Coast Guard I.D., a carry bag, a repair patch kit and two 86-inch aluminum oars. It costs $120.

Intex products are carried by major Sonoma County retail stores, including Big 5, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Home Depot.

Visit intexcorp.com to learn more.

Summer Horse Camps

Kilham Farm

In their own words: “At camp, young riders learn to groom, horsemanship, tack up and ride with English saddles on their ponies.” Small groups focus on hands-on attention. Campers bring their own snack and lunch daily. The weeklong camp culminates with a pony show, “with lots of fun horsey prizes to be won.”

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19-22 and July 10-13.

Cost: $450

Where: 3431 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio. 415-662-2232. Kilhamfarm.com.


Mark West Stables

In their own words: Camp includes daily riding lessons, detailed instruction on grooming, horse & equipment care, playing games both on and off the horses. All-day camps include “arts and crafts, cooking, nature walks and creek time.”

When: Nine sessions from June through August. Full day is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Half day is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $450 full day, $350 half day.

Where: 5241 St. Helena Rd. Santa Rosa. 538-2000. markweststables.com.


Crystal Clear Ranch

In their own words: “Younger riders enjoy equine related arts and crafts, while older and more advanced riders spend the afternoon learning more advanced riding and training techniques such as lunging, young horse training, working through training issues, and course design.”

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 18-22, June 25-29 and July 2-6

Cost: $500

Where: Private farm in Petaluma, call 753-0902 or go to petapony.com to register or schedule an appointment.


Strides Riding Academy

In their own words: “Designed to get new riders ready to start lessons,” the annual camp teaches kids about “horse care and handling, play fun games around the barn, do horsey crafts and more!”

When: Seven weekly sessions from June through August. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cost: $375.

Where: 100 Lynch Rd., Petaluma. 799-5054. stridesridingacademy.com.


Note: After 160-acre Cloverleaf Farms on Old Redwood Highway was ravaged by last October’s fires, owner Shawna DeGrange is busy with rebuilding efforts and determined to hold horse camp again this summer. Details are in the works — check out cloverleafranch.com to donate and see the latest camp schedules.