Vandalism works. This piece of rubble has to be at least a bit old to have become part of the shoreline, but most of old mister WALTER's name is still there for the cormorants and ducks to read. If you want to be remembered, carve your name in some stone.
The first trip I took that across the channel to the Islands, and it's still a go-to route. You can head through its little river (on the side facing the city) or around the back. Today I took a trip around back, through the Airport Channel, across the front of the city and back to Cherry Beach. I'll share the route and some pictures from the trip.
One important note: at either end of the airport, there are areas you cannot enter with your boat. They're underneath the flight path, so it's probably a reasonable rule, but if you don't know they're there you can easily float into the area. The fine is huge. Little diagram below:
It can be hard to see where these buoys ARE on the West side of the airport, if you're travelling clockwise - the direction I was on this trip; I discovered these by paddling right into the middle of them. Nobody caught me, and I still see people take the shortcuts - but ten grand... You can avoid this by pointing your nose at Ontario Place/Molson Amphitheater.
The water will be its choppiest in the channel where the airport ferry runs.
While you're avoiding the forbidden area on the East side of the airport, you'll also have to contend with Water Taxis and Ferries. Don't even try racing a ferry. If you fuck up it'll be an embarrassing death, cuz all the people on it will be watching. When in doubt just sit still and wait.
I'm trying to recall the questions I had at the start...
1. How much money?
I couldn't have started when I was student; it's not crazy expensive, but it's not free. A kayak can cost anywhere from a few hundred (these are Canadian Tire, really just big water toys for cottages) to thousands.
I spent 1200 (tax in) for mine, a Venture Flex. I picked it partly because it's shorter than most; that turns out to have some downsides (only one bulkhead, which makes bailing and self-rescue impossible, which demands I keep within swimming distance of the shore) but is mostly great. This is important if you live downtown - my backyard and storage space are limited. It's a wide kayak, which is a nice thing if you're just exercising and taking photos and meditating, which is what I'm up to; the thinner ones are faster.
Prior to that I bought a used inflatable kayak (not as silly as you'd think, not as useful as you'd wish) from Advanced Elements. I got it for about 400 on kijiji, and will sell it sometime soon - go used. More on ups and downs of that choice later, probably. Long and short: slow, stable, nice, recreational (not good for exercise, says I).
You'll need some gear, too: a way to transport it (foam blocks and ties do the trick for me); a lifejacket (kayak life jackets are shorter than canoe - ask in the store. I bought the wrong one first, cuz it was on sale, and had to replace it). A paddle, obviously; a safety kit (a rope, a bailer, a whistle and a light (legal requirement and good idea).
I found it pretty hard to find any decent information about where to paddle in Toronto on the East Side. I think I'll try to share what I learned, eventually, over time. Everybody hates a web thing that evaporates, I know - so I'll state at the outset that I'm new to paddling and not adventurous. I'm quite happy to get to know the area I know, and save moving on for later. Like a character in Wind in the Willows or something, the stodgy one. So if you're looking for action, move along.
I paddle from Cherry Beach. It isn't far to walk from the parking lot to the water, and you will have to carry your kayak (or get a little cart). It's a really nice place to learn to paddle: its in a little bay, and so if you want to avoid harbour sized waves while you're learning, this is pretty still water.
Lots of people launch from this beach; be careful to go to the outside of the swimming area, the lifeguarded bits; the far end of the parking lot is great.
You can hug the shore and do quite a nice route. I do this in the late Fall and early Spring, because I don't have a drysuit, so I can't go into any depth. It's a pretty route (if you like the Toronto shoreline mix of nature and construction refuse, which I do).
In the map below I cut across the bay at the end, and that's about 10 km. [continued below]
The whole area surrounded by the red line in my map is super calm. Easy paddling, and really beautiful; you'll pass a couple marinas, and the Hearn. You can use this route in the colder months, as it's shallow (I did this in summer, so cutting across the bay was safe). The Paddle Logger app I use is great, btw, for simple uses like tracking routes It's free. Just remember to turn it off before you leave, or you'll log a speed of 46 km/h, which is hard to maintain.
What else for now? The Complete Paddler is a great shop, and, not being MEC, they'll talk to you for a long time about paddling. (Not meaning to dis Mountain Equipment Coop - they are great, and they're where I bought most of my gear originally). But I like the little guy by nature, and TCP has a community thing; they have group paddles all the time, classes, and last year, a film festival. Not being one of those community people, I do not partake in most, but I took one of their courses in the winter (on doing a self-rescue with a paddle float) and it was great. They're really nice people and know what they're talking about.
I'll try and share a bit later about weather, gear, other places to launch. All from a beginner's place. Just so you can find it on the internets.