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Get out on the water with the help of our tips and tricks!
Kayaking is a popular water sport, and when you see the pros effortlessly weaving between obstacles and cutting smoothly through the water, it’s easy to understand why. With the right paddling techniques, you can cover great distances and explore remote parts of rivers and lakes.
If you are kayaking for the first time though, it is good to start slow. Try renting some kayaks to see if you enjoy the sport or maybe try a beginner’s class? Learning the basics will make the sport more enjoyable from the get-go and gives you a better idea if you’re ready to invest.
In this article:
Is kayaking hard?
No! Kayaking is a great sport for beginners since once you get the basic skills down, you can get started right away. Of course, if you are kayaking with harsh water or weather conditions, it can be dangerous. But this is not recommended for kayakers with years of experience either.
Kayaking checklist:Here are some things to bring on your first kayaking adventure:
What to wear kayakingTo keep warm, layering is crucial. This is how you should layer your clothes and what materials to look out for:
Wetsuit or dry suit? A lot of kayaking experts are constantly asked which wetsuit you should wear for kayaking and the proper answer is none! Wetsuits are built to keep you warm when immersed in water. But since kayaking takes place out of the water, the wetsuit is cold and makes mobility difficult. Also, when you sweat, the suit creates a swampy atmosphere inside your clothing (yuk!).
The better choice is a dry suit. Any clothing that is waterproof is the right way to go. A kayaking dry suit is ideal, but if you are a beginner, you can still find suitable clothing right at home.
Dress for the water, not the weather – and expect changing temperatures. You should dress to keep yourself warm if you fall into the water. Hypothermia is a real threat, and even on hot days the water can be frigid. Also, always pack an extra set of clothing or extra layers to store in the hatch of your kayak in case the weather changes.
Parts of the kayakThe names of all the different parts of a kayak may seem daunting to non-seafaring folk. But the basics are quite simple:
How to enter a kayak
The best place to enter a kayak is from a sandy beach. Just get in and push the kayak out into the water with your arms.
From the dock: bring the kayak to the lowest point of the dock because the higher up you are, the harder it is to get in. The kayak should be parallel to the dock. Hold the side of the dock with your arms, then in one swift motion put your feet into the kayak and turn so that you are facing the bow. Lower down quickly into the cockpit, placing your butt on the seat as swiftly as possible. As soon as you are in the seat, you will have gained balance and can adjust your feet from there.
From the water: if you flip over in the water, make sure first to flip the kayak over so that it doesn’t fill up with too much water. Locate your paddle and place it in the bungee cords so that it is secure. Holding the edge of the cockpit, one hand on the nearest side and the other on the furthest side, kick to give yourself leverage and pull yourself up. You should be lying on the kayak with your chest facing the cockpit. Focus on next getting your butt onto the seat first, since this will help you keep balance. Flip your body around and slip into the seat. Then adjust your feet so they are comfortable. Practice doing this in shallow water before kayaking in deep waters.
How to paddle
How to hold the paddle
Your hand should be gripping the paddle about 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) from the blade. Hold the paddle with a relaxed but secure grip. Knuckles should be aligned with the edge of the paddle blade. A good way to see if you are doing it correctly is to hold the paddle above your head, if your arms are bent at 90-degree angles you are holding the paddle correctly.
Forward stroke: To go forward, twist your body in the direction opposite to where you are about to place the paddle. Place the paddle into the water, and unwind your body, using the force of that unwinding motion to push the paddle through the water. The paddle should come out of the water when the hand closest to the water is level with your hip. The hand placed higher up on the paddle should always be pushing, and the hand placed lower should be pulling.
Tip: the force moving the kayak forward should come from the power of untwisting your torso, not from your arms.
Turning stroke – sweep stroke: What you do here is a forward stroke but with an accentuated stroke on one side. To do the sweep stroke, place the paddle far out in front of the boat, sweep it wide, and continue all the way until it almost touches the stern. Do this sweeping motion in the direction opposite to where you want to go. If you want a sharp turn, do this stroke only on one side. To turn with forward momentum, complete the sweep stroke on the side opposite to where you want to go, and complete a normal stroke on the other side.
Kayaking vs canoeing
Kayaking and canoeing are two popular ways to explore nature from the water. If you are contemplating starting either of these two sports, opt for one that fits your dream water adventure better.
Safety tips for beginners
Kayaking with kids
If you are kayaking with kids, you can place them in their own cockpit in a tandem kayak if they have previous experience. Otherwise, placing them in your lap is also an option. Pack even more layers for your little ones as they lose heat faster than adults in the water.
Always make sure they are wearing a life jacket that fits properly. If your child wants to paddle, they can use a kid’s paddle. Kids get bored easily, so pack some snacks and drinks for the trip, and take multiple bathroom breaks or pits stops to explore the nature ashore.
Kayaking for exercise
Will kayaking build muscle? The muscle soreness that hits you after a day out on the water is a clear answer to this question. Kayaking trains your back, arms, and shoulders since these are the muscles being exerted the most. However, there are also benefits for your core due to the twisting motion of the torso when kayaking and the legs because of the pressure you put on the foot brace with each stroke. Kayaking is also a great aerobic exercise since it gets the heart rating.