Kayaking is a versatile watersport is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family while exploring nature from a new point of view. Many families have fallen in love with the adventure that an afternoon of kayaking offers. If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to enjoy the open water, kayaking just may be the perfect new hobby for you. To get started, we’ve pulled together the tips and tricks we believe beginning kayakers should know.
Once you try kayaking, we’re positive you’ll love it. Though many other watersports are fantastic ways to enjoy a day off the dock, we believe kayaking provides a number of advantages that make it unique to other activities:
Of course, the first thing you’ll need to go kayaking is — you guessed it — a kayak. Other than that, depending on the type of kayaking trip you plan, you’ll need certain supplies. Here are a few items you should never kayak without:
Before you learn how to ride in a kayak, you first need to learn how to get in and out of a kayak. Getting in and out of a kayak can be tricky, but we’re confident that after a little practice, you’ll catch on quickly. Put simply, there are three different ways which you will likely enter a kayak — from the shore, from a dock or from deep water. Each option has its advantages and challenges.
Getting into your kayak from the shore is much easier, especially for those who are learning to kayak. Whether it’s a lakeside, sea shore or riverfront, the best way to begin is to move the kayak as close to the shoreline as possible. You can then sit in the kayak and use your arms to push yourself into the water until you are floating on the surface. If you’re concerned about scratching your hull on the ground, move the kayak into the shallow water and climb in there.
Keep in mind that the shoreline you’re entering your kayak from will affect how easy the process will be. For example, you might be entering your kayak on a river, lake or beach shoreline.
Regardless of the terrain, the process of entering your kayak is similar:
Docks are convenient places to get into your kayak, but it takes a bit of finesse to pull it off. Try these steps to help:
Looking to make this even easier? Consider a docking system with an attached launch — these are designed to make getting in a kayak, launching the kayak and redocking much more stable and significantly easier for kayakers of any skill level.
There may be occasions where you will need to get into your kayak from deeper water. This is probably the most difficult kayak entry method, but with patience, it can be done. The biggest thing is to make sure your kayak is stable between each movement you make.
Here’s how you can do it:
The instructions for how you get out of a kayak are easy to remember — just complete the steps in reverse. When exiting on the shore, paddle your kayak into shallow water or as close to the land as possible. Swing your legs out of the kayak, gain your footing and stand up. When exiting the kayak on a dock, turn your body to face the dock and pull yourself out of the kayak.
Thankfully, many docking systems built today can easily accommodate kayakers of all abilities and skill levels. Our passion for spending time on the water has led us to create floating launch systems for your kayak or canoes to make getting in and out of the water a breeze.
Once you’ve practiced getting in and out of the kayak, it’s time to learn about paddling techniques. The first step is to ensure you have picked out a paddle of proper length.
As with any sport, the proper techniques can keep you safe and help you prevent injury. The same goes for how to paddle a kayak properly. There is a correct way and a wrong way to do it.
Before getting into the water, all beginners should first learn how to handle the paddle. The part of the paddle you hold is called the shaft. The proper way to hold a paddle is to place your hands slightly farther than shoulder width apart on the shaft. Oftentimes, one mistake that beginner kayakers make is holding the paddle incorrectly. One side of the blade is concave and should always be facing you. Slice the paddle blade vertically into the water, keeping a relaxed grip on the shaft with your knuckles pointed upward. Keeping this form will put more power into your paddle without exerting more energy.
Sit in your kayak with a straight back and your legs in front of you. Make sure you don’t feel uncomfortable. Put a slight bend in your knees and rest them against the side of the kayak.
Your kayak may have a pair of footpegs near your feet at the front of your kayak. Place your feet on the footpegs and keep a slight bend in your knees. If your knees are too close to your body or your legs are too straight, you may need to adjust your footpegs.
To paddle forward, use your core to twist your torso while leaning forward and placing the paddle into the water close to your feet. Then pull towards your seat with the blade and remove it from the water. It’s best to stroke from your feet all the way to your seat. Paddle like this on both sides.
If you want to stop your kayak, put your paddle in the water and hold it there. It will drag against the water. Your kayak will slow down and eventually stop.
If you want to turn your kayak to the left, then paddle only on your right. If you want to turn your kayak to the right, then paddle only on your left.
With paddle in hand, you can now learn basic paddling strokes. There are four essential kayaking paddling techniques you should know — forward stroke, backward stroke, sweep strokes and draw stroke. These strokes will enable you to move forward, backward or sideways in your kayak as well as help you turn around.
This basic stroke moves your kayak forward.
This stroke moves your kayak backward.
Use sweep strokes to turn your kayak.
To use a sweep stroke to turn forward:
To use a sweep stroke to turn backward:
Use the draw stroke to move your kayak sideways.
For your first-time kayaking, or if you’re still newer to the sport are heading out on the water alone, we suggest you follow these tips:
Warm, dry weather, calm water, and thorough safety precautions make for amazing kayaking conditions. However, you’ll still want to pay close attention to the forecast and other signs of fast-changing weather. A spur of the moment kayaking trip can be fun, but you also don’t want to risk getting caught in bad weather or in conditions that are beyond your skill level. So you will still need to do a little bit of planning.
Tips to help make your excursion enjoyable include:
As a beginner, some of the conditions you’ll probably want to avoid include:
Depending on where you’re kayaking, the weather could change in an instant. Although you planned a trip on a perfect day, you should still be aware of what to know about kayaking during times of bad weather. You may not know how hard it is to kayak in a rainstorm until you’re stuck in one, but there are a few kayaking skills and techniques for beginners that can help you avoid trouble and make it safely back to shore.
You should expect any amount of wind, from a small breeze to a huge gust, to have some effect on your kayak. This is normal, and you can readily compensate for it. To conserve energy, paddle with the wind and not into it if you can. You can also paddle harder, use a rudder or add an extra stroke to your downwind side in order to make adequate wind corrections.
If you lose control of your kayak, don’t fight it. Imagine driving down a road and losing control of your car due to ice, dirt or other slick conditions. Trying to regain control of the vehicle abruptly could cause you to overcorrect and make the situation worse. Instead, it’s best to maintain as much control of the car as possible and move in the direction of the vehicle. The same applies to kayaking. If you suddenly start to spin, move with the kayak and adjust accordingly.
There’s also a chance your kayak may roll over, putting you underwater. Staying centered in the kayak and wearing a life jacket will help in this scenario. If you tip without wearing a life jacket however, stay calm and immediately grab the kayak and the life vest if it’s attached to the vessel.
If you tip in calm waters, flip the kayak over by grabbing both sides of the cockpit and climb back in if you are able. If you are unable to do this, grab the kayak and swim back to shore or shallow water. If your kayak tips while you’re in a current, hold the kayak with just one arm. Continue to face upward to ensure you can breathe. Keep your body horizontal to the surface of the water and backstroke to the shore or shallower water.
Quite simply, flipping a kayak is more difficult than you might think. Most models are designed to be extremely stable.
It’s also hard to believe, there may be some occasions where you want to flip a kayak on purpose. In fact, many expert paddlers suggest learning how to flip a kayak because it increases confidence in the water, especially in challenging conditions such as the open ocean.
Learning how to flip a righted kayak is best done with help from a professional instructor. Chances are, you’ll learn two different types of rolls. One is called the sweep (or screw) roll, and one is called a vertical (or C to C) roll. Though they are slightly different, both types of rolls end in the same result when performed successfully: You, sitting upright in your kayak, paddling onward — albeit a bit wetter than when you started.
Now that you’ve learned a few kayaking tips and tricks, it’s time to learn some kayaking skills and techniques you can use in different bodies of water. Each environment you choose to paddle contains variables that will impact the way you kayak. For instance, a flowing river may increase your speed naturally while a steady lake will require you to exert more energy to move faster.
Regardless of which body of water you choose to kayak in, it’s a good idea to plan out a route ahead of time. If you’re kayaking in a lake or pond, be aware of shoreline areas which you won’t be able to easily access in the event of an emergency. If you’re kayaking down a river or stream, make sure you choose a route with typically calm waters. It’s best to stay away from areas which could become more challenging if you accidentally paddle too far, especially if you’re new to kayaking.
It’s also a good idea to identify spots on your route like bays or accessible shorelines where you can stop to take a break if needed. If you end up off course, make sure you have a nautical map or compass with you. Though GPS and other electronic navigational equipment are helpful, if they were to become inoperable, you would then have a reliable backup with a physical map.
You should also be aware of the many forms of wildlife you may encounter in both fresh and saltwater kayaking excursions. Oceans, inlets or bays may contain sharks or jellyfish. Rivers, streams or lakes could contain snakes, alligators or be frequented by other potentially dangerous wildlife on the shoreline, depending on where you’re kayaking. Before you journey out into the water, discover what species of animals you may encounter and how you can safely share the water with them.
Once you’ve mastered how to kayak as a beginner, you may want to enhance your skill level and eventually take on whitewater kayaking. We don’t blame you — whitewater kayaking can be an exhilarating experience that allows you to view nature from a perspective like no other. If you get to the point where you’d like to consider taking on this challenge, here are a few whitewater kayaking tips you should know:
Kayaking can be a relaxing experience as you leisurely paddle out to the center of your favorite lake and enjoy the soothing serenity of nature. Kayaking can also be an adrenaline-filled ride as you test your skills on a river swelling with whitewater rapids. Though both activities offer completely different expectations of fun, all forms of kayaking pose safety hazards.
Just like boating, surfing and any other watersport, kayaking can place a kayaker’s health and safety at risk — especially if the individual fails to practice responsible safety precautions. Even though these dangers exist, you can still have a fantastic adventure in your kayak. Creating and following a safety checklist can help you have a safe and fun experience on the water.
Before you head out onto the water, ask yourself these quick questions:
Besides the kayak and paddle, here are a few things you should take with you every time:
Keep these critical rules in mind to ensure a safe trip:
While you should always exercise caution when engaging in any watersport or physical activity, kayaking can be a safe and fun experience as long as you practice it safely. Always pack your essential gear, understand the conditions of the weather and water and make every attempt to act as responsibly as possible. Remember — the safe kayaking is smart kayaking.
Are you ready to get out onto the water and begin your kayaking adventures? We’re confident that with a little practice, you’ll be on your way to mastering your new hobby. Vancouver Island Vacations want you to really enjoy your kayaking experience.