If you’ve always wanted to try out kayaking but never attempted it because you have no idea where to start, you’ll be happy to know that this sport is more approachable than what most people think. In fact, if you’re serious about learning the ins and outs of kayaking, you’ll be able to grasp the basics in just a matter of minutes and go on to become a pro kayaker in a few months.
Yes, all it takes to become a great kayaker is a keen interest in this pastime, the right equipment, and good mastery of proper kayaking techniques. This article tells you everything you need to know before heading out to explore the ocean, river, or lake on a kayak.
Kayaking for Beginners: The Equipment You’ll Need
Whether you’ll be paddling in still or rough waters, there are a few pieces of equipment that you must possess in order to have a great time while keeping safe. These include:
Obviously, kayaking would be impossible without a kayak, just like how playing golf would be impossible without a golf club. Therefore, the first and most important equipment you’ll need to buy is a kayak.
Kayaks come in a variety of lengths, designs, and shapes. And depending on what you’re looking to achieve out of this sport (i.e. whitewater rafting or paddling for leisure), some kayaks will make more sense than others. For example, there are some kayaks that are capable of accommodating up to 3 paddlers for leisurely boat rides across splendid waterways, while others are designed for use in rough waters.
Furthermore, kayaks come with different price-tags, which are most dependent on the material used to make the vessel. For instance, plastic kayaks are the cheapest while Kevlar kayaks are the most expensive since the material used in the latter is lighter and more resilient to the harsh conditions of the sea.
In order to find the right kayak, you’ll need to know:
- The type of paddling you plan on doing
- How long you plan to paddle
- And where you’ll be paddling
Once you’ve figured out these 3 things, you’ll be in a position to determine the ideal kayak for you. For instance, whitewater kayaks are ideal for fast-moving rivers while sea kayaks are designed for open ocean paddling. Touring kayaks, on the other hand, are ideal for long-distance paddling while recreational kayaks are perfect for flat-water lakes or gentle rivers.
The next most important gear after a kayak is a paddle. Just like kayaks, paddles come in a variety of options. The ideal paddle for you will be determined by your size, the size of your kayak, and your stroking preferences.
For example, long paddles work well on wide and tall kayaks while long and thin kayaks require short paddles. Additionally, short people will find it more comfortable to use short paddles.
As far as paddle blades are concerned, wide blades give you more acceleration but demand a lot of effort on your part. Narrow blades, on the other hand, demand little effort from you but require you to make strokes in quick succession.
For safety purposes, a life vest is a must-have paddling gear as using one will prevent you from drowning when you accidentally fall into the water. To ensure comfort while maintaining safety, opt for a life vest that’s fitting at the waist and wide enough at the arm openings so that you’ll get unrestricted 360-degree arm movements.
Other Useful Equipment
Apart from a kayak, paddle, and life vest, there are other equipment you may want to purchase too. These include a pump for inflating your kayak, a helmet to keep you safe especially if you’re going to be kayaking in rocky waters, and a repair kit for patching up holes and other minor problems.
Since it’s highly possible that water will spill into kayak, it’s also advisable to invest in spray skirts or dry bags to keep yourself and your belongings dry while you’re rowing through waters.
How to Get In And Out Of a Kayak
I was quizzing my clueless uncle the other day about how a person should get out of a kayak.
“Uncle Bob, what’s the best way to get out of a kayak?”
Now, all jokes aside, merely jumping off your kayak to get out is simply not correct technique. As a serious kayaker, it’s important that you master the very basic art of getting in and out of the vessel properly. Although it can be awkward and challenging at first, with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to do it gracefully. The key is to keep your weight low and centered.
- To Get In a Kayak
To get in, push your kayak out into the shallow edge of water and place your paddle on the vessel’s rear deck, just behind the raised border around the cockpit. Then, squat next to your kayak and hold onto the paddle behind you with both hands. While supporting your weight evenly on both hands, place one leg at a time into the cockpit and slide in. Once you’re in, put the paddle vertical to the ground on one side and use your hand on the other side to push into the water.
- To Get Out of a Kayak
To get out, do the same thing in reverse and then hoist yourself out.
When in the water, be sure to follow these kayaking techniques:
- Sit Upright
When kayaking, you should rest comfortably in your seat while maintaining an upright position with a slight forward lean. This sitting position will help you exert less effort while paddling.
- The Grip
The right way to hold a paddle is to grip it with hands over and thumbs under. Keep the grip in both hands relaxed.
To paddle, keep your arms comfortably in front of you with each hand firmly gripping the paddle a few inches from the shafts. Place the paddle into the water and pull with your lower arm while using your upper arm to push the paddle shaft away from you. Repeat this movement while maintaining a continuous flow.
- Turning Direction
You can turn a kayak’s direction by paddling continuously on the opposite side you want to turn to. Alternatively, paddle in a vertical direction into the water on the side you want to turn to.
- Moving Backwards
To move your kayak backwards, slow the vessel down until it almost comes to a stop and then start paddling in the reverse direction.
There you go! Buy a kayak today and start enjoying this fun and stress-relieving sport.