Kayaking can be difficult if you have never done it before. For someone who might be new to the whole endeavor, I have a few tips on kayaking for beginners. First things first, though, be comfortable with the water and know how to swim. If you don’t know how to swim and/or don’t feel comfortable in the water, I don’t recommend that you kayak.
I can’t tell you the first time I kayaked, but I can tell you it’s been in my life for many years now. My family started with two small kayaks, which we didn’t know at the time, but were meant for white-water kayaking. Hopping into the boat, paddling through rocky rivers, and basking in the sun have all become second nature to me. Not to mention that kayaking is a fabulous calorie burner!
Kayaking for Beginners: How to Get Started
Location, Location, Location…
As you get ready to head out into the wide open water, have a sense of the type of water you will be getting into. Lakes and big ponds are perfect for beginners as the water is stagnant. If you are going to a river, I recommend checking the speed of the water prior to leaving.
If you are going to the beach, make sure the tides are slow to come in and out. You don’t want the water to be going too fast. The speed could provide pop-up rapids, slowed reaction time, and possible capsizing. The pop-up rapids are not usually bad if you have a tamer river, but caution is most important when approaching one.
When I say you’ll have a slowed reaction time, I don’t mean you personally. What is meant is that when the water is pulling you at such a fast speed, you may lose sight of things ahead, like rocks. You don’t want to scrape the bottom of your kayak, nor do you want to get stuck or capsize, so make sure to always be aware of where you’re at and how fast the water is going.
The Paddle is Everything.
If you are renting kayaks for your first time, the shop owner will give you the right paddle and will most likely explain how to use it. It seems very simple, but there is a science behind the paddle itself. If you are renting a long, thin kayak, you will want a longer paddle.
When holding it in your hands, determine which hand is the dominate and grasp the handle firmly. The other hand will become your loose one. Once in the water paddling forward, you must put the short end of the paddle in first and pull it back toward the back of the kayak, then do the same with the other side while twisting the paddle back to it’s starting position with your dominate hand, letting the paddle shift in your loose hand. This may seem confusing, but it will come to you in no time.
Time, Place, and People
Kayaking can truly be a great time. For beginners, I always recommend a nice and sunny, warm day during the Spring or Summer. Kayaking alone can have its benefits, but it’s much safer (and more fun) with a crowd. Make it a group endeavor, pack a lunch or snack, and, if you have water-proof speakers, bring some music.
Kayaking can be for anyone and everyone, but it is important to be safe. Head out into the water, but be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat. The open water won’t provide any covering and if you’re like me, you’ll be crispy in five minutes. Don’t forget your water! You may be surrounded by water, but you can’t drink that.
Kayaking requires a lot of energy and you’ll be sure to burn off hundreds of calories, but you’ll also sweat yourself into dehydration. So, do bring water. And last, but certainly not least, bring a life-jacket and first aid kit. I have never been in any sort of trouble while kayaking, but it is important to prepare for anything and a life-jacket is often required at state parks and other monitored waterways.
Watch videos, talk to people who have been kayaking, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. With a little practice, you’ll be hooked on kayaking in no time. I hope to see you out there on the water!