Kayaking for beginners: How to get started

Kayaking is absolutely one of the most fun things that you can do out on the water. Sitting in your own kayak, you have total control of where you go on the water and can enjoy the sweet serenity of solitude in nature. Or if you go in a two-person kayak, you can enjoy the fun with another person.

Perhaps you have avoided trying it until now thinking that it was a difficult workout, too technical to perfect, or just a lot of excess work. But anyone who has kayaked can tell you that it is none of those things. It is a whole lot of fun and a great workout if you want it to be.

Get ready to do some kayaking this summer
Get ready to do some kayaking this summer

If you are new to the world of kayaking, you will need some help to get yourself going. We have all the information that you need to get started.

To begin with, here are the basics about kayaks:

  • The front of the kayak is called the bow, the same as in a larger boat. The back is the stern.
  • The top part of the kayak is the deck. The bottom is the hull. Even though a kayak is a small boat, it still has all of the same terminology.
  • Hatches are the openings, and the hatch covers fit well right over the top of them. Sometimes there are bulkheads, which help your kayak float. The rim around the cockpit is the coaming and will let you use what is called a spray skirt to keep the water from getting down into the hull and completely soaking you.
  • Toggles are the handles that allow you to carry the kayak.
  • You sit inside the cockpit, which may be open or closed depending on the type of kayak you have. If your seat is adjusted right, you should not be uncomfortable sitting. You need to make sure that your seat is not leaning back, but keeping you upright and working out of your core.
  • Your feet will sit inside of foot braces which will keep your legs supported and your posture in place. The braces will be adjustable to make sure that they fit your leg length. If you are worried about getting the fit right before going on the water, do not worry. The braces are actually easy to adjust when you are already on the water.
Racing in an open cockpit kayak
Racing in an open cockpit kayak

Find an instructor. If you have someone close to you who is a kayaking enthusiast, you may be able to get started there, but if not, do not be discouraged. A kayaking expert can be found near any body of water, at your local outfitter, recreation store, or even water resort. Finding a certified instructor will help you learn proper techniques as well ensuring you understand the regulations regarding kayaking.

Get the right kayak. Kayaks are not a one size fits all kind of boat. They need to be adjusted or purchased based on your own height and size, ensuring a safe and solid fit. It is for this reason that you may not be able to borrow a kayak from a friend, if you do not have a similar physique. The issue is that if a kayak does not fit you well, you run the risk of tipping. There are also several different types of kayaks out there. Sea kayaks are the best for beginners since they are the least likely to tip over.

Go for a wide kayak. As you begin your kayaking adventures, make sure to start with a wider kayak. This will give you more control and let you gain confidence in your kayaking while making sure that you get your paddling skills down. While we are on the topic, make sure that you get an open-cockpit style instead of a sit inside kind of kayak. This will make it easier to get in and out of the kayak without falling into the water.

Kayaking in the sea
Kayaking in the sea

Work on your form. The key to kayaking well is to sit up straight in your kayak and perhaps lean forward slightly. If you lean backward, you run the risk of losing control and power. When you are paddling in the water, you also need to watch how you paddle. Your instructor should be going over this with you, but for a good refresher, reach the paddle toward the tips of your toes and pull back until it is even with your body, then repeat on the other side.

Remember to have fun. While you can burn a lot of calories kayaking and get a solid workout in, you do not need to push yourself too hard. Getting out on the water in the sun puts you at risk of dehydration and overexerting yourself could put you into some real trouble. You can not only run the risk of heat exhaustion but to a lesser extent, you could tire yourself out to the point that you will not want to finish the trip and making it back to shore could be long and arduous. Instead, especially while are getting started, go easy on yourself and enjoy your time on the water. You will find that you have made a hobby that you can continue to do for the rest of your life.

A kayak instructor will help you pick the right size boat
A kayak instructor will help you pick the right size boat

One important thing that you should not forget is your safety equipment. No matter how experienced kayaker you are, wearing a life jacket is going to be essential to your overall safety. If you hit a wave or any other unexpected obstruction, you could tip yourself right out of the kayak and into the water, putting yourself in danger. Additionally, you should also always wear a helmet when kayaking. Given the small nature of the kayak, you are more susceptible to getting a head injury if you tip over. Be safe out there while having the time of your life.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival