Kayaking is one of the simplest water sports to start out in as a beginner. With a kayak, you can explore just about any body of water. From lakes to rivers and even the ocean, there is no end to the places that you can explore on a kayak. You will also find that kayaks are easier to transport and launch compared to other types of watercraft. In fact, you don’t even need a boat ramp to get your kayak in the water.
While recreational kayaking is fairly simple, there is still a definite learning curve involved. As a beginner, you will need to understand how to choose and paddle a kayak along with what to bring on your adventures to keep yourself safe. When you are still new to kayaking, you can follow these tips that will have you happily paddling through your favorite natural body of water in no time.
Take Lessons or a Tour
There are a few basic skills that you need to learn before you can kayak properly on the water. While you can pick up some skills on your own, it is best to start out with a few lessons or a tour that is designed for beginners. During your lessons, you’ll learn a few basic skills that include the following:
Start Slow and Simple
When you first learned to swim, you most likely didn’t immediately head toward the high dive. Instead, you probably started in the shallow end of the pool and took lessons with a parent or instructor until you built up enough skills to try more courageous feats. Getting started kayaking should be viewed in the same way. Once you are ready to kayak on your own, pick a calm and familiar body of water where you can try out your skills. You might also stick closer to the shore line at first and slowly paddle out further once you gain more confidence in your kayaking abilities. Try to remember that you should only paddle out as far as you could safely swim back if you had to.
Gather Essential Gear
The most important piece of equipment that you need is your kayak. Some tours and lessons offer rental kayaks as part of their packages, but you will need to buy one to practice and go on your own adventures. Choosing the right kayak depends upon factors such as your skill level, where you plan to paddle and your preference regarding certain types of materials. Take your time to choose a kayak that fits your needs so that you are comfortable practicing your new skills.
You will also need to pick out a paddle. To do so, you will first need to take into consideration the boat width and your height to choose the correct length. As a general rule, being taller or having a wider kayak means that you need a longer paddle. Once you get the length right, you can then explore other options for paddles such as the material and blade design that you prefer. If you are not sure, keep in mind that lighter weight materials tend to help reduce fatigue, which is helpful when you are still building your paddling muscles.
Your kayaking gear should also include some emergency supplies. Ideally, you should always have a first aid kit on board along with extra water, snacks and sunscreen in case you get stuck out on the water for longer than you anticipated. You may also need a headlamp and signaling whistle to increase your visibility if you need a rescue or just end up heading back to shore after dark.
Wear the Right Clothing
The clothing that you wear to kayak should be comfortable and made for the water. Look for UPF swimsuits and outdoor wear that provide some protection from the sun’s harsh rays. You will also need to find a comfortable coast-guard approved life vest. Make sure to wear your life vest every time you go out on the water because the currents in lakes and rivers can be strong even when they are not visible from the surface.
If you plan to kayak in water that is lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, then you will also need a wetsuit to keep your body warm. Cold weather kayaking may also require you to bring along a lightweight weather-resistant jacket. Finally, top off your clothing with accessories such as a neoprene footwear to protect your feet and a hat and sunglasses to shield you from the sun.
Practice Pre-Trip Planning
The thrill of hitting the water is hard to resist, yet you don’t want to just rush out there without knowing what you are doing. Ideally, you should always go kayaking with a buddy. This helps to make sure that there is someone else available to help you out if things suddenly take a tough turn.
Before you head out for your adventure, make sure to check the weather to make sure that a sudden storm is not brewing on the horizon. You will also want to check your gear to make sure that damage such as holes does not exist on any item and that all of your emergency items are still there. Finally, do a quick scan of the water upon your arrival at your destination. Does the water look choppier than you expected? Are there large motorboats in the area or clouds starting to gather in the sky? While you don’t necessarily have to pack up and head home if you see these things, you do want to make a note of it and adjust however you need to have a safe adventure.
Once you fall in love with kayaking, you’ll find yourself spending every moment that you can out on the water. Remember that practice really does make perfect, and you may need to upgrade your kayak or equipment as you gain more skills. Over time, try branching out to new types of water conditions and locations so that you can continue to advance in the sport of kayaking.