How to Kayak – A Beginner’s Guide


You’re still wondering how to get your kayak into the water, huh? In this article, we’ll walk you through the basic rules of kayaking. You’ll know what to take with you on your trip, how to paddle, and how to direct your kayak.

Of course, it’d be best if you hired a professional kayak trainer when you step into the water for the first time to guarantee your safety, so take that into consideration. 

Let’s delve into it!

How to Get Ready

Kayak

The first and most essential part of a kayaking trip is to have a comfortable kayak that you can control. Kayaks are very lightweight and can take you to beautiful places if you learned to use them right.

If you think that you can’t afford a kayak at the moment, you can always rent one from specialized renting companies for kayak sports equipment.

On your kayak, you should adjust your seat to fit you well during the trip.

Paddle

Just like kayaks, you can rent a paddle to use on your trip, but make sure you match your paddle’s length to your kayak’s width and your height.

Furthermore, it would be best if you picked a lightweight paddle, as you’ll be holding it for several hours. If the paddle were too heavy, you’d get a sore arm, and you may need to rest in the middle of nowhere.

The previous statement is the main reason you should consider bringing a friend or a trainer along on kayaking trips.

Bilge Pump

A bilge pump is an essential tool for kayak trips. While you’re kayaking, you may get some water into your kayak, which will make it heavier and harder to manage. 

What a bilge pump does is that it bails out unnecessary water from your kayak whenever you feel that things are getting out of control. 

Clothing and Safety

Since you’ll be in the water, you should buy some quick-dry, non-cotton clothes and neoprene shoes to ensure a comfy trip.

Also, it would help if you had a well-fitted PFD life jacket in case of accidents like kayak imbalances. Moreover, you need to attach a whistle to your jacket so that you can use it to call for help.

Most kayak trips happen on sunny afternoons, so to avoid getting burned, you can put on some sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses. 

How to Launch a Kayak

Get into the Kayak

Get into the Kayak

It would be best if you put your kayak on smooth grounds where you can start your journey, like a dock, or a shoreline.

A successful mechanism to get in is to stand with the kayak seat between your legs. Then, you can slide in one leg after the other and settle in till you get comfortable with your kayak.

Some kayakers suggest that you move the kayak a little bit into the water and jump into the kayak as smooth and fast as you can, letting your legs in last.

Of course, you wouldn’t go through this hustle if your kayak is tied to a dock, but it may be a little harder to get in.

If you’re getting into the kayak from a dock, put your paddle at a grabbing distance from the kayak. After that, you need to get as close as you can to the kayak and let your legs in first. Then, lean your body forward and start settling in your cockpit.

Start Moving the Kayak

Start Moving the Kayak

It would help if you placed your kayak on a tranquil shore to avoid scratching the kayak’s bottom and make your moving easier.

You can paddle with your arms to get yourself into the water. Also, you can move the kayak into the water while you’re still outside. Later on, you can jump into the kayak and start using the paddle to get into more profound levels.

Another simple method to get your kayak into the water is to dig your paddle vertically into the shore’s ground and push your body forward to move the kayak.

How to Paddle

How to Paddle

The right way to hold a paddle is by centering your head under the shaft, where your elbows can make a right angle.

As a beginner, you need to make sure that your blades are in their default positions, meaning that the two blades are in line with each other. Otherwise, your blades could be feathered.

Newbies can’t control the directions of feathered blades, unlike professionals who can use them to go through the wind smoothly.

Paddle’s blades have a small curvature in their structure. To maintain a smooth flow in the water, make sure that the concave part of the blade is facing you.

Now, stretch out your arms and start paddling. According to your paddling direction, you can set your kayak to go forward, turn, stop, or slow down.

Forward Strokes

Kayak Forward Strokes

Firstly, you need to twist your torso and immerse one of the blades into the water next to your feet. 

Secondly, please don’t use your arms to paddle, but depend on your torso rotation to give your paddle the strength it needs.

Finally, as you rotate your torso, you’ll find the paddle moving through the water till it reaches your hips. 

Only then can you get the paddle out of the water and apply the same technique on the opposite side.

Backward Strokes

Kayak Backward Strokes

It’s the exact opposite of the forward paddling. You start by immersing the blade near your hips and use your hands to push the paddle downwards. You move it through the water until it reaches the water next to your feet.

You could use this backward kayaking technique even if the kayaks were at a resting position.

Sweep Strokes

Kayak Sweep Strokes

Sweep strokes are a set of repeated, single-sided, forward strokes that will make you turn in the opposite direction. For example, if you repeatedly do left-sided strokes, you’ll turn right and vice versa.

Draw Strokes

Kayak Draw Strokes

You can use this type of stroke if you want to move to one of your sides without turning. They’re most helpful when you want to get closer to a dock or a shoreline.

A draw stroke is a bit dangerous for first-timers because they may need to extend their bodies out of the kayak and end up in the water.

Firstly, you should vertically place the paddle on one side of the kayak. 

Secondly, move the lower blade away from the kayak and extend your body, but make sure you maintain your balance.

Thirdly, start pulling the lower side of the paddle towards you and pushing the upper blade in the opposite direction until you reach the desired distance.

Final Thoughts

We can all agree that kayaking is a hard-to-master sport, as it needs a lot of training, skill, and talent.

This sport works on your arms, legs, core, and hips, so it’s pretty exhausting, but it’s worth every minute of your time.

As a beginner, you need to take some serious safety precautions. For instance, you should always have a company in case you need help. 

Plus, it would be best if you avoided kayaking on windy days because you might be unable to control the kayak or fight the wind.

Finally, have your life jacket on no matter what, you don’t know when your kayak can let you down.

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