A Beginner’s Guide to Start Kayaking

There is something incredibly liberating about heading out on the open water. It’s a very different feeling from going for a hike or cycle. Maybe it’s because of how vulnerable you feel or possibly because of how insignificant you are in the ocean.

That said, ocean kayaking isn’t the only form of paddling you can enjoy. When you fall in love with the sport of kayaking, you will end up gently paddling down creeks, go on fishing trips or even end up hanging on for your life while white water rafting.

For those of you who are new to it, here are some of our top pieces of advice for getting started.

Understanding Kayaks

Kayaks come in a variety of different forms and are designed to fit their intended use. You should be aware of what you will be using a kayak for and opt for one which is best suited to this type of paddling.

For example, whitewater kayaks handle choppy water well, are small, and are highly maneuverable. They lack speed and stability on flat water, therefore it wouldn’t make much sense to choose this if you’re heading out on a calm lake for the day.

The world of kayaks and kayak design is complicated and in-depth. We have created a simple and easy to understand kayak guide on the different types and how they affect performance.

Preparation and Packing

Before heading out, any sensible paddler will do their preparation. It’s worth doing a few cursory weather checks to make sure you are ready for the conditions you’ll be facing. As well as weather, consider the wind speed and direction, wave size and currents. This will also help you when it comes to making your checklist for packing.

Here are a few of the essentials you should consider taking with you:

  • PFD (personal flotation device)
  • Dry bags
  • Signalling devices
  • Paddle leashes
  • Towline
  • Bailer
  • Sea anchor
  • Navigation gear (compass, GPS)
  • Communication device
  • First aid kit
  • Food/liquid
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Spare dry clothes
  • Campfire equipment
  • Repair kit

Launching Safely and Easily

In principle, launching the kayak seems easy enough but there’s always the potential for it to go disastrously wrong.

When your kayak is just afloat in shallow water, you should stand facing it and put your paddle across it, behind the cockpit. Steady the boat with the other end of the paddle, resting on the shore.

Lean on the shaft of the paddle with one hand and steady yourself with the other hand on the edge of the cockpit. While maintaining a low center of gravity, place your feet in the boat and then sit with your back tight against the backrest. You can then slide your knees under the cockpit.

Technique Tips

Good technique and efficiency will save you a lot of energy, meaning you will be able to paddle further and faster, without getting as tired. Much of the paddling technique comes from good core strength.

Your core is far more powerful than arms alone, so it is important to nail the ‘torso twist’ as you perform the forward stroke. If your core muscles are weak, you will definitely feel it on your abs the next day. That said, you should persevere and get used to it because it will benefit you greatly in the long run.

As you push the paddle through the water, consciously focus on engaging your stomach muscles and twisting through the movement. This way, each stroke will be much more efficient.