How to Kayak – Tips and Tricks For Beginners
If you are new to the activity of kayaking, welcome! This article is your go-to guide to quickly yet efficiently get you familiarized with the core information to get you started,on your first kayaking adventure. Kayaking is a great way to enjoy beautiful scenery on any body of water, including lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and oceans. It’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for a social activity to do with friends, or even if you’re looking for a moment of solitude to just take in nature all around you.
What is a Kayak?
A Kayak is a type of watercraft that is typically designed for a single passenger, although there are a few variations that offer multiple seats for more than one passenger. A traditional kayak is a “torpedo” shaped vessel, meaning that each end of the boat comes to a narrow point, and the widest part of the watercraft is in the middle, where the passenger sits.
The seat is located in a deep hollowed out section of the boat, known as the “hull”. Typically kayaks are made out of fiberglass or plastic, and are propelled manually by the rider, with an instrument called a paddle.
There are many types of kayaks including inflatable kayaks, pedal drive kayaks, and even ocean kayaks adorned with accessories for fishing. They differ in shape, seating, material, weight, length, and purpose. This article will not dive into the specific types of kayaks. If you are uncertain which kayak is best for you, then check out one of our other articles, entitled “How to Choose the Right Kayak For You.”
Learning How To Kayak
Positioning the kayak
To enter the kayak, first you must drag the boat to the edge of the shore. With the seat of the kayak facing forward, drag the kayak far enough into the water that the middle of the kayak is buoyant and not making contact with the bottom near the shore. Make sure that enough of the back end of the kayak is making contact with the ground so that the kayak doesn’t float away while you try to enter.
Entering the kayak
Next, there are two ways to get into the kayak. The first is called the straddle method, in which the rider straddles the kayak between their legs, and begin to descend into the seat. Once you have squatted down as far as is comfortable, you simply lift both legs simultaneously up and around the edges of the kayak. Lastly you’ll want to find a comfortable position for your legs within the hull and plop your butt into the seat.
The second method requires you to stand next to the seat of the kayak. (It can be either side). Next you will want to bend over and grab both sides of the hull for balance. After you’ve grasped both sides of the the hull, you will lift whichever leg is closest to the kayak, and place it into the hull.
Make sure you place this foot right in front of the seat. Once the foot is firmly planted inside the kayak, with both of your hands still grasping each side of the hull, you will want to lift your other foot up and into the kayak. Once you have both feet in the kayak you can begin to squat down into the seat. At the same time, you can slide your feet down towards the foot braces.
After you enter the kayak, it is important to conduct the right body posture in order to conserve energy and travel efficiently. Your feet should be resting on the specially designed foot braces, and your legs should lay up against the edges of the hull, with your hips open, and loose. Your back should be straight, with your shoulders relaxed.
When the rider is sitting in their seat, the middle of the kayak should not be making contact with the ground as this will make it much harder to launch into the water. However the back end of the kayak will still be making contact with the ground.
In order to launch the whole kayak off of the shore, stick one end of the paddle slightly behind you into the water and make contact with the ground. This will allow for some leverage for the rider to then push themselves out into the water so that the kayak is no longer making contact with the shore.
In order to find a neutral grip on the shaft of the paddle, center balance the paddle on the top of your head, then grasp the shaft with both hands so that your elbows make a 90 degree angle, then place the paddle on your lap to start in a neutral position.
To move forward, reach out and place one of the blades of the paddle into the water and pull it back towards you, then proceed to do the same motion on the other side of the kayak with the other blade. Then continue to alternate strokes, and begin to see yourself propel forward through the water.
It is important that the rider engages their core while they perform each paddle, this will conserve energy, and allow the arms not to tire out as quickly.
To move backwards, reach back and place one of the blades of the paddle into the water behind you and pull it back towards you, then proceed to do the same motion on the other side of the kayak with the other blade. Then you can continue to alternate strokes, and begin to see yourself move backwards.
Instead of alternating stroke patterns, the rider must repeat strokes with one particular blade in order to turn left or right. If you desire to point the front of the kayak in the left direction, you must repeat a stroke with the right blade of the paddle. If you desire to point the front of the kayak in the right direction, you must repeat with the left blade of the paddle.
A rudder stroke is a faster turn that a rider can use while they carry momentum in a particular direction. In order to perform a rudder stroke the rider must have momentum traveling in a particular direction.
While moving forward and preparing to turn, you simply stick one blade in the water and leverage that blade against the current direction that you were traveling in. If you want to point the front of the kayak to the left, stick the left blade of the paddle in the water. If you want to point the front of the kayak to the right, stick the right blade of the paddle in the water.
To exit the kayak, the rider will paddle into shore, ideally near a gradual incline on a sandy part of the shore, until the front of the kayak makes contact with the ground of the shore. This will slightly anchor the watercraft, and allow for enough stability for the rider to exit the kayak.
Much like how the rider entered the kayak, they will exit the same way. With their hand, they must grasp each side of the hull, as to provide balance. Then lift one leg at a time out of the hull, around the edge, and onto the ground. Once the rider is completely out of the water, they can walk to the front of the kayak, and drag the watercraft completely onto shore.
Essential Kayak Gear
First off, let’s get acquainted with the gear that is an absolute necessity, then we will expand into the gear that isn’t a must have, but that can greatly benefit you in certain instances.
Paddles are instruments used by the rider of the kayak, designed to serve the purpose to propel the watercraft. They are made up of two parts, the blades, and the shaft. The shaft is the long pole shaped part of the paddle, this is the same part where the rider grips and holds with both of their hands. The blades are asymmetrical flat shapes located at both ends of the shaft.
A PFD is a personal flotation device. It typically comes in the form of some sort of vest, and is worn around the rider’s chest in the event that the kayak tips over in the water. It’s buoyancy will allow the capsized rider to stay above water, and conserve energy while they either reenter the kayak, wait for help, or swim back to shore.
It’s not only important to dress for the temperature outside the water, but inside the water, as there may be a chance that the kayak flips over, or you get the occasional drops of water on yourself from the splash made by the paddle. Synthetic clothing is always a great option as it is comfortable, lightweight, and dries quickly. Specially designed rash guards and sun shirts these days also have spf built right into the fabric, and are get options for a top to wear. Water shoes, or strapped sandals can be a great option for footwear as they provide protection for your feet while you walk along the shore, and in the rocky shallows of the water.
Protection against the elements – It’s always recommended to wear spf on sunny days to protect your skin against sun burns. Depending on your location, bug spray may also be a nice addition to your gear list, as mosquitoes and black flies can be rampant near certain bodies of water. Lastly a pair of sunglasses can also be a nice piece of kit to bring along as they can protect your eyes from sun glare from the water.
Although there are a few special variations to each of these aspects of kayaking this is more than enough to get you started on your next kayaking adventure. If you are unsure about any aspect of this article, please feel free to watch the tutorial in conjunction with this article, and you’ll be ready to ride in no time!