Kayaking can be a very fun and enjoyable activity. It’s not a particularly challenging process once you get used to it, but it can be intimidating at first. To help beginner and novice kayakers get their feet wet (pun intended), we have put together a list of basic tips that will help you learn how to kayak.
Before we start, one thing should be noted, choose a good kayak. Some say a used kayak is the way to go. I say rent them first, find the one you are most comfortable with, and then buy the best one you can afford.
On your first day out on the water, the key is to take things slow and be cautious. You don’t want to tip your kayak or hurt yourself, so take things slow. Also, as is the case with most outdoor activities, it’s important to be well versed in basic outdoor safety and first aid. Follow the steps below, and you’ll be comfortable in no time!
Step number one is to find a nice calm body of water to begin your kayaking career. Small lakes/ponds are ideal because they have no current, and they are usually not too busy/crowded. Find an area that is free of rocks and other hazards, and hopefully one that is empty of other boat traffic.
Next, you’ll want to place your kayak in the water and secure it. The best way to do this is to lay the kayak down on the shore, gripping the bow. Push the kayak into the water slowly, being sure to keep a tight grip on it. You will want to position the vessel in a way that the cockpit is in shallow water. Next, use your paddle to secure the boat while you approach it and prepare to sit down.
Position one leg firmly on the ground (or in shallow water if necessary) and slowly place your other leg in the kayak. Slowly shift your weight into the kayak, while bringing your other leg into the boat. Find a comfortable seated position. Your legs should be extended out fairly straight, but you will have plenty of time to find a comfortable position for you.
Spend some time handling your paddle, getting a feel for its weight and form. Try balancing it on one hand, spinning it around, etc. Grip the paddle firmly, making sure your hands are equidistant from both the paddle duct and the blade. Again, you will have plenty of time to find a comfortable and efficient position for you, so don’t stress about having perfect form right off the bat. Also, there are inexpensive paddle grip you can buy that will help you with this. These accessories are a must for beginners.
Once you are comfortable in the boat, it’s time to start paddling! If you are still a bit timid to go out on the open water, you can always “beach” the kayak by pushing it into very shallow water, essentially anchoring it. You can then practice your paddle strokes until you are comfortable enough to set out.
The basic stroke is forward stroke. It’s simple, but it’s beneficial to learn proper form right away, rather than try to correct an improper stroke years later. Place your right paddle blade in the water near your feet, at a fairly sharp downward angle. Rotate your torso to the right so that you can use your whole upper body for a more powerful stroke. Keep your right hand grip very firm, and loosen your left hand. Pull back with your right arm while pushing with your left. Again, try to utilize your whole upper body and not just your arm. Repeat on the left side, and so on and so forth. Eventually you will develop a good rhythm.
To turn, simply use a more powerful stroke on the side you’re turning towards. To turn sharply, you can paddle multiple times in a row on the same side.
As you get used to the process of kayaking, the best thing you can do to improve your technique is to watch your form and look for inconsistencies. Notice how your weight is distributed, notice how your body is positioned. Most importantly, watch to see if your kayak drifts in a particular direction. Proper kayaking form is all about keeping your body symmetrical and in rhythm, and finding a comfortable and efficient technique that works for you.
It might seem simple, but getting into a kayak smoothly and safely can be more difficult than you’d think. It’s something you will get used to pretty quickly, but when you’re first starting out it can be a bit intimidating. We’ve put together a few tips to help you.
It’s important to keep your center of gravity low and balanced when entering and exiting a kayak. This will help stabilize the kayak as well as your own body, and help prevent tipping/capsizing.
You don’t want to have your kayak and/or your paddle float away while you flail around in the water. If you fall getting in or out of your kayak, that’s fine – just hang on to your stuff so it doesn’t take a trip without you! Always keep a firm grip on your kayak, and keep it in shallow, low-current water while you get in and out of it. And always hold on to your paddle tightly – otherwise, the term “up a creek without a paddle” can become literal very quickly.
It might take you a while to get used to the process of entering your kayak. Be patient, and know that it will get easier over time! If you’re having troubles, pay close attention to the position of your body – it’s likely that your balance is off.
If you don’t have a dock to launch from, you’ll have to launch from the water. Find shallow water in a slow-current area. Place your kayak in the water, keeping a firm grip on it. Place your paddle inside the vessel so it doesn’t float away. Put one leg inside the cockpit, and grip both sides of the cockpit with your hands. Push off with your other leg in a smooth but firm motion, pull your leg into the boat, and sit down. If you’re still “beached”, use your paddle to push off from the shallows.
If you’re launching from a dock, place your kayak lengthwise alongside the dock. Hold onto it firmly, and place your paddle down on the dock close to the edge. Place one leg at a time in the kayak, and sit down slowly. It can be helpful to press the kayak up against the edge of the dock to help stabilize it.
Once you get better and the basics you can then start learning more advanced techniques like rolling and such.
Here is a video of that: