Kayaking is relatively beginner-friendly and you do not need to be insanely physically fit to be able to enjoy this water sport (especially if you are only kayaking for recreation), but it can still be pretty intimidating for beginners. For people who have never tried it before, kayaking might sound awfully technical and strictly “for experts only”. But this could not be farther than the truth. That is why in this article, we will be talking about a couple of handy tips for first-time paddlers. Trust me, kayaking is more accessible than you might think.
Handy Tips for Kayaking First-Timers
Ready to take the plunge in kayaking? Here are a couple of things you should consider:
Get kayaking lessons
I am sure that you did not come here to be told to take kayaking lessons but hear me out first: some people skip the formal lessons thinking that they could just learn from a friend or the Internet and, really, that is just asking for trouble. Before you go kayaking, it is important to learn how to paddle first (unless you want to spend the better part of your day just floating in circles). You will also have to need how to maneuver and how to recover in case your kayak capsizes.
In addition, getting a kayaking lesson will provide you with some tips on rescuing yourself and others, as well as in applying first-aid. Your instructor will also better be able to apprise you of the conditions in the kayaking trail (e.g., offshore winds, rapids, tricky areas). Also, instructors will be able to assess which particular gear you will actually be needing. Trust me, a kayaking lesson can save you from potential mishaps and unnecessary expenses.
Practice the basics
Paddling might seem straightforward, but that does not mean that you can take one kayaking lesson and immediately start kayaking in rapids. Make sure to practice the basics near the shore first or at least in calmer waters, and do not venture into your kayaking itinerary until you got your basics nailed down. Remember that this is the foundation of kayaking and will spell the difference between a fun time kayaking and a whole day wasted on trying to get yourself out of one mishap to another.
Rent a kayak first
We have all been there – thinking that we have finally found the perfect water sports for us and wanting to immediately buy all the gear we can get our hands on. While it is great that you think kayaking is the perfect outdoor activity for you, you might want to go easy on the purchases in the meantime. You will easily find kayaks being rented out in kayaking sites and considering the different types of kayaks available, it is advisable that you try the different kinds first.
Each type is suitable for specific needs and water conditions, so purchasing a kayak might not be the best option for you, especially if you intend to visit different kayaking sites. Also, take note that some kayaks can accommodate multiple people, so you should also take into consideration the likelihood of you going kayaking with company in the future. Finally, you might need some time to figure out whether you are merely kayaking for recreational purposes or would actually like to venture into kayaking as a water sport. After all, recreational kayaks are built differently from those intended for rapids.
Dress for the water
This cannot be stressed enough since most kayaking beginners tend to dress for the weather instead of the water. However, it must be noted that it is not at all uncommon for there to be a drastic difference between the air temperature and the water temperature. Since you will be in the water all the time (and for beginners, it is incredibly important to prepare for the possibility of falling into the water), it is necessary that you wear something appropriate for the water. As much as possible, invest in a wet-suit and make sure to wear shoes with rubber soles. If it is a sunny day out, do not forget your sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat if necessary.
Always wear a buoyancy aid
It does not matter whether you are paddling with a large group or you are pretty good at swimming – as long as you are in the water, wear a buoyancy aid. Buoyancy aids specifically designed for kayaking allow movement, so you definitely do not have to worry about them getting in the way of your paddling. Remember that wearing buoyancy aids is incredibly important even for long-time kayakers, so there is an even greater need for beginners to always wear one. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Be very particular about your route and prepare accordingly
For kayaking beginners, there really is no such thing as over-planning. You are trying something for the first time and it is only fitting that you iron out the tiniest details to make sure that nothing unexpected happens. That said, it is important that you pick a route beforehand and make the necessary preparations. Find out how long it will take you to traverse the route and return to the shore, what the water conditions in the route will most likely be, and what you should bring with you. Also. Make sure that someone always knows your route and how long the trail will be.
It is practically impossible to sum up everything you need to know about kayaking in just one article (and, really, you will pick up a lot of things along the way), but it is worth mentioning the most important aspects of kayaking. For first-time paddlers, especially, having a good grasp of what to expect during their first attempt to kayak can take most of the sense of intimidation and anxiety away. just remember: it is important to be prepared but do not forget that you need to have fun. After all, kayaking should give you a good time, not a hard one.