What Every Novice Kayaker Should Know Before They Get Their Feet Wet


As an outdoor recreational activity, kayaking can provide a unique and surreal experience to those who choose to embark on the journey. The beautiful views and tranquil serenity that are possible to behold on the water simply cannot be found on land. For these reasons and more, those interested in kayaking should actually take the plunge and give this recreation a chance. It is advisable, however, for beginners to learn before they leap.

Ways of Kayaking

There are plenty of ways to experience the joys of kayaking. Some are more difficult than others, but the entry point is fairly easy to learn. As one's skill level increases, there are opportunities to go on more intense kayaking journeys. If you are new to kayaking, then touring is where you should begin. It is a laid-back way to get your feet wet in the sport, no pun intended. Kayaking in this manner usually takes place in serene waters, such as, lakes and rivers and do not require one to navigate any extreme obstacles. It is the ideal setting for the beginner to learn.

One step up from this novice phase is kayaking at sea. This requires a slightly higher skill set, but allows kayakers the ability to navigate the coast and experience the different aspect of nature found there. Boaters will be faced with overcoming waves of varying sizes as they explore coastlines and can actually diverge in to the niche of kayak surfing. That thrill ride is exactly how it sounds and is just as much fun.

Next on the escalating level of difficulty is white water kayaking. This is the pinnacle of difficult for the amateur kayaker. Those who reach this level will feel the rush that comes with navigating severe rapids, tumultuous rivers and maybe even a waterfall or two. As you can imagine, being able to do this is far from the beginner level, but it gives the novice something to look forward too.

Equipment Needed

As enjoyable as it can be, kayaking does come with a certain level of risk. These risks can be greatly reduced if the proper safety measures are taken. With this in mind, the equipment required for kayaking centers on keeping the user safe. First among these is the helmet. The obvious need for the helmet is to protect the head from impact. What is not obvious is what lies beneath the water, such as rocks, that could cause injury.

The second piece of equipment necessary for kayaking is the paddle. Though many people use canoeing and kayaking interchangeably, the paddle is one aspect that is clearly different. Unlike canoeing, the paddle used in kayaking has a blade on both ends. The ideal paddle for an individual will be determined by a number of factors. These include height of the occupant, width of the boat, and what style is used to paddle the boat. It is probably a good idea to seek professional advice on choosing the right paddle during the learning as you are learning.

Next up is the wet suit. Because your kayaking adventure will take you many locales with water temperatures that aren't ideal, it is highly important to wear a wet suit. Pneumonia is a real risk if it is left of the equipment list. For beginners, it is advisable to use the action sports standard of 473 when choosing your suit. The 4:3 refers to 4-millimeter thickness over the body's core and 3-millimeter thickness over the arms and legs. Having a pair of gloves is also advisable to keep the hands warm.

Another vital piece of equipment for kayaking is the spray skirt. This provides protection by keeping the kayak water tight at all times. Usually made of neoprene, the spray skirt fits tightly around the waist of the boat operator and the cockpit. This provides a water tight seal and keeps water out even through over turns and crashing waves.

The fifth piece of necessary equipment is a personal flotation device. These can be divided into 3 categories depending on where the kayaking will take place. These 3 categories are recreational, sea, and whitewater. The flotation devices made for recreation are safe, easy to use and best fit for the novice kayaker. These flotation aids are not life jackets however. The difference between the two is that life jackets come with a neck support that will keep the wearers head out of the water if they become unconscious while flotation aids don't. Flotation aids do keep the wearer afloat and also allow a greater range of motion while paddling which is very important.

The final piece of necessary equipment should come as no surprise. It is the kayak itself. When choosing a kayak, it is important to choose one that is appropriate for the destination of your kayaking adventure. This is similar to the choice that has to be made when choosing a personal flotation device. Longer models are best for extended trips in slow moving water, as they come with built in storage. The opposite is best for more extreme waters, such as those endured in freestyle and white water. The shorter, more compact kayak models provide greater maneuverability. There are also some models specifically designed to handle the rigors of the sea or the competition of racing.

Tips to Consider

Now that you have a better picture of what experiences are waiting to be had kayaking and how to stay safe on the water, there are a few tips to learn that will make your kayaking experience better. It may sound simple and maybe even silly, but the first tip a kayaker should learn is how to enter and exit the kayak- Firstly, how you enter and exit your kayak differs depending on setting. When next to a dock, you should keep a hold of the dock while you lower yourself feet first into the cockpit. This will help you maintain stability. Getting out requires doing things in reverse.

If you are in open water, you want to reach across the boat and pull yourself up until your stomach is centered on the boat. At this point, you scissor kick your leg, so that you are straddling the boat. You then crawl forward until your stomach is over the cockpit and then roll over, carefully bringing your legs in afterwards. Getting out in open water simply requires perform a back flip.

The key to getting in and out of a kayak, in any situation, is to remember to keep your weight low and close to the boat, as well as, centered.

The second tip centers on finding the best stroke technique. It is important to maintain an upright posture. This allows you to incorporate your whole body when paddling. Leaning to the front or back puts the emphasis on the arms which decreases the amount of power that you can generate. It is also vital to twist at the hips and to make sure that the whole paddle blade is in the water during each stroke to be most efficient.

Another tip that is important to keep in mind is how to turn. The most basic way to turn is to use the blade of the paddle as a rudder. This is accomplished by dragging the blade close to the boat on the side that you wish to turn. To stop too much forward momentum from being lost, the dragging should be accompanied with an occasional forward stroke on the opposite side.

As with most things, kayakers will develop their own way of how to do things over time, but novices should definitely seek out a qualified professional to learn basic stroke and safety techniques. From there, they can develop their own style.

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