How to Kayak – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor October 8th, 2021 Posted in Sailing, Travel Blog, Travel Gear Reviews No comments

If you’re interested in kayaking, here’s our ultimate beginner’s guide. This kayaking beginner’s guide will help you a lot!

Madison Sevylor Kayak

Kayaking is an activity for those who want to relax and explore the rivers, lakes, and seas. Kayaking is also suitable for fishing or other professional water sport. For beginners, there are a variety of things/aspects that you need to consider, such as determining the appropriate boat and paddle, how to use the paddle, the type of clothing that is suitable for kayaking activities, and the safety gear.

A. Boat/Kayak

There are 3 types of boat that you can use:

  • Sit-on-Top. This type of boat allows users to have direct contact with sun rays, wind, and waves. To do this type of kayaking, you need wide hulls and centered boats to be able to sit stably above it. The disadvantage of sit-on-top kayaking is the users have a minimum maneuver. The pressure on the users’ thighs and knees is quite strong and makes it difficult to move. The sit-on-top kayaking boat is usually shorter than the sit-inside-touring type. This type of kayaking requires more power to paddle since the boat is designed to sail slowly. However, sit-on-top kayaking is more stable and easier for beginners. Sit-on-top kayaking is also suitable for fishing by adding other elements, such as kayaking chairs, towing ropes, platform stands, instrument consoles, etc.
  • Sit-Inside: Sit-inside kayak has closed hulls, which makes users have better protection from direct contact with sun rays, wind, and waves. The boat also has a lower center of gravity since the hulls are below the surface of the water. The sit-inside boat has various sizes, from short and wide to very long and slim. Short and wide kayaks are suitable for relaxing, while long and slim kayaks are suitable for more extreme exploration.
  • Inflatable: Inflatable kayaks are easy to transport and are lightweight (30 pounds). Since the boat can be pumped or deflated, it’s easier to put in the trunk. The disadvantage of an inflatable kayak is its slow movement and expensive price.

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak can be your option for an inflatable kayak. The boat is designed for 2-persons and quick to inflate and deflate. It is 10 feet long and 3 feet wide with a maximum capacity of 400 lbs (180 Kg).

A Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Kayaking 1

Price: $85.69

Pros:

  • Came with aluminum oars and high output air pump.
  • Bright color for an emergency.
  • Directional stability.

Cons:

  • Small bodies of water usage only.

B. How to Operate a Kayak

To operate a kayak, you have to know the basic techniques to use it, such as how to enter and exit, and basic techniques to use paddles.

  • Basic Kayaking Technique

The most basic techniques you need to know for kayaking include how to use the boat and paddles. You can start learning to kayak in the calm and easy coastline. Entering and exiting in surfing or choppy water and paddling in strong winds will make things more difficult. Taking courses or taking tours is a great way to learn these techniques from professional instructors.

  • Entering a Kayak

The first step you have to do is entering the hull and sitting on the deck. Put both of your hands on the side of the hull. Spread your legs forward in the cockpit and look for a comfortable sitting position. Afterward, you can pull your legs back and put them on a platform inside the cockpit while pressing your knees inside of your deck.

  • Exiting a kayak

To get out of the kayak, you need to release your foot from the cockpit and stretch your legs. Next, put your hands on both sides of the cockpit and lift your body until you can sit on the back deck. Then, carefully pull and lift your legs from the cockpit and start standing carefully.

C. Paddles

1. Kayak Paddling Techniques

Learning the paddling technique is essential when you want to go kayaking. You have to understand how to steer the boat to move forward, backward, sideways, turn, and the most important thing is to keep it from turning upside down. You have to practice to get used to rowing properly. Several types of paddles that you can use are:

  • European style kayak paddles. This type of paddles is the most common to use. European style paddle has a long, slim, and curved shaft. The shaft at the end of the grip is short, large, wide, and curved surfaces that allow paddling with great power. Paddle for women usually has a 74-inch long grip and 81-inch for men.
  • European style paddles generally have 1, 2, or 4 blades. The one-piece paddle is the most robust and easy to transport. Two-piece paddles have two shafts that easy to transport. Four-piece paddles have joints on both shafts, and the paddles can be removed like two-piece paddles.
  • Greenland style kayak paddles. These types of paddles were originally used by residents of Greenland. The hallmark of Greenland paddles is the short shaft shape with long and slender blades, straight edges, and square-shaped edges. Paddle length is usually adjusted to the height of the users. 180 cm / 6 feet tall users usually using 230 cm long paddle, and 165 cm users are using 220 cm paddles.
  • Aleutian style kayak paddles. This type of paddles often used by Alaskan, especially the natives of the Aleutian Islands. These paddles have a short shaft with a long, slender blade.

2. Paddles Materials

In the old days, paddles were made from wood, but now various materials used to make the paddles, such as fiberglass, polyethylene, or carbon fiber. These materials are more effective and durable to use in any condition. Each material has different characteristics, in the example, the carbon fiber paddles are robust and lightweight, so it gains lots of fans.

3. Choosing the Right Paddle Length

Users’ height and hulls wide influence the effectivity of the paddles used to kayaking. The wider the hull, needs longer the paddles, as well as your height.

D. Clothing

1. Proper Cloth

Several types of fabric are promising comfort and safety while you’re kayaking, such as:

  • Cotton is best used for warm and sunny days;
  • Nylon provides lightweight cloth and tough. It absorbs water and dries quickly;
  • Polyester Fleece has a similar ability with nylon. This artificial fleece is the greatest invention with insulating properties.

To choose the proper kayaking clothes, you need to be aware of the environmental conditions and water temperature. For warm areas, the best clothing choices are swimwear and non-cotton shorts, tanks, and tees. A wide hat with protection against UV rays also will be very helpful.

As for cold areas, clothing made from fleece and neoprene is the best choice. This material can keep your body temperature warm even in wet conditions. You can also use a wetsuit or drysuit for very cold conditions.

E. Footwear

Water sports have a lot of contact with water, so you have to protect your body, including your feet. During kayaking, you should also use footwear, even though your feet are basically inside the closed cockpit. Many users choose to use sandals to protect their feet, but you can also choose other footwear made of neoprene rubber and sticky rubber soles to protect your feet.

You can use SIMARI unisex water shoes to protect your feet while kayaking. The shoes were made from 92% of polyester makes it comfortable enough to use. It has a unique sole design equipped with good performance cushion to protect your toes. Besides kayaking, shoes also suitable for beach games, swimming, surfing, sailing, fishing, etc.

A Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Kayaking 2

Price: $21.98

Pros:

  • Ultra-breathable, lightweight, and stretchy.
  • Elastic shoe neckline.
  • Non-slip resistance.
  • Easy to carry.

Cons:

  • Do not dry it near the fireplace.

F. Safety Gear

1. Basic Safety Gear

Various safety gears aren’t only completing your experience while kayaking, but also provides protection to your body. Safety gear that you can use while kayaking is:

  • In an emergency situation, the sound of a whistle is louder than our own voice. It will help other people locate your position faster;
  • Flashlight or headlight mostly used at night or in the dark area, such as cave;
  • To use it properly, you have to learn how to operate it before going to wild nature;
  • Your skin definitely needs extra protection when you have direct contact with UV rays;
  • First aid kit;
  • Paddle leash will be preventing your paddle from drift off;
  • Dry bag to keep your things such as cloth and gadget always dry;
  • Spraydeck or skirt is preventing the water get into your kayak; and
  • A cart that will help you move the kayak from the car to the water.

2. PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

PFD or Personal Flotation Device can help you float when your boat is turning upside down. PDFs can be vests, jackets, belts, closed-cell foam, or airbags. Foam PDF is the most popular safety equipment, but it is also hot and uncomfortable to use. Whereas, the unpopular inflatable PFD is actually more comfortable and even has a cooler design.

As for inflatable PFD, you can try Onyx Curve MOVEMENT Paddle Sport PFD. This life jacket provides you free movement since it has oversized arm-hole. It’s available in various sizes, from XS to 2XL.

A Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Kayaking 3

Price: $$33.91 – $82.00.

Pros:

  • Soft, lightweight, cool, and comfortable.
  • Suited for sit-on-top kayaking.
  • USCG approved.

Cons:

  • Not delivering to some countries.

3. Bilge Pump

A bilge pump is a must-have item for every kayaker because it helps to get water out of the hull when your boat is turning upside down.

4. Leash Paddle

Leash paddle is a rope made of nylon at the first end and a plastic or metal clip at the other end. The function of the leash paddle is to tie the paddle to the kayak and make it always attached. In the situation of the boat turning upside down, the rope is preventing the paddle from drift and loose.

CampingandKayaking might be the best option for paddle leash. It has 2 leash set, 3 black leashes, and 1 carabiner. The lashes have a light tension bungee section that elongates with light forces and retracts back neatly. It has a small diameter, so it can be used easily.

A Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Kayaking 4

Price: $10.98

Pros:

  • Great wading leash.
  • Suitable to use in the water or wood.
  • Fixed elongation.
  • 32” to 52” long.

Cons:

  • Flimsy.

5. Paddle Float

When the boat is turning upside down, you need a paddle float to maintain the boat to stay afloat. It can help you to save yourself as well. As an option, you can try the Riverstones Paddle Float. The dimension of the paddle float is 12.5 x 24 inches and weight is 12.5 Ounce.

A Beginner's Ultimate Guide to Kayaking 5

Price: $27.95

Pros:

  • Bright colors.
  • Dual-chamber with twist air valves.
  • Mesh paddle pocket with quick release buckle.
  • No pump required.

Cons:

  • One-piece only, not a pair.
  • Not suitable for Greenland paddle.

6. Tow Rope

The function of tow rope is as a lifesaver. You can use it for yourself or other users who are in dangerous situations. You can tie a tow rope around the victim’s waist or kayak’s cockpit and pull it away from the dangerous location to get immediate help.

7. Food and Water

Kayaking is a recreational activity that also requires nutrition. You can bring trail mix, jerky, cheese, fruits, veggies, and water. If possible, you can also bring a water filter to get fresh water from any water sources.

Bringing these supplies is also to anticipate bad weather that causes your boat can’t immediately return to a safer area.

G. Kayaking Plan

To experience the best kayaking activity, you have to consider a few things, such as:

  • Weather including the wind and temperature;
  • Water conditions such as currents and temperature. The water and weather temperature might be significantly different;
  • Navigation and route to take;
  • Nearest emergency services; dan
  • Make an announcement to your relatives about your plan, so they can be aware of it.

H. Optimizing the Experience

As a beginner kayakers, it’ll be better if you start with the small and calm water that easy to control and on warm windless days. This is the best way to practicing on your kayaking skills. Like your first time, you can make a short route and paddling your kayak slowly to adapting with the kayak and water conditions. You might have to start to go kayaking with friends since it’s not only exciting but also helpful. You can also join a kayaking tour to maximize your experience.

To master your skill, you can take a course from a certified instructor that can help you with basic and pro kayaking. You can also learn about safety and rescue while kayaking.

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Written by Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor

Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog is a travel blog and website. We quickly grew into a valuable source of inspiring travel stories, advice, itineraries and travel guides, with the aim of demonstrating how to live a sustainable life of travel, whilst living your own definition of success. If you'd like to contribute and write a guest post, contact us at [email protected]

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