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What Is Flatwater Kayaking?

Flatwater kayaking is the simplest and most common type of kayaking. 

It can occur on any smooth body of water without waves or harsh currents.

It’s an easy-going approach to kayaking that’s enjoyable for both beginners and experienced kayakers looking for a relaxing day.

This type of kayaking is mainly done on small bodies of water, typically little local lakes, ponds, and even swamps and marshes.

It’s a great way for beginners interested in water sports to start. 

Kayaking on flat water is approachable, budget-friendly, and a lot of fun.

Many local lakes have affordable kayak rentals you can pay for by the hour or the day.

No matter your skill level on the water, flatwater kayaking is for you!

What’s the Difference Between Flatwater and Other Types of Kayaking?

While flatwater kayaking occurs on a smooth, placid body of water, whitewater kayaking is much more challenging. 

Whitewater kayaking can take place on wide rivers with high currents, the ocean, or any body of water not considered flatwater. 

It’s important to make sure you understand the basics of flatwater kayaking before trying out your skills on whitewater.

It can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

girl kayaking flatwater

Where Can You Go Flatwater Kayaking?

You can go flatwater kayaking in small or medium local lakes, a pond, or a marsh or swamp.

Lakes are highly recommended because they are usually surrounded by tall trees that make for great windbreaks. 

Small lakes are also great for beginners because there’s typically less wind to fight against in a less open area.

If you do kayak on a lake, make sure you know where it’s safe and keep a lookout for bigger boats.

Marshes and swamps are also great options, but they may be more complicated to kayak in.

It’s more difficult because you may not be able to find a dock or a good launch point. 

Another reason is due to water obstructions.

Because they are typically shallower than lakes, you may encounter more plants and wildlife that can slow your kayak down. 

Most kayak rental places won’t be found near swamps and marshes, but if you have a friend who’s willing to let you borrow theirs, you’ll be able to paddle yourself up close with nature. 

If being close to nature sounds appealing to you, many gorgeous flatwater kayaking destinations can be found in national forests

What Do You Need to Get Started?

After you’ve picked a location, it’s time to make sure you have all of the equipment and gear you need.

Some of the things you’ll probably need are:

  • A kayak (hard-shell or inflatable)
  • A paddle
  • A life vest or personal flotation device
  • Sunscreen (and probably a hat)

These are the basic things you will need with you on the water.

If you’re going kayaking in a new or out-of-the-way place, consider bringing additional supplies in case of emergency.

Snacks, waterproof bags for your tech and valuables, and plenty to drink will ensure you are comfortable all day on the water. 

Is the Type of Kayak You Pick Important?

If you’re just starting, you don’t need to worry about getting a specific type of kayak.

Beginner kayakers should have everything they need in a standard recreational kayak. 

That being said, there are two types of kayaks: sit-inside and sit-on-top. 

The major difference between the two styles is the sit-insides are enclosed.

This means your lower body will be warmer, and it’ll be easier to stay dry. 

Sit-on-top kayaks are easier to get in and out of, and they’re self-bailing.

In a self-bailing kayak, there are strategically placed holes to allow the water to get out.

You won’t have to bail yourself out, so you can save your energy for paddling.

You have a better chance of getting wet, but you’ll be in better shape if your kayak flips.

If you find you want to upgrade your kayak, you can work with a local kayak shop or outdoor sports store.

Typically, they will have plenty of options available and will be able to explain the pros and cons of each one.

You can see the difference between an inflatable kayak and a paddling one for yourself

They might even let you take it on the water for a test drive!

How Can I Start Flatwater Kayaking?

There are many easy ways to start flatwater kayaking.

All you really need is a kayak and a body of water!

To get a kayak, you can take a rental to a nearby lake or often rent one on-site.

You can also go with a friend who has a spare or borrow theirs from them. 

Renting a Kayak

Renting is a great, simple way to get started by yourself.

It’s not the cheapest, but it is an affordable means of testing to see if you actually enjoy kayaking.

You’ll be able to develop first-hand experience without spending your savings on your new hobby.

You can usually rent a kayak by the hour or by the day.

If it’s your first time taking one out for a spin, start by kayaking for just one hour.

It’s best to slowly build your strength and stamina, so limit yourself to just a couple of hours the first few times and remember to take frequent breaks. 

You’re on the water, after all! What better place to slow down and breathe in the fresh air?

Asking Help From a Kayak Owner

You can also talk to your kayak-obsessed friend (if you have one) to see if they’ll lend you a hand.

They may have a kayak you can borrow or know someone who does. 

If you don’t know someone into the sport, try searching local kayaking or outdoor sports social media groups.

You’ll likely find someone willing to at least give you more information, if not take you out for a spin. 

Many kayakers love to help out beginners, as they were once there themselves. 

You’re All Set!

Now that you know what flatwater kayaking is, how to find one, and where to do it, all that’s left to do is get yourself on the water.

Don’t forget your life vest and sunscreen!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a couple of questions new flatwater kayakers often ask.

Is Flatwater Kayaking Only for Beginners?

Absolutely not!

Flatwater kayaking is for anyone looking for an easy, enjoyable trip on the water. 

What Kayaks Are Better for Flatwater Kayaking?

There are benefits to both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks.

It comes down to your personal preference and how concerned you are about getting wet.

Sit-on-top kayaks are perfect for beginners, as they are simple and easy to use.

Sit-inside kayaks are harder to get back in if flipped, but as long as you stay upright, you’ll be fine.