If you have ever been to a lake, river, bay or even the beach and seen kayakers happily paddling you may have wondered how difficult the sport is to learn.
You may even want to try your own hand at kayaking.
Kayaking is an exhilarating sport that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
Kayaks—at least the right kind of kayaks—can be used in lakes, bays and reservoirs for things like fishing, sightseeing or just getting a tan; they can be used in rivers and streams for exercise and exploration; and they can be used in the ocean and rushing rivers for high performance tricks and negotiating the white water rapids.
Some kayaking skills are easy to learn, while others take a lot of time and practice to master.
How hard is kayaking? It’s not that difficult, but you do need to master getting in and out of the kayak and proper paddling technique.
To help you learn a little more about these vessels, in this article we will highlight and explain some of the basics associated with kayaks.
We have also compiled a few beginner kayaking tips to get you started—tips you can later build upon as you work your way up the kayaking ladder.
Kayaks are designed in various sizes and shapes for different purposes.
They also have different sized cockpits, with some meant for one, two or three people.
Kayaks also have many different price points depending on the size and the materials used to make the boat.
Kayaks also come in many different types.
There are creek boat kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks, which are the standard types used by most people in the sport, but there are also a lot of specialty kayaks available for purchase, including downriver kayaks, whitewater kayaks, surf kayaks, racing kayaks, sea or touring kayaks, and hybrids, often labeled as recreational kayaks.
The design specifics for different kayaks tend to vary with the shape of the boat and the materials that are used to construct it.
For example, sea kayaks typically have flat hulls that make them very stable on the water, and they are longer in terms of body, allowing them to cover more distance with every stroke.
Whitewater kayaks, on the other hand, have rounded hulls to limit the contact with the water and make them more maneuverable.
They are also usually made of high-impact plastic materials that allow them to bounce off rocks and other structures without incurring much damage to the vessel.
Sit-on-top kayaks are the most popular type of kayaks for beginner paddlers.
These boats are very stable in the water, easy to get in and out of, and are used primarily for touring, sightseeing, fishing and recreational paddling.
Sit-on-top boats such as these are generally made from remolded or fiberglass materials, making them lighter in weight, durable and very low maintenance.
Because sit-on-top kayaks have wider beams than other types of kayaks, it is easier for beginners to keep the boat upright and stable.
However, because these boats tend to be wider than other varieties, they also require a longer paddle to propel the boat.
Learning How To Kayak
Although we won’t discuss a lot of paddling techniques in this article, it is important that you learn how to get in and out of the kayak successfully.
This is often the biggest challenge for many beginner kayakers.
The secret is to keep your weight low and centered.
For example, if entering the kayak from the dock, you should hold onto the edge of the dock with your hand while slowly stepping into the cockpit with one foot and then the other.
Continue to stabilize yourself by grasping onto the dock as your lower the rest of your body into the kayak.
To exit, it’s the same thing in reverse. Lean against the dock.
Pull your knees out, against the cockpit, and slide out onto a sitting position on the dock.
Basic paddling techniques, such as how to hold the paddle based on your body size and type of vessel, are best learned from a qualified instructor.
However, we can tell you that every paddling stroke basically consists of three components: the wind up, catch and recovery.
The wind up phase refers to the position of your body throughout the stroke.
If your initial stroke is on the right side of the kayak, you will need to wind your torso in that direction, thus allowing you to place the paddle near your feet on the right side.
The same is true for the subsequent paddle on the left side.
The catch phase happens as your blade enters or “catches” the water.
Simply unwind your torso, which will pull the blade through the water.
Keep your feet on the pegs located inside the kayak. This will ensure that your core, and not your arms, is doing the bulk of the work.
Finally, recovery occurs at the end of each stroke.
As you conclude the first, right-side stroke, lift the paddle out of the water towards the hull (seating compartment) of the kayak, which will allow you to wind up towards the left side for the next stroke.
Let your elbow guide the paddle and your wrist will follow.