Kayaking is an escape from reality. It’s an unforgettable way to get out of the office, experience nature, and even get a nice workout in. It may seem like a daunting endeavor for curious beginners, but with a little bit of patience, practice, and preparation, you’ll be a pro in no time.
To help you get started, read on to learn seven essential kayaking tips for beginners.
Kayaking Tips for Beginners: 7 Pointers from the Pros
1. Safety is Always the Top Priority
Because kayaking is an outdoor activity, it’s subject to environmental factors and can be unpredictable. Your safety, as well as your companions’ safety, should be of utmost importance. Here are a few protocols to keep in mind before you hit the water.
Map out a float plan, run through your itinerary, and ensure that you’ve informed family or friends about your trip. Check if everyone has a flotation device and is capable of swimming independently. Double-check your gear if you’re prepared for low light conditions or sudden weather changes. Be sure to pack a whistle as a means to call attention in case of emergency — the standard distress signal is three prolonged blasts.
It’s critical to learn self-rescue measures so that you know what to do in case your kayak tips over. And if your kayak experiences a tailspin, don’t fight the vessel. Instead, follow the motion and use the kinetic energy to adjust accordingly. If you try to fight it, you might end up overcorrecting and land in a worse situation.
Kayaking with Others
If you’re a beginner, we strongly recommend that you kayak with an experienced companion or in a group, for safety purposes. The general rule is to stay within earshot of each other.
2. Wear the Appropriate Clothing
Highly absorbent materials, like cotton, are a big no-no while kayaking. Opt for non-binding swimwear such as short- or long-sleeved rashguards and swim shorts.
Pair these with neoprene footwear.
On sunny days, bring a sun-shielding hat to keep the rays out of your eyes. On colder days, layering is going to be your best friend.
3. Make Sure You Have the Essential Kayaking Gear
For beginners who are still mastering the basics of kayaking or are unable to go kayaking frequently, it may be more practical to borrow or rent gear or continue going on kayak tours where the necessary equipment is provided.
But if you are ready to go all-in, keep in mind that different types of kayaks suit different skill and activity levels, as well as different kinds of paddle blades. It’s best to exert due diligence by researching and consulting with experienced kayakers before making big purchases.
4. Be Realistic About Your Skill Level
For beginners, kayak tours can serve as a great way to practice kayaking techniques in a safe environment with certified guides on hand to teach and help. For example, just outside of Las Vegas is Lake Mead and Lake Mohave — perfect for beginners.
Now, if you’re ready to go on an unguided trip, prepare according to your current skill level to avoid unnecessary risks. Newbies should pick a small and calm body of water (like a lake or pond with minimal powerboat traffic) where you can see the opposite shoreline.
Launch from a shore that can be seen from the land so that you can easily call for help if needed. Choose a day with favorable weather conditions. Pace yourself appropriately and be mindful of your technique; the recommended paddling time for beginners is less than two hours.
5. Waterproof Your Belongings
Store your things in a drybag or press-and-seal containers. If you plan on using your smartphone now and then, invest in a waterproof case with a neck or wrist strap. But just to be safe, you should keep a hard copy of your route map and other vital information that’s relevant to your excursion.
6. Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Like we said earlier, kayaking is subject to external and environmental factors that may be out of your control. However, with careful planning and preparation, you increase your chances of having a fun and safe adventure on the water. Make sure to factor in these critical points when you plan your next excursion.
Check the forecast to ensure you’ve packed accordingly. For beginners, the ideal conditions are warm and dry weather coupled with calm waters. If the forecast predicts rain or showers, you may want to think twice and ensure that you can handle the waves that may occur.
Note that even if it rained a day or two before your trip, the waters may still be turbulent. The last thing you want is to put yourself in a situation beyond your skill level.
Consider other environmental factors like water temperature, fog (which muffles sound and limits visibility), boat traffic, and water pollution. It’s also recommended to map out your route ahead of time, identifying possible rest posts and noting any wildlife native to the area which you may encounter or need to be mindful of.
Some items are a given, like kayaking gear, sunscreen, a helmet, first-aid kit, signaling devices like a whistle, floatation devices, a bilge pump, and navigational items like maps and compasses.
You may also want to pack a roll of duct tape, as the adhesive comes in handy for anything that needs to be secured — from cracked rods to any loose gear. Other items that may be beneficial are a river knife, spray skirt, binoculars, and headlamps.
7. Post-Paddling Routine
Good kayak practices don’t end once you’ve docked back onshore. Make sure to stretch afterward to prevent aches and cramps from setting in. If possible, completely dry your clothes and gear before you pack them up. Storing them while damp encourages mold growth, which can ruin your things in the long run.
If you’ve purchased your own kayak and paddles, survey your gear for any damage that requires repairing before your next trip to avoid accidents.