If you enjoy spending time outdoors, there’s perhaps nothing quite as relaxing as finding yourself out on a body of water in the hull of a kayak. Whether it’s taking in the tranquil beauty that surrounds you or rocketing down a speedy river with white spray cooling your face, kayaking is an excellent outdoor activity that’s becoming increasingly popular among beginners and experts alike.
If you’re considering getting into kayaking, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. What kind of kayak should you buy? Will you take to the water naturally or do you need some instruction? What kind of paddles do you need? Questions like these can stand in the way and delay the excitement and enjoyment that comes from getting out onto the water with your friends and loved ones. Fortunately, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you get started on your kayaking adventure. We’ve provided a quick list of the most essential tips that will help you stop wishing and get out into a kayak yourself. While this is certainly not an exhaustive guide to kayaking, it should be enough to make you feel at least a bit more confident about your basic understanding of the sport so that you can get started.
1. Consult a Professional
Even if you’re an otherwise seasoned outdoorsman or woman, don’t feel too proud to enlist the services of a professional to help you in both the technique and equipment areas of beginners’ kayaking. Go to your local watersports outfitter and speak to a professional about the best options for beginners as far as equipment is concerned. You don’t need to take their advice as gospel, just take the time to learn a bit about your options.
You should also consider enlisting the expertise of a kayak instructor. These professionals can help you quickly feel comfortable with your kayak, sometimes even after a single short lesson. Don’t be afraid to be a student at first! You’ll be rewarded with a quicker understanding of how to enjoy yourself on the water.
2. Choose the Right Gear
Not all kayaks are created equal, and neither are kayakers. When selecting your kayak, paddles, and other equipment like life jackets, take into account your own build, height and personal preference. Find a kayak with a seat and foot pegs that you can adjust to your ideal position to ensure that you’ll be comfortable and secure at all times while paddling.
You should also take into account the type of water where you’ll be spending most of your time. Sea kayaks are shaped differently than river kayaks, so be sure to consider your environment before buying.
3. Keep It Wide
Yes, we know—you expect to be a kayaking expert in a matter of days. But to start out, don’t be ashamed to select a wider-based kayak. These are easier to keep upright and maneuver, and are perfect for beginners who are still learning how to keep a stable kayak. You should also consider selecting an open-cockpit kayak, which are much easier to ease into and out of—particularly from the water.
4. Start Simple
You might want to jump right into the rapids upon buying a kayak, but this might not be the best choice. Start on flat water (lakes and ponds, bodies of water without currents) until you’ve gotten to know the way your kayak moves and maneuvers in the water. This way you’ll feel much more confident once it’s time to tackle more difficult aquatic terrain.
5. Use Good Form
Okay, we get it—you’re not a little kid taking piano lessons. But learning proper sitting and paddling form in a kayak at the start will benefit you hugely down the road if you become a lifelong kayaker. Sit up straight, with a slight forward lean, and develop a consistent stroke as you go. Focusing consciously on form at the beginning will allow you to be instinctive about it later on, and will also make kayaking less exhausting and more fun.
There you have it! If you follow these easy tips, you’ll be a pro kayaker before you know it.