Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy

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Kayaking is not as hard to learn as you might think. You only need a few basic skills to paddle effectively. You need a good guide or instructor to help you learn how to enter and exit a kayak, how to perform the forward stroke and the sweep stroke for turning the boat, and a few lessons on safety. With these skills, you are ready to go out and enjoy kayaking.

Not much is required in terms of strength and athleticism. Actually, a lot of strength makes it difficult to learn how to paddle efficiently. Most people with a lot of arm and upper body strength tend to rely more on their arms to kayak, something that is quite inefficient and makes you sore and tired quickly. The proper way to paddle is using your trunk and core to propel your boat forward, putting your paddle in the water and rotating your body core to almost pull your body toward the paddle.

The arms are supposed to support the paddle, but most people think they can move their kayaks forward by digging their paddles in and pulling back on them. On the contrary, paddling is a simple body rotation concept that is grasped immediately by most beginners. Women, who typically have an inherent core strength and lower center of gravity, are more likely to grasp the concept faster than men.

As you are paddling, remember always to pay attention to what’s happening in your arms. If they feel sore and tired as you paddle, then you most likely are not using your core adequately.

Misconception 2: Kayaking is too strenuous for ordinary women. It causes a lot of pain.

That depends on whether you have mastered the art of efficient strokes. If you just get out there and try to use your muscles and not your trunk and core, then you’ll get tired and sore. But if you first learn how to make proper, efficient strokes, then you’ll be able to paddle for several hours, even the whole day without getting overly tired or sore. Of course you may have blisters in an all-day paddle, but wearing a pair of paddling gloves will prevent that.

Kayaking is quite easy on the body — something you can resort to even when you’ve lost the ability to ski, bike or hike. So if you have a bad knee, shoulder or back, why not make your way into a store selling kayaks, sit in one and find out if your condition may prevent you from paddling. If you can sit in a kayak, in the position required, and rotate your torso freely from side to side, then it’s likely that you’ll paddle well.

Misconception 3: Kayaks tip over easily and you’ll get stuck or find it difficult to get back upright.

There are different types of kayaks with different stabilities. Some tip over easily, some don’t. The trick is usually to pick a boat that suits your abilities. For beginners, a wide boat with a large cockpit, such as a day touring or recreational kayak offers great initial stability — how a kayak feels when you get in it and paddle it on flat water. Initial stability implies that the boat is much harder to flip when turning or paddling. Boats with good initial stability are stable enough you’ll be able to stand up to tip them over.

If you are an intermediate level boater, you might go with a narrower boat. However, if you are an advanced level boater who intends to practice your advanced techniques, you may enjoy working with a very narrow boat with poor initial stability but exceptional secondary stability. Your skills will ensure you don’t tip initially or when leaning or edging, and the boat will hang in there as you make low-level braces or faster turns. With kayaks, the idea is to pick a boat that suits your skill level and paddling environment and objectives.

What if your boat tips over? Well, if the boat is properly fitted it’s very unlikely that you’ll get stuck. Gravity will help you fall out of the upside down kayak particularly if you aren’t wearing a kayak skirt. If you have the skirt on you’ll need to pull the skirt’s loop and loosen it before you can exit the boat. Prior to embarking on a kayaking trip, find a good instructor, guide or friend to show you how to properly exit a kayak — known as a wet exit. It’s a simple concept that you can easily practice in a pool until you’re comfortable doing it.

Once you’ve mastered how to get out of an upside down kayak, you need to practice getting back into a boat deep in water. The skill is called deep water re-entry. While there are several kayak re-entry techniques, your guide will know what works for you, your kayak and your paddling conditions. So spend some time with your instructor or guide to learn these options and get acquainted with various techniques.

Misconception 4: Kayaks are difficult to keep going straight. To do that, you’ll need complete focus and won’t see the sights around you.

The ability to paddle straight (known as tracking) depends on your boat and its hull. If you go paddling in a day touring or recreational kayak, you will find it easy to keep your boat going straight. But when paddling longer sea kayaks, it is a little difficult to keep them going straight especially in high winds. Nevertheless, sea kayaks usually come with rudders to enable them go straight.

Keeping the kayak going straight also depends on your paddle strokes. With good paddle strokes, you will easily have the kayak going straight and afford all the time to enjoy the water and see the sights around you. Find a good guide or instructor to help you get the stroking skills you need to paddle your kayak. Also choose a boat that will match your skills and objectives.

Misconception 5: Kayaking isn’t fun in high winds and strong waves.

Kayaking will offer you amazing adventure stories to share with your friends and family. And if you are prepared for the waves, wind and weather, they’ll just make your outing fun and memorable. Watching advancing rain lines across the water or knowing that you’re just about to be drenched actually can make paddling much more thrilling.

However, you need to be ready for a variety of weather conditions if you are to fully enjoy your outing. For example, you should bring your rain jacket and change of shirts during summer and appropriate paddling gear and extra clothes to keep you warm and dry in winter. Also make sure that you know the location of your trip, potential weather, paddling conditions and what you need to bring well in advance. If you choose a trip that suits your skill level and objectives and are properly prepared for it, then even the winds, storms or waves will not ruin your kayaking adventure.

Misconception 6: Kayakers wear funny stuff, including skirts.

Well, it’s true. Paddlers do wear some unusual gear, such as the kayaker skirt, neoprene paddling suit, dry suit, splash jacket and a helmet with faceguard. The kayaker skirt is worn to stop water from getting into the cockpit. Attached to the body using Velcro waist band or suspenders and also attached to the boat’s cockpit to form a watertight closure, skirts are used in the rain, surf, waves, rapids or cold.

While many people don’t like the skirts because of fear that it would be harder to get out when a boat turns over, they are quite easy to remove even when under water. You just grab your skirt’s loop and pull it forward. The skirts found in day touring and recreational kayaks are removed using the knees inside the boat.

But you don’t have to wear skirts on every trip or kayak. In fact, skirts aren’t often worn in day touring and recreational kayaks, although you’ll still be glad to have a skirt in the kayaks if a rainstorm occurs.

Misconception 7: Kayaking requires a lot of expensive equipment.

Like every outdoor sports, kayaking requires some equipment. For example, you’ll need a paddle, boat, skirt, gloves, wicking clothes, rain gear and PFD. Of course, some of the gear can be a bit expensive, but most of it is easy to rent. Fully guided tours include a boat, skirt, paddle and PFD, while most locations have stores where you can rent the equipment. You also can use the same wicking clothes, rain gear and gloves for kayaking that you use for hiking and biking adventures.

Misconception 8: All kayakers are either weird or crazy.

When observed in surf zones or whitewater rapids as they enjoy the thrill of the waterfalls, rapids and calamitous surfs, you might think that paddlers are crazy. But not all kayakers go this far and in fact, a good number simply paddle for the joy of being in control of their crafts, the time on water and the closeness to nature. You can paddle to take pictures, view wildlife, relax or fish. And for whatever reason you go out there, you will have a lot of fun. So kayaking is not for crazy or weird women. It’s for people like you.

You still have your questions or doubts about kayaking? Why not visit a local boat store and find out if you can get paddling lessons. Most kayaking and canoeing clubs and stores offer beginner lessons. If you have friends who kayak, you can ask them for beginner lessons on paddling. Or simply go on a guide trip tailored for beginners. Once you do that, you will be amazed at how easy and fun kayaking is.

At Captain Mike’s we offer stable, comfortable and safe kayaks that will match your objectives. We have rented out our kayaks to hundreds of women kayakers who have all been ecstatic about their experience. You too can enjoy a wonderful day with one of our boats. Contact us today so we can help you plan your outing. For more information on our kayaks and paddling adventures in Crystal River, visit the “Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy” site.

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