Kayaking is an exhilarating and memorable sport. With a kayak of the right type and size, you can explore amazing sites, enjoy a rejuvenating exercise, and stay up close with nature. You can also paddle through a bay, river, stream, lake or reservoir for fishing, sightseeing or just to get a tan. Plus, you can paddle your vessel through an ocean or a rushing river to enjoy high-performance tricks and to negotiate white water and rapids.
So is kayaking hard or easy?
Kayaking is quite easy, even for a beginner. You only need a few skills to get started—a paddling technique, getting in and out of the vessel, and launching the boat. And with the right training and preparation, you’ll find kayaking much easier than most other sports.
Besides, there are many options when it comes to kayaking. So you can start at the level you desire and go as fast or as slow as you like. And depending on whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you can choose to paddle as far as possible or just to hang out and relax in your vessel a few hundred yards offshore.
There is no obligation to undertake the activity in a more challenging river with rushing current. That should be left for the time when you feel extremely good at the sport. But for a routine trip, you’ll only need to get used to a kayak, learn how to maneuver and paddle it, master how to get in and out of it, and you’re ready to go.
How do you begin kayaking?
The easiest way to start and master the sport is to do your homework thoroughly. That is, you need to find out and learn the basics of the sports before you can embark on a trip. While it is possible to begin without any training, it is a good idea to undertake kayak lessons as you prepare to get into the sport.
Kayak courses are everywhere and you’ll learn worthwhile things including the best kayak for you, basic paddling technique, safety, and rescue techniques. Later on along your kayaking journey, you can take courses that teach you advanced paddling techniques and how to successfully engage in harder things like whitewater and sea kayaking.
So what are the basics you need to get right before you start?
1. Picking the right kayak
Your vessel will make or break your paddling experience. So as a rule, make sure to pick a kayak that you can easily control—one that is the right length and width, and which you can easily steer with your paddle. Generally, it should be a shorter, wider kayak that offers more control and maneuverability.
When starting, it is advisable to buy or rent a sit-on-top kayak—it has a flatter design, a self-bailing mechanism, and an innate inability to sink. This will ensure you get the support you need to begin the sport. Besides, a sit-on-top kayak is easier to get in and out and you’ll not need to worry about climbing into the closed cockpit of a traditional sit-inside kayak.
As an alternative to a sit-on-top kayak, you may consider a recreational kayak. Such kayaks are usually shorter, wider, more stable and ideal for beginners. Just make sure the kayak you pick has a flatter hull as that is necessary for enhanced stability.
2. Pick the right kayak paddle
A typical paddle size ranges between 210 cm and 260 cm, but you should choose a paddle based on your height and the width of your kayak. Remember, your kayak will sit close to the water, so you need a paddle that will allow you to keep the blade as close to the boat as possible without scraping the sides of the boat.
3. Learn to sit properly in the kayak
Before you embark on a paddling trip, you should practice sitting up straight in your kayak with your nose vertically aligned with your belly button, hands at shoulder length, and without leaning too far to either side. Leaning too far to one side increases the odds of tipping.
Plus, you should learn to avoid leaning as you paddle harder to enhance speed or cut through a headwind. On the contrary, you should learn to rotate your torso as you make each stroke instead of relying on your arms. Torso rotation as you make a stroke saves your strength, puts more power behind the paddle, and gives you more speed.
4. Learn to use your paddle
Prior to a kayaking venture, you should make sure that you know how to hold a paddle the right way with blades facing the right direction and hands in the correct position. Also, make sure to learn how to seamlessly get the paddle blade into the water without having to dip the paddle straight down every time.
Equally, it is critical to learn to turn the kayak by dragging the paddle in the same side of the boat as you desire it to turn. But you can also practice the sweep stroke as a means of turning your vessel while maintaining your momentum.
5. Master basic self-rescue techniques
You should not just expect to get wet on a kayaking trip, but also prepare for emergency situations. So before you embark on a paddling escapade, make sure you’re equipped with basic kayak rescue techniques like wet exit and wet entry.
Once in the water, it’ll be important that you’re able to quickly and calmly exit the boat if it ends up capsizing. Find out what to do during emergencies and practice on dry land or with a trained instructor before you embark on your trip.
Likewise, after you’re out of the kayak, you should be able to get back inside, particularly when you’re out in open water. So before your first outing, make sure to learn the wet entry or the paddle float rescue technique.
Starting it right, having it easy
Paddling is easy and fun, but you’ll need to start right. That is why getting an introductory course on kayaking really helps.
At Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy, we offer a wide range of courses on kayaking to make it as easy as possible for those joining the sport. A typical beginner course lasts 1-2 hours and is designed to fill your toolkit with the fundamental skills and techniques that you’ll need in the water.
After the initial course, you are ready to go. Of course, you can book for other guided tours to refine your skills and test out your physical strength in a nurturing environment. For more information on kayaking tips, ideas, techniques and courses, visit the site “Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy”.