Kayaking – A Full Guide for Beginners

Kayaking takes place in waterways across the world and is a sport that is growing in popularity. More and more people are finding the time to start kayaking and it provides enjoyment for hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Kayaking has universal appeal as people can pick it up at any age and can take place in a diverse range of waterways. People on vacation for example can enjoy a leisurely paddle in a touring kayak while the more adventurous types can take in some white water rapids. Anybody can enjoy kayaking.

This Kayaking Guide has been setup to help newcomers find out more about kayaking with basic information about the different types of kayaks and kayaking techniques for beginners.


How to hold a Kayak Paddle

Many newcomers or first timers make the assumption that a kayak paddle can be held in any random way. Its amazing how many people you see holding paddles upside down or in the wrong way. The following article should help show how to hold a kayak paddle properly.

Before gripping a paddle you need to understand the basics of how they are designed. Kayak paddles have two blades. These have a top and a bottom. The top is more horizontal than the bottom and the bottom blade is slightly tapered. Having your blades the right way up can significantly increase your performance.

Now that you know that paddle blades have a top and a bottom we will move on to looking at direction. As mentioned earlier in this article it is amazing how many people you see holding a paddle backwards. The key thing to remember here is that the concave or smooth side of the paddle should always be facing you. This helps generate more powerful strokes.

Once you have looked at the design and position of a paddle you should move on to determining your control grip. If you are right handed then your control grip is your right hand and vice a versa. The hand you use as your control grip never changes position. The grip of your other hand will be much looser.

The next step is to actually go ahead and grip the paddle. Here, the distance between your hands should be slightly over the width of your shoulders. Your grip should also not be too tight. People are often think you have to grip the paddles tightly but this is not the case. It causes more strain and limits your control.

It’s a case of practice makes perfect.



How to get into a Kayak

It’s something that all new kayakers have to learn and often leaves people feeling embarrassed. Taking the time to learn a few simple steps can divert this embarrassment. In the end it takes a bit of luck, practice and balance.

Where to get into your Kayak
You should start by looking for shallow water. Ideally you want a place that is free of rocks and where the water is shallow.

Decide on how you want to enter the Kayak
This often depends on the type of kayak you are using. If you are using a recereation kayak then you might want to get in on dry land and push yourself into the water. If you are going to attempt to enter a kayak while it is in the water then you will need to make sure that the water is shallow.

Put your kayak in the Water
When putting your kayak into the water make sure you start with the bow (front) first. Grab the grab loop at the back of the boat and position the cockpit in water that is shallow enough to stand up in. Once in this position you should move on to attempting to enter the kayak. When doing this keeps your hand in contact with the boat at all times.

Getting In
Place your right leg into the kayak and into position. Shift your weight over the kayak while keeping your left foot on the ground. Once your right leg is in move the paddle to your left hand and hold it behind you. Once there sit down on the back of the cockpit and balance yourself.

The next step is the most important and easy to get wrong. Grip the paddle with both of your hands on either side of your body. Use your right leg to steady yourself and slowly lift your left leg up and into the kayak.

Once you have both legs inside the kayak steady yourself once more and slide into the cockpit. You can then attach your spray deck. It takes time to master this and many people take the time to practice on dry land first. Just keep with it.


How to get out of a Kayak

Exiting a kayak is often more difficult than people expect and leaves many pulling off some very strange maneuvers. The tight design of some kayaks has made getting out of a kayak quite difficult. This article will provide some short pointers on how to get out of your kayak the right way.

Position Your Kayak Ready for Exit

You will want to find somewhere with a relatively flat shoreline and back your kayak up to as close to the side of the river as you can. So effectively the backend of the kayak will be up on the side of the shore.

Prepare for Exit

First thing you will need to consider is your paddle. In most instances you will be able to place it on the shore. Once you have done this you will need to push your legs together, place your hands behind your hips and lift yourself off the seat.

Begin Exit

Once you have lifted yourself out of the seat position yourself on top and at the back to the seat. Then lean the kayak to one side so that you can place your hand on the shoreline. At this point you should then lift your leg on the other side of the kayak out of the kayak. Remember to keep your balance here.

Step Out
Place the leg you have just moved into the riverbed and steady yourself. Now move the other leg into the centre and attempt to stand up. Finally make your way up the shoreline bringing your kayak with you.

It’s as simple as that.


Now that you know some of the most basics techniques of Kayaking let’s see the 5 golden tips for Kayaking.


How To Carry A Kayak

Kayaks range in both size and weight and carrying them can be a burden. The average kayak can weigh anywhere between 28 and 45 pounds but what is the best way to carry them. It’s a question many people ask and there are several techniques people can use.

Buddy Carry Technique
A method used when two people need to walk long distances with their kayaks.

– Line up two kayaks next to each other on the ground.
– Place all of your gear inside of the kayaks.
– Place one person at the front and one person at the back of the kayaks.
– Both people should be facing the same way.
– Pick up the kayaks by the grab loops.
– When both people are ready begin walking.

Boat Over The Shoulder Technique
This is the most common method used for carrying whitewater kayaks. It should be noted this approach can cause bruising and injuries. It should be avoided where possible.

– Place your gear inside your kayak.
– Stand on one side of your kayak.
– With one hand grab the far side rim of the kayak.
– Use your other hand to balance the kayak as you lift it up.
– Hold the kayak over your shoulder.
– Do not let the full weight of the kayak rest on your shoulder.

There are several variations of these techniques, which people have developed. You will find these across the web.


Basic Kayaking Safety

There are some basic safety rules in which every person who takes to the water should follow. As with any outdoor activity/sport there is always an element of danger. Being well prepared can be the between life and death.

Before You Set Out:

– Pack a first aid kit
– Inform someone of your plans
– Directional awareness
– Check the current
– Check you have a life jacket and helmet
– Check the weather conditions

Don’t Kayak Alone

This point is widely debated but only experienced kayakers should attempt to kayak alone. A group can provide safety and be able to assist if you get in to difficulty. Most would be advised not to kayak alone.

No Drink or Drugs

Alcohol and drugs don’t mix well with water sports. Alcohol can increase the rate at which hyperthermia sets in and cause disorientation.

Never Exceed the Boats Weight Limit

This will destabilize the boat and increase the likelihood of capsizing.

Weather Conditions

Make sure you check the weather conditions before setting out. You will need to ensure you have the right type of clothing. Changing weather patterns can also cause difficulties.

Check the Waterway

It’s important to understand the waterway you are entering. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where high-speed boats are operating. Its surprising how many people get caught out by this.

The most important thing to remember is to use common sense. If it feels wrong avoid doing it.

Kayak Insurance

Kayaking insurance often gets overlooked but is something that every kayaker should have. Specialist insurers in this sector are far and few between but there are several things you should consider when researching kayak insurance. These include:

Does the insurance policy cover theft of items from a kayak?
Does the insurance policy cover third party liability?
Are you covered for white water excursions?
Does the insurance policy cover both kayak and paddles?
Does the insurance policy cover medical costs?
Does the insurance policy cover damage during transportation?

These are some of the basic things you should look for. Kayak insurance is typically very cheap and helps protect you for almost all eventualities.


Types of Kayaks

Wooden Kayaks

Wooden kayaks can be both bought commercially or built by yourself. There are many great companies out there who craft beautiful looking wooden kayaks. They are well worth the look. However more and more people are looking into making their own kayaks. There are many reasons for why people are choosing this option.

The main benefit to building your own wooden kayak is the cost savings you can make. It is much cheaper to build your own kayaks than buying an expensive ready made one. Building your own kayak also gives you a sense of achievement and lets you completely customize the kayak to your needs.

Although there are many upsides to making your own there are a couple of key things to consider. For example the maintenance involved in keeping the kayak in good working condition. A custom build means that you will have no manuals to consult and repairs will most likely have to be made by yourself.

There are many books and online guides which can give you guidance on building a kayak. It’s important to do your homework and check the validity of these guides. There are many options to consider and you should note that most self-build kayaks will not be suitable for white water rapids.

Sprint Kayaks

Sprint kayaks are essentially racing kayaks and are typically used by very experienced kayakers. These types of kayaks are harder to keep upright and are not a kayak someone would start out with.Sprint kayaks are designed to be fast. They make use of a slim line design and engineered to help cut through the water. The aim is to create as little drag on the water as possible however the design means that these types of kayaks overturn easily.

It is important to note at this point that there are different types of sprint kayaks. If you are not part of a team then you will need to get your own. This can be expensive. Spirit kayaks are custom by nature so you should do your research first. If it’s your first sprint kayak then you might want to try and get a design that offers a bit of stability.

Sprint kayaks handle quite differently to other types of kayaks so when you receive your kayak you should take sometime to familiarize yourself with it. Most people tend to take their new kayak to the river. This is a great place to practice with your new kayak.

So if you enjoy agile and fast paced kayaking then a sprint kayak could be the option for you

Sit on Top Kayaks

Perfect for beginners.The sit on top kayak, as the name suggests, is designed to have the user sit on top of the kayak seat. Traditionally users sit with inside a kayak. This design means that users don’t need a spray skirt. This design makes them easy to use and perfect for children and beginners.

Sit on top kayaks are designed to be wider than your average kayak. This provides a great level of stability and in turn makes them harder to tip over. This design also means in some cases that they can hold much more than a traditional kayak. This is particularly important in some regions.

You will usually find that that sit on top kayaks are made from either plastic or fiberglass. This makes them light and easy to maintain. They can also be bought relatively cheaply and there is a big second hand market for these.

Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks are small seaworthy boats that feature a covered deck and the ability to incorporate a spraydeck. This makes the less maneuverable than your standard white water kayak however it provides much more storage and cargo space. Sea kayaks are also easier to paddle in a straight line and provide comfort for those longer journeys.Sea kayaking has become a popular vocational activity as it is easy to pickup and can be enjoyed by the whole family. These types of kayaks can be hired relatively cheaply however they are expensive to buy.

Sea kayaks are used throughout the world but are particularly popular in North America. There are many sheltered bays in this region, which provide good kayaking conditions and allow people to take in the great views.

Kayaks of this type are typically between ten and eighteen feet tall while the width of these crafts can be as little as 21 inches. Perfect for long trips or a short vocational trip.

Plastic Kayaks

Plastic kayaks are often affordable, widely available and offer a great level of stability. They are often the cheapest on the market and are easily maintained.There are two types of plastic kayaks. These include blow-molded kayaks and roto-molded kayaks. Blow molded kayaks tend to sturdy and resistant to scuffs. This is because of the special protection applied to them. The roto-molded kayaks often light weight and more flexible which makes them perfect for white water kayaking.

If you are someone who occasionally kayaks or takes the odd kayaking break then a plastic kayak can be perfect. The more experienced user who likes white water touring might find that plastic kayaks are not the best option. This is because they are susceptible to scuffing and in turn create drag. This will slow down your performance.

If portability and price is a big consideration then you might want to consider purchasing a fiberglass kayaks. These are great for people looking to go on long trips.

Plastic kayaks provide a great option.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks tend to look a bit like an inflatable dingy but yet providing a surprisingly sturdy performance. These types of kayaks are sometimes referred to as the ducky and can be transported by hand using a carrier bag.An inflatable kayak has to be pumped up before use using a foot pump and almost always require less than 3 psi. This means that they require little pressure. The quality of inflatable kayaks can also range widely. At the more expensive end you can get kayaks that are designed to be hard and seaworthy. At the lower end of the scale you will find kayaks that are built for calm waters and occasional use. A professional or enthusiast would tend not use this type of kayak.

If you are looking for a kayak that is easy to master and that has a small turning circle then an inflatable kayak could be for you. Despite this they are often slower than traditional kayaks and can require more effort.

Folding Kayaks

The folding kayak is a descendent of the Inuit kayak and is traditionally made from animal skin and wood. Modern folding kayaks tend to be made up of plastic or a wooden or metal frame and a tough fabric skin. Folding kayaks have become extremely popular as they are readily available and are almost unsinkable. This is because of the air chambers that are built into the hull of the kayak.Folding kayaks are well known for their durability, longevity and stability. You might think that folding kayaks are a new conception but in fact you will see folding kayaks dating back to the 1930’s and 1940’s on the waterways.

The design or construction of a folding kayak is often the same regardless of what material and frame is used. Many different materials can be used for the construction of a folding kayak and include mountain ash, spruce and marine plywood. Despite this practically all folding kayaks are made up of a solid bow, stern pieces and typically three to seven ribs which connect to a number of flexible attachments. These elements provide the structure for which to rap the skin or protective layer around.

Folding kayaks can be expensive but are adaptable to many conditions.

Fiberglass Kayaks

Lightweight and versatile kayaks.Fiberglass kayaks are highly regarded amongst kayak enthusiasts because of their versatility and ability to hold their shape. Fiberglass is extremely strong and its lightweight properties mean that owners can transport these types of kayaks easily. A must for any regular.

Lightweight kayaks are also great in the water. These kayaks adapt well to rapids and are much easier and quicker to paddle. Many people use these types of kayaks for touring and many different shapes and sizes of fiberglass kayaks have been developed.

Fiberglass kayaks are also long lasting. They are high in strength and often make for a good investment. This is because of the way in which they are made. One thing to consider is that the paint on these kayaks can often wear through. This creates some drag. Occasional maintenance is required

Arctic Kayaks

 All kayaks today are based on the artic kayak design and are often referred to as the original kayaks. These were traditionally made from a wooden frame and covered in sealskin to form the waterproof barrier. This design made them extremely lightweight yet at the same time very strong. This was important at the time as Inuits and people from other civilizations needed to easily carry a kayak from one river to another.Although modern day kayaks don’t much look like arctic kayaks many of their basic structural and design elements remain the same. All arctic kayaks were built by hand and by individuals, which mean design and build materials often varied. People would build them to suit their specific needs. The non-standardization of arctic kayaks meant that it took a long time for Europe to catch up and replicate the Inuits designs.

There are still people that build traditional arctic kayaks today but you may be hard pressed to find them. If you are looking for something similar then a folding kayak might be your best option. These tend share very similar properties and are readily available.


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