If there’s one good thing the Covid-19 pandemic did for us, it’s that 6 in 10 Americans say they have a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors. This has been shown by how many people are trying new sports such as hiking, camping, and kayaking.
Well, if you’re one of those people looking to try something new, then kayaking is a great way to embrace nature and enjoy the great outdoors, as long as you know what you’re doing. Luckily, we can help with that! Let’s talk about some beginner kayaking tips to help you get started on your new hobby!
Why You Should Try Kayaking
Before we jump into tips, let’s briefly talk about some of the major benefits of kayaking. There are a lot of reasons it’s such a popular outdoor activity, and here are just a few examples!
If you’ve never been kayaking, we assure you that there are few better ways to enjoy nature. Sitting on top of a quiet, peaceful body of water with a 360-view of the trees and wildlife is hard to match.
Moreover, there’s a reason this is such a popular sport for outdoor lovers. If you’re looking to enjoy nature from a new perspective than you’re used to, then we can assure you that kayaking is better than sitting on a boat with a loud engine!
If you’re worried about the cost of purchasing kayaks, then fear not! It’s not nearly as bad as your other favorite sports, including hiking and camping, which require plenty of initial investment and upkeep.
On the other hand, kayaks don’t require expensive hiking boots that need replacing every season or two. There’s no need to refill a tank, buy excessive equipment, or even maintain it.
Consider kayaks to be a “buy once, cry once” type of purchase, which can help you justify buying a quality one upfront. When you buy a quality kayak, you can generally rest assured that you will have it for life. Bicycles, skis, and necessary equipment for other sports tend to wear much faster, and they have far more parts to damage.
Conversely, kayaks are primarily made of one large piece of plastic (or other material) that simply needs to float above water. Even inflatable kayaks tend to last for years or even decades!
You’re far more likely to replace your entire wardrobe before you need to replace your kayaks, meaning you can enjoy this sport for most of your life with just one initial investment and proper storage.
Of course, kayaking is an excellent workout, especially for your upper body. If you’re looking to build upper-body strength and endurance, then kayaking is one of the best outdoor sports you can do!
Contrary to rowing, kayaking has no leg involvement, meaning that you are only using your arms to pull with each stroke. This offers an excellent muscular endurance workout for your biceps, shoulders, lats (latissimus dorsi), and core.
If you’re used to hiking, biking, running, or other outdoor sports that get you from one point to another, you’ll be surprised by how big of a contrast kayaking is.
Not only that, but the constant motion is also a great cardiovascular workout, meaning that it’s great for your heart. All in all, you can take it slow and enjoy nature more or go fast and get a good workout in!
Best Beginner Kayaking Tips
Okay, now that you know why kayaking is such a great sport, there’s no need to wait. Here are some tips to help you get started on your first kayak trip!
Should You Rent or Buy?
First, the initial decision is to rent or buy a kayak. Now, if you have the proper storage at home for it, we highly recommend buying one if you’re an outdoorsy type.
The reason for this is that rentals are pretty expensive. If you’re planning on a trip that involves renting a few times or for a few days at a time, then you may as well buy one.
As we mentioned, the upfront cost may seem daunting at first, but it pays for itself over time, especially when you buy a quality model. You may even find used ones for cheaper that could still last for a lifetime with proper care!
However, if you’re still unsure, then we recommend renting for a day to see how it is. Although, we’re almost certain you’ll love it!
Are You Fishing?
If you’re going fishing on the kayak, then we have a couple of kayak fishing tips for you.
We highly recommend buying or renting a decent-sized kayak, first and foremost. Even if you’re doing catch and release, your fishing gear will take up room in your cramped kayak, along with your food and beverages.
Consequently, it’s important that you know how to fish and that you’re comfortable sitting in a slightly cramped area for extended periods.
Use the Right Gear
As we mentioned, kayaking comes with a limited need for specialized gear and clothing, relative to other sports. However, it’s still best to plan ahead.
First, and most importantly, you want to pack a coast guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) and a first aid kit in case of emergency. This is the most important item you will need to pack, so pack it or reserve it ahead of time.
Next, you will obviously need a paddle. If you aren’t packing one yourself, we recommend trying them out before sticking to one. You want to ensure that it’s comfortable on your grip, effective, and easy to stow when not in use.
Also, you want to wear the right clothing, preferably swimwear. Even if you aren’t jumping in, you are very close to the water, and you are paddling it back. If you don’t get splashed once, then you either did something right or wrong, but we’re impressed either way.
Lastly, because you’re on the water and not in the trees, we highly recommend a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen or a lightweight long sleeve to protect you.
Other than that, all you need is your food, beverages, fishing gear, or whatever else you planned to pack for the trip! If you want to pack a headlamp, some dry bags (for your electronics), and a watch, those may also be helpful!
Adjust Your Kayak
Especially if your kayaking trip is long, we highly recommend adjusting your kayak to fit your body.
First, you want to push your butt firmly against the back of the seat. In many cases, your kayak will let you tune the angle of the seat or seatback, but either way, do whatever feels most comfortable. Remember, for both balance and leverage, you want to sit relatively upright.
Next, place the balls of your feet on the foot pegs, which you should easily identify on the bottom. From there, you want to have a slight bend in the knee, so adjust by tilting them and sliding them along the track.
Finally, make sure your bent knees are in firm contact on each side, which will help you control the side-to-side motion of the boat water gets choppier. Essentially, your fit should be fairly snug but not cramped enough that you can’t get out if you tip over.
Launch Your Kayak
Okay, now we can begin! In most cases, your kayak will launch from a gradual shoreline or a dock. Try to avoid dragging the hull across the ground, especially on gravel or rock.
Carry the kayak to the launch point (preferably with a friend), position it so that only the very back end is out of the water, face the bow away, and stand in the cockpit, holding a paddle on the ground for balance and security. Next, grab the cockpit and sit down in the seat, pushing your butt back.
From there, simply use the paddle to push yourself into the water. Again, try not to drag the kayak on land. If it isn’t going, get out and move it. Once your boat is on the water, you’re good to go!
Hold your paddle firmly and evenly about shoulder-width apart. To move forward, simply alternate your strokes on either side and paddle more on each side to steer. Try practicing this on still water first to get a feel for it, especially if you plan to kayak on running water soon.
Lastly, we recommend choosing a day to do this ahead of time with a backup day planned just in case. For a first trip, you want to go when the weather is clear both for safety and personal enjoyment! If you have that, you’re good to go!
Enjoy the Trip
Now that you know some helpful kayaking tips for beginners, make the most out of your first kayaking trip and enjoy what nature has to offer! Stay up to date with our latest outdoor news and feel free to contact us with any questions!