Kayaking appeals to a variety of outdoor enthusiasts because it's a sport that can be as simple as paddling around on a pond or as complex as a rough and tumble ride on rapids.
If you want to try kayaking but don't know where to start, you're in the right place! We've got some tips that will help ensure that you enjoy your first attempts at kayaking, no matter what type of adventure you're planning.
Choose the Right Type of Kayak for Your Adventure
There are different kayaks for different water adventures. Here are the most popular.
SIT. A Sit-In Kayak is a common choice for beginners. They have cargo room and a hook for a spray skirt.
Touring. Longer than a SIT kayak, they're more stable and have more cargo room.
SOT. Sit-on-Top kayaks are ideal for warm days.
Fishing Kayaks have dedicated hardware mounted for holding reels and a tackle box.
Choose the right-sized paddle, too!
Whistle. A rescue whistle and knowing S.O.S. will carry farther than your voice on the open water.
Dry Sack. Protect your electronics and everything else in a dry sack.
Bilge Pump. Something that you won't know you need until you need it. This is a must-have for SIT kayaks.
Gloves. They will prevent blisters and will also keep the sun off of the backs of your hands.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Your clothing should be appropriate for the water temperature. If the water temperature is cold and you capsize, you want to be dressed for the water temperature, not dry land. Wetsuits and dry suits are a necessity when touring or at sea.
Quick drying clothes are the best choice for calm summer days.
Wear bright colors. You're sitting low in the water. Make it easy for boaters to spot you.
Buy a Personal Flotation Device
P.F.D.'s designed specifically for paddling won't interfere with your stroke or be too bulky.
A beautiful day on the bay can quickly turn into a nightmare if you're having to paddle back to shore into a headwind.
Use the Buddy System
Just as in swimming, don't paddle alone.
Learn in Calm Water
Even if you're planning to learn how to run rapids, beginners find it easier to improve their control if the first outings take place during warm, calm days.
Learn how to Enter and Exit a Kayak
This technique from PaddlingMag.com works with nearly every type of kayak. These tips will make you look like a pro.
Use Correct Posture
Rest your feet on the foot rests on each side of the kayak. Point your toes outward and your heels towards the center. Your knees should be slightly bent, allowing your thighs to rest on the sides of the boat and your back to sit up straight against the backrest.
Learn Basic Techniques
Beginners don't have to learn to roll the first time out. You'll learn the technique faster if you learn the basics of maintaining your balance and basic paddle strokes first.
Know the Rules of the Waterway
Mariner's rules apply to you, too. Don't wait for your friend or instructor to shout out instructions to you right before you hit a channel. The rules for navigation are online at the United States Coast Guard website.
This series by Paddling.com breaks it down into bite-size pieces and is targeted towards kayakers.
Like every other sport, kayakers have their own language. Here's a list of recognized paddle arm signals that are used around waterways.
This PDF of Hand Signals is distributed by the International Rafting Federation.