Getting Started with Kayaking – Everything You Need To Know

girl on the kayakIf you are a person with a sense of adventure, then kayaking should definitely be on your bucket list.

It is more intense than canoeing but the boat is easier to paddle than a canoe.

In calm waters, it is easier to maintain it in a straight line, but in rapid waters, because you are alone, you are counting on your own strength, will and control to cruise through the waves.

The Difference between Kayaks and Canoes

There are several differences between kayaks and canoes.

First, canoes have an open cockpit, much resembling a rowing boat, while kayaks come with a closed cockpit and the paddler needs a spray skirt in order to prevent water from coming into the kayak.

Secondly, canoes have a bench for the paddler to sit on, and sometimes there can be multiple paddlers, while in kayaks the paddler sits on the floor with his feet in front of him.

Third, canoes have a single paddle while the kayaks have a double paddle and the paddler needs to alternate sides to move forward.

Kayak’s Overview

Kayaking resembles nothing you will experience during your lifetime.

There is not a single thing that can make you feel more in control than cruising through rapid waters, in a boat that has your lower body below the water level, and you feel the waves pushing your whole body, splashing your face and chest while you are still on top of it all.

white water kayakThis small boat can give you the experience you want.

You can have a calm, peaceful cruise through the waters, having your lower body surrounded by the cool of the water and the heat of the sun touching your skin, while your paddles gently pushing you forward, in agreement to the waves.

To get some speed, you push harder and you start feeling the tension in your body: your arms and shoulders, your back and waist, your hips and legs, your whole body is engaged in the movement.

There is an intimate relationship between your body, your kayak, and nature itself, while you cooperate, engage, and move forward. Sometimes you might gently caress the water with your paddles, in fear of not disturbing a pelican or a crane from his meal.

Kayaking can be a meditative practice, in a way.

However, it can also be an intense and entertaining sport.

Kayaking is an Olympic sport and competitions come in many forms, some of the more exciting being: slalom racing, where you can race downstream at high speed while trying your best not to touch poles with your kayak or your body and freestyle kayaking, which entails performing acrobatics or tricks on top of your kayak.

As a hobby, kayaking can deliver you different experiences. It mostly depends on what kind of waters you are cruising.

recreational kayak

On calm waters

You will need:

A recreational kayak!

The recreational kayak is a boat meant for fun on the water, great for a cruise on safe bodies of waters, for example, lakes.

This kayak can have a formal cockpit or a cockpit with shallow impressions to sit in, which makes this one perfect for paddlers who also enjoy fishing and/or swimming.

The recreational kayak is perfect for beginners who want a stable, affordable kayak that they can easily navigate on calm waters, enjoying the scenery and the exercise that go with it.

A recreational kayak can be between 9 and 12 feet- long and usually have wider cockpits so that the paddler can easily go in the boat and out of the boat.

They are usually found at prices as low as 125$, but specialists say that some investment on the paddler’s part is needed if he or she wants more comfort in the cockpit, or if they feel that they are not happy with the quality of the materials.

Kayaks that can deliver more comfort, more reliability, and more sturdiness can start at about 500$ and can get up to 800$.

The cost:

Price ranges from 200$ to 1,500$. Take a look at our best kayak picks for more details.

You will also need:

A PFD, which is short for Personal Flotation Device:

When you do kayaking, it is necessary to use a specifically designed life vest, a more comfortable and breathable one.

In a specialized store, you should look for kayaking PFD that usually has plenty of paneling and less padding material and in the neck area and especially around the shoulders, the PFD should always have less material in a way that is not restricting your movements.

The paddle:

For a person with a normal height, a paddle with a length between 210 cm and 220 cm is long enough; however if greater speed is your top priority, then you should get shorter paddles.

In specialized stores, you can find two types of paddles: paddles with straight handles and paddles with bent shafts.

The paddles with straight shafts are normally less expensive but the other ones take a lot of pressure off your wrists due to improved ergonomics.

Float bags:

Float bags are necessary if your boat does not have a built-in bulkhead because they keep your boat floating if you fall out, which happens more oftentimes than you might think.

Float bags are special bags that you can pump with air and store in the stern of the boat and they fulfill the role of the built-in bulkhead.

Bilge pump:

This is an important device just in case the spray skirt fails to stop the water from entering the cockpit, in this case you would pump the water out with this handheld plastic pump.

touring kayak

On Large Waters

You will need:

A touring kayak.

Touring takes place on the safe bodies of water, but on greater distance than recreational kayaking.

These kayaks are longer than the recreational ones; you can find them in measures ranging between 14 feet and 17 feet.

Their ample cockpit space is ideal for storing camping gear, making them ideal for cruising overnight.

Because of their length, they will feel less stable than the recreational kayaks and therefore are not suitable for beginners, and you will need some experience before cruising safely in one.

If you have some experience with kayaking and you feel comfortable enough to go to the next level, you should know that touring kayaks, even though they are long, they come with a tighter cockpit that can keep you stable even in unstable waters.

The cost

Prices starting around 800$ to 1,800$ but if you opt for composite materials the price can even get up to 6,000$.

It is advisable to try one out in a guided tour before considering the investment.

You will need

Float bags (in case the boat is not equipped with a built-in bulkhead), PFD, a bilge pump.

The paddle:

For touring kayaks, due to their length, it requires a longer paddle; an average man would need a paddle with a length between 230 and 240 cm.

Spray skirt:

When using a touring kayak, because you will most likely cover longer distances and henceforth you will travel a long time, you would need a spray skirt, which is basically a seal made of neoprene that is water resistant.

The seal sits tightly on your waist and prevents the water from entering the boat.

white water kayaking

Whitewater Kayaking

Warning! Before moving on to recommendations, I would like to stress the fact the whitewater kayaking is dangerous for an inexperienced paddler.

In rapid waters, the danger of falling out of the boat is greater, but so is the danger of remaining in the boat whilst the boat is upside down.

A paddler needs to acquire the ability to roll before considering buying a whitewater kayak and venturing into the rapid waters.

This ability, that will save your life when going in high speed downstream, is the ability to rotate yourself and the boat back in the normal position when you are underwater.

In a recreational facility, you can actually take lessons to learn this ability.

You will need:

A whitewater kayak

The design of these kayaks is great for navigation through fast-moving water and their roundness helps one dodge rocks and other obstacles one might find on the way.

The whitewater kayaks are rather short when compared to the other kayaks and because of their small bodies, they are easier to push downstream through the waters.

However, because of their constitution, they are not good on calm waters and they can be difficult to maintain in a straight line.

The cost:

From $700 to $1,500

You will also need:

Float bags, bilge pump, a helmet, throw rope and a PFD.

The Paddle:

You will need a shorter paddle, one ranging from 194 cm to 203 cm.

The Helmet:

This is important as a protection of your head when you will come to face the rocks under the water.

Throw rope:

It is a rescue device with a funnel top that lets the rope unfurl smoothly and when there is a need for it, you can throw the bag as farther as you need to get yourself out of the water.

The rescue bag contains a high- strength rope as short as 50 feet but you can find throw ropes as long as 75 feet.

You Will Flip Over and Here is What You should do then

flip over kayak

In kayaking, flipping over is inevitable and it is something you will find it less scary, the more it happens.

Depending on the type of kayak, your technique to get back up can be different.

In whitewater kayaks or in touring kayaks, you will have to swing yourself left and right under water until you gain enough momentum to get back up.

The sit-on-top kayak is very stable and has draining holes so getting back into this one should be easy.

If you have a recreational kayak, you should try to get out of the kayak, since in this kind of boat you can actually do that and then try to get back inside it.

To get back inside of the boat, you should try to get to the shore to drain the water out of the kayak.

If you cannot get to shore by yourself but you brought along a partner or a friend, you should ask their help.

Firstly, you should place your kayak at a 90 degrees angle next to your friend’s boat. Then, try to get the front part of your kayak out of the water by pushing on the stern (the back part of the kayak) and ask the partner to help you drain the water by sliding the front part of your kayak across your partner’s deck.

If you are stuck in the water and you do not have a partner, another thing you can do is to get back in the cockpit or on the deck and try to get as much water out as possible either by using the pump either by using an empty bottle.

However, you should never kayak alone. There are dangers both on the rapid waters and the still waters and you do not want to get in a situation where you are not prepared.

There is no need to stress the fact that knowing how to swim is important before getting into any water-related sports.

We also would like to stress the importance of taking everything at a slower pace.

Kayaking has a gentle learning curve at the beginning but it gets steeper as you progress and you should take your time to build your abilities and strength before moving to an advanced level.

Kayaking can be a way to enjoy nature and to release stress, but it can also be an intense, challenging sport.

The sensations that you feel when you manage to stay cool and in control in a rather scary situation are unique.

There are times when everything feels like going on a rollercoaster, the adrenaline rush that hits you when you try to avoid a rock or another obstacle, or the joy when you finally caught the torrent of the river, to carry you freely to its deepest part.

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