How to Kayak 101 – A Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking

how to kayak

Each year, many people find time to learn to how to kayak. It is one of the most well-loved hobbies in the world. It makes the rivers, lakes, canals, waterfalls and even the sea as your playground.

It is also a great way to enjoy some time with your family and friends. You can also connect with nature and explore the world around you.

There are a lot of fun that it has if you take it as a hobby that’s why kayaking has become so popular. If you want to join in the fun and get the other benefits it has to offer, then continue reading our beginner’s guide to kayaking.

The History Behind Kayaking

Kayaking was originally invented by the Inuit, Aleut, and the Yup’lk thousands of years ago. The word “kayak” means “hunter’s boat” as they use it for hunting and fishing.

Kayaks, thousands of years ago, were made of seal or other animal skin stretched over whale bone or wood. They are very quiet which made them best for sneaking up on prey during hunting.

In the 1950s, the introduction of fiber glass as material for making boats made a change to how kayaks were made. Nowadays, most kayaks are made from polyethylene plastic.

The closed cockpit model that you commonly see is the traditional type wherein the paddler sits inside the kayak and is sealed in using a flexible spray deck.

In the last few millennia new kayak designs were introduced. You can now get inflatable kayak, tandem kayaks which you can use with a friend, and sit-on models where you can perch on a little deep on top of the kayak.

7 Facts that you Want to Know about Kayaking

A lot of people view kayaking as a simple activity that can give them the peace of mind they need after a very busy schedule. This may be true, at a certain point, but there is still so much more about kayaking that you may not know about. Here are 7 facts about this activity that will make you more attracted to it:

1. Kayaking is a great form of exercise

Kayaking forces you to move your arms and upper body muscles, making it as a perfect workout for these body parts. Unlike an actual workout in a gym where you need to strictly follow repetitions, you can simply rest whenever you feel tired from paddling.

2. A Kayak is a hunter’s boat

The history of kayaks can be traced back to the invention by the Inuits, Aleut, and Yup’lk of a tool that they can use for hunting. The original kayaks were made out of the skin of seal, as well as other animal skins, usually stretched in order to cover a whale bone or wood. The quiet design of kayaks make them a great tool for sneaking up on potential prey.

3. Kayaking is easy even for beginners

Some people think that because kayaking has made itself to the Olympics, it is already a difficult sport to start with. On the contrary, it is very easy, perfect even for beginners. In just a few minutes, you will already feel comfortable with it.

4. Kayaks may be used on different bodies of water

This means that you can head out for a grand water adventure in lagoons, creeks, lakes, oceans and rivers.

5. Kayaking is a sport in the Olympics

Kayaking was recognized as a sport in the Olympic in 1936. Who knows? If you get really good at it, you might make it far as a professional in this sport!

6. Kayaking is preferred for nature exploration

The size and design of a kayak makes it very convenient to traverse and navigate through narrow inlets and spots in order to get a closer view of nature and wildlife, even in remote areas and locations.

7. Kayaks can be used for fishing

If you want to strike two birds with one stone, that is, fish and kayak at the same time, all you need to prepare is some fishing rod holders, and bait. You just need to choose a good location where you can potentially catch those fishes.

Kayaking and Canoeing – Are they the same?

Oftentimes, the terms kayaking and canoeing are interchanged. While they are generally acceptable to those who are ‘untrained’, they matter to genuine kayakers.

For one, canoeing is the general term. It can be used to refer to both kayaking and canoeing. However, the main differences lie in the use of gear, as well as the design of the paddles and boats.

On top of that, here are some factors that made both activities different:

  • Techniques

The techniques used in kayaking are different from that of canoeing, especially in the way paddles are used. Canoeing is done with alternate paddles on each side of the boat. This means that one hand grips the handle of the paddle end, as the other also grips the paddle shaft halfway.

On the other hand, kayaking requires gripping the double-bladed paddles right at the center, propelling the user to move forward by pushing first the right blade, then the left. The blades are designed to have an angle distance of 90 degrees with each other, requiring a twisting technique to make sure that the power used in pushing is optimized while minimizing resistance.

  • The Gear Used

The equipment used between kayaking and canoeing is the most visible difference that can tell the two activities apart. Canoeing requires the use of open-top boats. The most common designs are those with two or more seats, positioned on benches running on the beam.

However, kayaking uses closed-top boats, which are most often single seaters. While canoes have higher sides, kayaks generally sit lower into the water. Rather than the user sitting on a bench, kayakers typically sit on the boat floor, with legs straightly stretched in front.

The paddles used are also different. Canoeing paddles only have one blade, and are typically shorter to kayaking paddles which has two blades.

Also, kayakers are often required to wear nose plugs and helmets, especially when running down rapids or paddling whitewater. Other gears for kayaking may include buoyancy aids which help in having a freedom in movement as compared to wearing collared life jackets for canoeists.

Different Types of Kayaking

Different types of kayaks are used in different kinds of kayaking.

While the original kayaks were designed for hunting, they have evolved through time, turning out into something that we know them today. These days, kayaks are used mostly for recreational purposes. For this reason, the design had to evolve as well, now conforming to the purpose with which they are used.

Here are the different types of kayaks and their purposes:

  • Kayaks for Fishing

Kayaks are still used down to this day for fishing and hunting. In fact, kayak fishing has already been recognized as one of the popular recreational activities these days. Rather than using the traditional motorized boats, kayaks are low maintenance and inexpensive to operate.

Kayaks that are used for fishing come with wider beams, which have been designed to increase lateral stability while decreasing the possibility of capsizing. Outriggers are also added to add more stability to it. They are attached to each side in order to increase the surface area that will come directly in contact with water.

  • Kayaks for Surfing

Kayaks are also used for surfing. In order to meet this purpose, some additional features are included to make them fitted to dealing with waves. Kayaks that are used for surfing have been designed with fin clusters in their rear, quite similar to the design on a surfboard.

This, together with a flat bottom and hard edges, you already have a long board to use while surfing.

  • Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks are included among the two most common types purchased by an average user. It is generally recognized for its speed and stability, with its flatter hull. They are longer and equipped with harder chines. They may be less maneuverable but are relatively faster and more stable. This means that you can cover greater distances with this type of kayak.

  • White Water Kayaks

The other most common type of kayak, white water kayaks are somewhat the opposite of sea kayaks in terms of characteristics. These types of kayaks are very easy to maneuver. As such, they are shorter in length, with minimal chines and rounded hulls.

Equipment You Need for Kayaking

If you are planning of making kayaking as a hobby or sport, you definitely have to prepare in advance for the equipment and gear to use. There are equipment that are consider as a must-have, while others are optional. Let’s take a look at them.

Essentials:

  • Kayak – Of course, you need to have the main kayak. Refer above to the types of kayaks in order to determine which type you need. Keep in mind that the type of kayak that you need to choose depends on the purpose of its use.
  • Paddles – In line with the choice of kayak, the choice of paddles depend on the kayak as well. If you are not familiar with this, you can always ask for professional help from the store where you will buy your kayak.
  • Helmet – This is particularly necessary for those doing whitewater kayaking, and optional for surf kayaking.
  • Spray Skirt – This is the equipment that you will need to keep water out of your kayak. They are particularly essential if you are planning to sea or whitewater kayaking. You may not have them if you will just do recreational kayaking.
  • Personal Flotation Device – They are generally life preservers or life jackets.

Optional:

  • Booties – They can be worn to ensure comfort.
  • Gloves – They can keep hands warm, while giving protection to knuckles against gashes and scrapes.
  • Drysuit or Dry Top – They can be worn to regulate the body in connection with water temperature.
  • Rope Bag – This can be used as a safety equipment, just in case a kayaker falls off the boat.
  • Knife – A knife can be used during emergency situations where the ropes get stuck or tangled.
  • Dry Bag – This can be used for storage of items that you want to bring with you.

How to get started with Kayaking?

Just like any other activity, there should be a starting point when it comes to learning how to kayak. It is very important to start with the choice of the right equipment. After all, the success of the activity depends on the equipment used.

Aside from preparing the equipment, you also need to have the knowledge on how to kayak. This is the theory side of the practice. The good news is that, this sport is widely spread, with a lot of resources that are currently available for you to start with.

For example, you may want to get in touch with a community of local kayakers and start learning from them. There are local clubs that offer run trips and training in order to help new kayakers hone their skills on various water types. If you get lucky enough, you can even join them for abroad tours, and expose you to more opportunities of learning.

You can also take advantage of activity centers, usually spearheaded by local kayaking clubs, where you can enjoy sessions and training courses. The internet is also a great source of information. You may even join blogs and forums in order to get more ideas.

How to Kayak Tips for Beginners

Beginners may look at kayaking as something that is simple, yet challenging. Well, this is something that is natural, given that you may not have done this type of activity before. However, once you become familiar with it, you will eventually realize that it is an art.

In order to be successful in kayaking, there are some tips that you might want to take into consideration:

  • Choose an appropriate boat

With this in mind, you need to take into consideration your kayaking experience, and select a boat based on that. There are different options that you can choose from, varying in size, and design, depending on the purpose of use.

  • Learn how to paddle

Yes, there is a right way to paddle. Doing it all wrong will only result to aching shoulders and sore palms. Everything should start by choosing the right kind of paddle, and learning how to use it correctly. There are tutorials and videos that can help you learn the basics, and start from there.

  • Observe the right posture

Rather than becoming a refreshing activity, kayaking can become stressful to the muscles if you fail to observe the proper posture. Some points to keep in mind include bending your knees at an angle that will avoid them from being straight.

Make sure that your feet is placed comfortably on the paddle rest. Avoid leaning back. Your torso should be movable and free. This will help you a lot to have freedom while paddling.

  • Learn the basics of rescuing

This is applied to both self-rescue, and general rescue (that is, rescuing others). With this, it is very important to wear a personal flotation device, or a life jacket. Modern designs include whistles and LEDs that may come in handy during emergency situations. Safety should be observed at all times regardless of your expertise in swimming.

Where to Go for Kayaking?

There are literally thousands of possible kayaking locations where you can enjoy the activity. Rather than naming specific locations, let’s take a more general approach and see the possible kayaking options for you.

  • Canals Kayaking

In the UK alone, there are more than 3000 miles of canal worth exploring. They are typically referred to as water highways which are perfect for beginners to start learning about kayaking. There are also other places in the world where you can.

  • Lakes and Rivers

Lakes and rivers are also great for beginners. However, rivers that are connected to waterfalls, or bigger bodies of water may require more expertise in kayaking. Therefore, you can start with smaller lakes, honing your skills against moving waters, eventually moving to more challenging bodies of water.

  • Open Seas

What makes kayaking in the open seas adventurous is that you have enough space and distance to cover. There are no restrictions, usually, though you also have to keep in mind that coastal kayaking also requires skill and knowledge.

You may want to start kayaking in your locality, or choosing bodies of water that are close to your location. Eventually, you can move into farther areas, even going abroad for more adventurous options.

Indeed, kayaking is not just a sport. It is an art. It is a collaboration of skills, experience and knowledge, alongside the right choice of equipment. Regardless whether you are a beginner or an expert kayaker, you will be able to enjoy the activity. As a beginner, however, you need to equip yourself with the basics in order to enjoy the activity thoroughly.

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