Adventure Awaits: Basics Of Kayaking
Last Updated: Oct. 4, 2018
By: Taira Jordan
If you want to explore sea caves, leisurely glide on a crystal clear lake or race down class III rapids, then the sport of kayaking is for you. A relatively easy sport that can be learned in less than a day, kayaking can be either stress relieving or exhilarating, depending on the conditions that you choose to paddle in. And in addition to being fun, kayaking is plain and simple, a good workout. This low-impact sport is a full body workout: each stroke of the paddle through the water tones your back, arms and shoulders; your legs are strengthened by helping you balance and maneuver the kayak; and your core works to move your upper body from side to side with each stroke, like a constant series of mini-crunches. All in all, you can expect to burn about 400 calories per hour, less than other activities such as running or swimming but if you go on a multi-hour kayaking excursion, you can expect to burn upwards of 1,000 calories.
When you head out to go paddling for the first time, choose a location that is protected from the wind and waves, has a decent launch dock and minimal boat traffic. Once you have launched your kayak from the dock, climb into the kayak and sit with your back touching the seat rest and your knees comfortably bent. Place your hands on your paddle about shoulder width apart and keep your hands relaxed as you do not need a super tight grip. To take a forward stroke, place the paddle blade in the water near your toes and pull it back through the water until it is approximately parallel to your hip. Lift the paddle blade out of the water and repeat the motion on the other side, alternating from one side to the other to continue paddling forward.
While there is no best overall kayak or paddle, the gear you choose should fit your intended use and paddling ability. A kayak’s length and width relate to its speed and maneuverability, so a longer kayak is faster but a shorter kayak is easier to turn and thus better for narrow, twisty rivers. If you are a beginner looking for a more stable kayak, a wider kayak will be more stable, while a narrower kayak will be less stable but faster. When deciding on your boat’s hull shape, recreational paddlers should choose a kayak with a keel or a U-shaped bottom, to help them travel more efficiently on flat water. You will also have to choose between a single seat kayak and a double seat or tandem kayak. If you choose a tandem kayak but on occasion go out solo, you will need to sit and paddle from the back seat. Similar to the decision making that goes into choosing your kayak, when choosing your paddle, you should consider your intended use, arm length, stroke type and also cost. As a simple rule of thumb, a long paddle gives you a longer stroke and a shorter paddle provides a shorter, faster stroke. To ensure that your kayak remains in prime condition, the following should be followed to care and protect your kayak:
- Rinse your kayak and all of its hardware each time after paddling in saltwater. A quick, simple rinse helps to keep all parts clean and working smoothly.
- Do not drag your kayak across rough surfaces as this can cause unnecessary dings and wear.
- If your boat’s hull gets distorted, it can be fixed through exposure to a low heat surface or the sun. Just be careful not to overheat as this can damage the hull.
- When storing your kayak, hanging it in an elevated sling, out of direct sunlight is ideal. Direct sunlight can cause your kayak to fade or crack, while laying a tarp directly on your kayak can create an oven-like effect that can damage, distort or discolor your boat. If using a tarp, leave some air space to allow for air circulation.
As you are paddling on water and problematic situations can get more serious more quickly, you need to take precautions and be prepared before going out for each paddle. The following tips will help you have a safe and enjoyable kayaking excursion:
- Always wear a life jacket when on the water. Some people complain that life jackets are uncomfortable to wear while paddling but many companies make kayak-specific life vests that are made to be as unrestricting as possible.
- Alcohol and the water do not mix so never go paddling when you are not sober.
- Check the weather and water conditions before going out on each and every paddle and dress accordingly. If paddling on cold water, a wet suit or dry suit can help keep you warm and comfortable, while a breathable long-sleeve shirt provides the needed sun protection in warmer weather.
- Take a sea kayaking course to learn the basics before venturing further from the shore than you can comfortably swim. As some kayaks are more difficult to get back into than others, do not go too far from the shore if you cannot easily get back into your kayak.
- Do not exceed the kayak’s weight capacity and check your equipment regularly for wear and tear.