This beginners guide to kayaking is a decade of paddling experience condensed into the top 10 tips I wish I knew when I was starting out.
Sometimes I take friends kayaking and usually they are total beginners. It always surprises me just how much they don’t know about paddling (sorry guys)! I guess I take for granted what I have learnt over the years. It’s time for me to share my beginners guide to kayaking so you can learn from my mistakes.
We would be here for a while if I tried to teach you everything I know, so I have thought long and hard about what I wish I knew when I was starting out and I have ended up with these top 10 tips for newbies.
Here is my beginners guide to kayaking in 10 steps:
- Just do it! This may seem like an odd thing to put into a beginners guide to kayaking, but I see a lot of people who ‘can’t be bothered’. It is really important to make the decision to go kayaking and follow through with it. It is easy to feel a bit overwhelmed and make excuses for not getting out there. However, once you get out on the water, it is such a glorious experience, you will wonder why you hesitated.
- Don’t go it alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love kayaking alone, but it can be a little scary for a total newbie. If you don’t know someone you can go with, don’t worry, there are still options available to you. You can go with a kayaking group – there are many groups out there that cater to recreational kayakers, not just pros. You can get a lesson or you can go with a tour group for a day or half day. Once you feel comfortable on the water, you might find you love the freedom and peace of solo kayaking, like I do.
- Better safe than sorry! First of all, know your local boating laws. In Australia they are different in each state. Secondly, get yourself a comfortable and compliant PFD (portable flotation device, otherwise known as a life jacket). Third, consider getting a PLB or an EPIRB. These are emergency locator beacons to help people find you if you get into trouble.
- Minimise the ‘stuff’ and the ‘stuffing around’. Kayaking is better if you do it regularly. Your body gets used to it, you build your confidence and you get to the point where you can relax and enjoy yourself. To get out on the water regularly, you need to make it as quick and easy as possible. Over time you will figure out what gear you really need and you may even have a kayaking bag that is always packed and ready to go. Also consider how much set up is required when you are buying a kayak. That’s why I love Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks – you can keep the kayak in the car and have it set up and ready to paddle in 5 minutes. No messing about getting the kayak on and off roof racks!
- Try new places. There is nothing wrong with your local waterway, but you might be missing out on a gem if you don’t try paddling in new locations once in a while. I have been delighted with some of the kayaking trips I have done, even when I didn’t expect them to be anything special. Variety is the spice of life!
- Take more food, water and suncream than you need. Even if you are going for a short trip, definitely take more food, water and suncream than you think you will need. It is easy to be out paddling longer than you intended. Maybe because you under-estimated the distance, or you have to paddle against tide or wind, or maybe you are just having a great time relaxing … either way, it is not a problem if you are fed, hydrated and protected from the sun.
- Take a map or a smart phone. I love kayaking in the Gold Coast but it is so easy to get lost … they all look the same! Fortunately, I have always had a map or my smart phone with me and been able to get out safely. I will NEVER go kayaking without my smart phone these days. An added bonus is that I get to take pictures that I can share with others.
- Weather – look for low wind, first and foremost. I don’t enjoy paddling against the wind, but as a beginner, it can be a bit scary if you find you are paddling hard and not going anywhere! This isn’t something that belongs just in a beginners guide to kayaking, it’s relevant for experienced kayaks as well. Avoid any chance of a storm and dress according to the temperature. Remember – it is often a bit cooler on the water than on land. Be prepared for the possibility of falling in the water – take a towel and a change of warm clothes in a dry bag.
- Beware of whitewater and tides. Whitewater kayaking is a skill and not something you should tackle as a beginner by yourself. Tides are not such a big deal, they just take a little planning. If you are a beginner, it would be better to go paddling for the first few times in a lake. In a lake there are no tides, nor current, nor whitewater to contend with.
- Get the right kayak. Not all kayaks are suitable for beginners. It is critical that you get the right kayak if you want to have a good experience.
That’s it for my beginners guide to kayaking.