Beginner Kayaking – Your First Trip

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Kayaking for the first time is usually an exciting experience. Millions of people try the sport and are hooked after a single trip. The following article provides basic information on what to expect the first time you go kayaking.

The first kayaking trip is usually done with an experienced friend, tour guide or as part of an adventure tour. In most cases, kayakers will be exploring natural areas such as lakes, rivers, creeks, back bays or marshes on their first outing.

Equipment varies depending on the trip. Essentials usually include submersible footwear, a life jacket, kayak, paddle, sunglasses, hat, sun block, water and snacks. Cameras, phones and other electronic equipment should be stored in waterproof pouches. A small tub or water resistant bag may be useful for stowing gear and can be slid up under the bow where its less likely to get wet.

Safety should always be the number one consideration when kayaking. Safety practices include doing a pre-trip weather check, equipment inspection and things such as being aware of slippery launch surfaces. If a safety lanyard is available for the paddle, now is the time to attach it to the kayak. Common sense is the most important safety tool available to kayakers.

After essential gear is assembled, it is time to launch the kayak, load gear and suit up. It’s normal to be apprehensive before entering a kayak for the fist time. Kayakers should be aware that loading and unloading are two of the most difficult situations that kayakers experience, although a few simple habits will make these go smoothly.

For first time kayakers, an experienced person will demonstrate how to board the craft. In most cases, the kayak will be positioned in a very shallow area where its much easier to get seated and comfortable. Kayakers should relax, take their time, explore the ramp and look over the craft before getting in. If possible, avoid areas of algae that may be slippery.

For sit in kayaks, getting seated is a little more difficult than sit on kayaks but still fairly simple to do. Once inside the kayak, enthusiasts can adjust the seat, foot pedals, position their gear and get familiar with the layout.

When everyone is ready to leave the launch area, its time to begin paddling. Paddles may be set up in one of two configurations (feathered or un-feathered), but for first timers, its ok to use either type. When paddling, its a good idea to space your hands about a body width apart and paddle as if you had a beach ball on your lap.

Most new kayakers pick up the technique fairly quickly, although it may feel awkward for a while. Steering, turning, stopping and backing up all take time to learn. First time kayakers are likely to be shocked by the ease in which the craft move thru the water. By paddling hard, these small vessels can really go fast! Speed is rarely necessary and most kayakers prefer to take their time and see the sights.

Wind, currents and waves are all factors that affect kayaks. A little experience will help in learning how to compensate for each situation. When encountering waves or boat wakes, it’s a good idea to turn and face them so that the craft will be stable as the water passes by.

Novice kayakers will be amazed at the speed that kayaks are capable of as well as how easy it is to propel them. A little experimentation will help enthusiasts find their most comfortable pace. Paddling can be done at a fast pace, using deep strokes, or can be a gentle and relaxing activity. For most people, going slow is a good way to get accustomed to kayaking.

It’s a good idea to be aware of time, tide, wind and location as its easy to find yourself miles from port in no time. Going against wind or currents is usually more difficult, so those factors should be taken into account before deciding how far to go. Decisions like this are much easier to make with an experienced leader along.

Once the trip winds down, kayakers must return to the launch area and disembark. This is usually the last stressful event of a first-time kayaking trip. If the kayak can be beached or floated into a shallow area, stepping out is easier. If the only option is to exit onto a deep water dock, its slightly more difficult. A helper will hold the craft close to the dock while the kayaker puts both hands on the dock and lifts themselves onto the structure. It’s much easier to just scoot your bottom over onto the dock and then lift your legs out than to try and step out onto the platform.

After exiting the kayak, you can remove your life jacket and begin stowing gear. Don’t forget to thank your guide or mentor for an exciting and safe trip.