Water Sports: A Beginner's Guide to Kayaking

If you’re looking for adventure on the water, in a boat is the perfect place to find it. Kayaks are personal watercraft that will enable you to explore ponds, lakes, rivers, and even oceans. Before you venture out onto the water in a kayak, learn all about the different types of kayaks there are so you can choose the one that’s best for you. It’s also important to know how to transport and paddle your kayak. Don’t forget to follow safety recommendations so that your excursions are fun and free of injuries.

Types of Kayaks

Because there are so many different types of kayaks, it can be tricky to know which one is best for you. Kayaks are designed for different types of use and activity, so the right boat for you depends on how you plan to use it. Flat-water kayaks are designed to be used in calm waters such as slow-moving rivers, ponds, and lakes. These kayaks are ideal for beginners. Whitewater kayaks are built to be used in fast-moving water such as whitewater rapids. These kayaks are lightweight, so they’re very maneuverable. Sit-inside kayaks are the most traditional, with the seat being fully inside the hull of the kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are made for the kayaker to sit either in or on the boat, and these kayaks are great for beginners and low-key kayakers. You may also find folding kayaks that are easy to transport and tandem kayaks built for two people to use together.

Transporting Kayaks

Getting your kayak to the water safely and securely will be a top priority. Many kayakers transport their boats using roof racks, which are ideal because they help prevent scratches to the vehicle. The type of roof rack you choose will depend on your vehicle’s roof, which may be a bare roof or one with fixed points, side rails, gutters, tracks, or crossbars. Soft roof racks are perfect for bare roofs, fixed points, and tracks. Hard racks are best for roofs with side rails, tracks, fixed points, and gutters. Don’t forget to use tie-down straps to secure your kayak to the roof rack. Some kayakers also opt for a trailer to transport their kayak(s).

Sitting and Posture

The way you sit in your kayak is very important. Having good posture will improve your balance, reduce pain, and help you avoid injuries. Good posture also helps you avoid tiring while you paddle. Center yourself in the kayak so the boat doesn’t edge to one side or the other. Adjust your seat to give you back and thigh support. The foot pegs should allow your legs to be slightly bent. Stay mindful of your posture while you’re kayaking so you don’t start to slump.


The longer your kayak paddle is, the more leverage you’ll have, but you’ll also have to exert more force to paddle. Your height will determine the best paddle length for you, with shorter people needing shorter paddles and taller kayakers needing longer ones. The forward stroke starts with the blade entering the water near your toes, and then you pull it back along the side of the kayak until the paddle is even with your hips. Repeat this from side to side. When you need to steer as you paddle, use the draw stroke. Hold the paddle upright and put the blade in the water slightly behind you while you edge it forward. This stroke helps you turn the kayak. The reverse stroke helps you maneuver the kayak quickly around objects. Flip the paddle around so the blades are concave as they face the sky. Put the blade in the water so the leading and trailing edges are perpendicular to your body, and then push the blade away from you toward the front of the kayak.

Kayaking Safety

Kayaking does involve some risks, so it’s important to follow basic safety rules and recommendations. Always check the weather before you kayak and be prepared for sudden changes in the conditions. Wear the proper clothing for your environment. If you’re kayaking in cold water, wear a wet suit to help you stay warm. If it’s sunny, wear a long-sleeved shirt and hat to protect your skin from the sun. Follow all boating rules, never exceed your kayak’s weight capacity, wear a personal flotation device, and never mix alcohol and drugs with boating. Tell someone where you’ll be and how long you expect to be gone, and then follow your plan. Bring water and food with you, and take care when you’re paddling in an unfamiliar area or near motorboats or yachts.

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