What beginners need to know about kayaking

Megan Smith
 min read

A paddling journey isn’t necessarily about just paddling repetitively for a day trip or longer. What beginners need to know about kayaking also covers numerous obvious and not so obvious things…

What beginners need to know about kayakingA kayak is the magic carpet that carries you almost easily into some of the most gorgeous corners of North America.

It is a journey into history, nature, and stunning views.

You can camp, paddle along the coast, drift lazily through clouds of birds, race down river valleys, float calmly on a lake or reservoir, etc.

Best of all, it is relatively simple to prepare a trip that satisfies every member of your paddling household.

What beginners need to know about kayaking: Introduction

Knowledge is key to a fun and successful paddling journey on the water, whether it’s for a day, a weekend, or a month.

The more you understand, the better the trip becomes and the more manageable your course between potential shoals and whirlpools.

It’s simple to plan a great trip. Read up on paddling magazines.

Preparing for the trip can also be fun.

Consult travel publications and read buying guides such as our Best 500 lb capacity kayak for heavy people; include your partner for a new set of eyes and a fresh perspective.

You’re not searching for a detailed route but rather a primary location. Some paddlers clip out articles and file them for future use.

Others take down notes while others tuck ideas away at the back of their mind to be retrieved at a later date.

As you find yourself musing about your plans months in advance, you’ll discover what sort of places attract you.

Without really meaning to, you’ll find yourself concentrating on initially a broad geographical area and will eventually narrow it down.

Knowing yourself is important too

After a few paddling trips, you’ll know what sort of journey (and distances) you prefer.

Some think the best trips are dawn-to-dark high-energy paddling in a straight line.

Others like to discover as many nooks and crannies as possible and poke around every historical place or natural tourist attraction.

Everyone knows the photographer who will wait hours for the light to be just right or the bird lover who completely forgets about the time when a bird catches their attention.

Don’t be overly confident when preparing your first paddling trip, plan conservatively

With excellent weather conditions, a light load, and plenty of energy, you certainly can paddle 4.5 to 5.5 hours a day, covering anything between 13 to 18 miles.

What beginners need to know about kayaking? You should really set your goals conservatively!

Allocate additional time for a wind battling against you (there always seems to be a head wind on the last leg), an unexpected setback, or perhaps road works necessitating a detour going back home.

Try to use your energy efficiently

Paddler lingo contains the word “efficiency” a fair bit, as in:

Although efficiency is something most paddlers seek, don’t confuse efficiency with speed.

Instead, think of performance as the wisest use of the power in your kayak. An excellent performance doesn’t mean that you can paddle quicker or farther.

It is actually the capacity to cover the very same distance, or paddle at the exact same speed, with less effort.

Look at a group of paddlers on their return.

Others will be knackered, exhausted, barely able to raise their boats from the water and bring them to the top of the beach.

The difference between them depends on their effective use of energy.

Tip: Read our related article What is the proper way to paddle a kayak? and become acquainted with various practical tips for paddling smarter.

Efficiency can equate to speed when required. At first, you would not think about the difference between 3 and 4 knots, but on the water, it’s certainly significant.

That’s a one-third gain in speed, the highway equivalent of driving at 45 miles per hour or 60 mph. The four-knot paddler can cover 12 miles in three hours.

The three-knot paddler will cover 9 miles in the same time of 3 hours and will need to paddle for another hour to match the 12 miles of the faster paddler.

Speed VS effort: What beginners need to know about kayaking

The difference in speed is frequently not due to increased effort by the quicker paddler. Rather, it is the result of a more effective paddling stroke. The energy output per hour of paddling is typically the same.

Kayaking for beginners: Important checklist

Suppose you’re just going to paddle a couple of hundred yards down the lake to visit a buddy.

In that case, you don’t need extensive survival, first-aid, and repair packages.

By the same measure, what you pack for a day’s fishing on a pond wouldn’t be suitable for a four-week, totally independent expedition along a remote stretch of coast.

Match the gear you carry to the waters you’ll be paddling. There are some basics you’ll need even for a quick journey.

For example, you should have a good-fitting life vest (PFD: personal flotation device) for each person using the kayak.

You should have some equipment that will rid you of any water that comes inside (a scoop or bailer, or some kind of pump), a whistle to attract attention, a spare paddle, drinking water, energy bars for a fast pick-me-up, a first-aid package, and a big trash bag.

The purposes of the very first products are apparent.

For example, when it comes to the bag, you can use it as a raincoat, a tent, or a sleeping bag during a totally unexpected overnight bivouac, and ultimately to carry garbage.

Even though others might litter, we owe it to nature and our fellow citizens to tidy up what we can when we leave.

It’s an excellent idea to use a throw line (generally stuffed into a material toss bag) for towing and rescue and a waterproof bag or more to keep other things from getting wet.

What do I need as a first-time kayak beginner?

What do you require for your very first paddling journey?

A bit of common sense is all you need to make a list of what personal items you’ll need for a one-day trip on calm waters:

  • A sketch, chart, or map revealing where you’ll start, where you’re going, and where you’ll end up.
  • If you need to abandon the journey, the map should have directions and distances to the nearest towns and roads.
  • The sun’s rays can burn even if it’s cloudy. Look for a water-resistant lotion (you can easily buy it online or from a sports shop).
  • Top it off with a big hat. Sunburned ears hurt, and so does a scorched scalp. A comfy chin strap will keep the wind from taking it away.
  • A baseball cap is better than nothing, but it will not protect your neck, so we don’t really recommend it.
  • Secure your vehicle keys to a breeze hook inside a PFD pocket, and give a second set to someone else.
  • You might likewise hide your prized possessions (in your car trunk) and leave behind what you don’t need – your wallet, charge card, cash, or family photos.
  • Drink before thirst sets in, eat before starving, and don’t forget to take plenty of water and food with you.
  • Some paddlers like mid-calf rubber boots. Great water shoes offer support and protection to the bottom of your feet but no protection from the cold without socks.
  • You might want to bring along a set of biking gloves (not leather!) if you have delicate hands or get cold quickly.
  • Use sunglasses: You’ll protect your eyes from the glare, and you’ll be able to see the water as well as obstacles on the surface.
  • If you use restorative lenses or contact lenses, bring a backup.

What beginners need to know about kayaking: Final clothing tip

Get two complete sets of outer clothes, one to wear and the other to change into if you get wet.

Use a water-resistant bag to stash in your spare clothes, or failing that, at least in several sturdy trash bags and secure them well.

Ponchos can be a danger if you end up in the water.

Do plan to keep dry but expect to enter deep water, wet and even sweaty.

Wet clothes will suck heat out of your body, so a dry change is as much for security as anything else.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More