Fishing

How to Kayak- Complete Beginners Guide

Ever thought of spending quality time on water?

Maybe fishing, surfing, camping or even diving into it… It is something that comes to your mind, and you can get very interested. However, where and how to start could be the drawback. Well, not anymore. You can start by knowing how to kayak; it is a fascinating thing to do. You already have one thing sorted, interest!

Every guide you need is available. You can start by knowing what kind of kayak to buy but considering your preferences. The paddle will come in handy, and there is a guide on that too: the type and properties. You do not even need to stress over your kayaking wardrobe, or safety items, I got your back buddy! Once you get all that, I am still here to equip you with the know-how of kayaking. It is all simple.

And don’t forget to check out my detailed list of the best kayak for fishing discussed on this blog.

So let’s start

Types of Kayaks

Sit Inside Vs Sit On Top Fishing Kayak

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

These kayaks look like an advancement of the traditional boats. They have an extensive hull, giving them a high center of gravity. They are very stable as a result. The cockpits of the kayaks are customarily open and exposed to the open air. If you are riding on this type of kayak, you have no shield against the winds and waves. 

The good thing about these kayaks is that they are very easy to operate. Most beginners and recreational users go for them. You can carry them easily on your car roof rack, so transportation is not an issue. In case the kayak flips over, you can effortlessly flip it upright and get back on it due to its stability. The design is convenient for anglers: there are instrument consoles, pull up straps, specialized seats and tank wells to hold coolers.

On the downside, however, you will move at a slow pace. This is because they are short and wide, thus an unfavorable design for speed. Paddling takes extra effort because your legs are inside the kayak so you cannot use the knee pressure sufficiently. The storage space for fish and your gear is also limited and harsh since most of them are unsealed.

Sit- on- top kayaks are mostly used in sheltered coastal waters, estuaries, canals, and lakes. You can go fishing, diving or surfing with them. They also accommodate people who just want to paddle for leisure. The models available include the single seat, double seat and three seat models.

Sit-inside Kayaks

As the name suggests, these are the type of partly enclosed cockpits, with a spray skirt. Your seat is positioned slightly below the water line, hence lowering the center of gravity. As a result, these easily range from wide and short to slim and long. The scorching sun and ravaging winds shall not hit you as hard as they would when on a sit on top kayak.As we have discussed more the difference between kayak type, these types are the most popular among the beginners. 

I love this kayak for the simple fact that it is just light and portable. You do not need hulls to transport it for you. Once it is on your shoulder, you are set to go. Protection from waves and the sun is a plus. Your legs do not need that amount of sweat when paddling. The kayak also has a way of keeping you warm when it is cold; air in the cockpit will trap the heat you emit.

However, in case of water getting into your kayak, you have to remove it manually. This eats into your fishing time. The storage compartments allocated for your gear are also minimal and daunting to access. In the case that your kayak flips over, you will flip it back upright, but getting back onto it exhausts you. This is because it is not as stable as the sit on tops.

Sit inside kayaks have professional applications, among them being surfing, angling, and diving. Campers can also use it as a recreational activity, due to the accommodative design.  

Inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are the type where you inflate it before paddling. They have a tandem, solo and three seat designs available. They are most convenient for people with motorhomes, small cars, and caravans. The portability says it all.

The good thing about them is the elaborate storage compartments provided. You have ample space for your luggage if that is what you are after. The amount of time you take to inflate and deflate this very portable kayak is extremely short.

I know your worry, that the claws of your dog may tear it if you tag it along. Well, I gladly assure you that you need not worry. This kayak has tough, resilient material; can have PVC, Hypalon or nitrylon. You are safe.

Here is the difference between Inflatable and Rigid fishing kayak.

Types of Kayak Paddles

You choose a paddle based on where you are kayaking, the distance you intend to cover, the crew you are in accompaniment with and the speed you desire. Scrutinize each type that comes your way to avoid disappointments when already kayaking. Test them.

Types Of Kayak Paddle

I will discuss three kayak paddles in this article. These are the European style, Greenland style, and Aleutian style kayak paddles. You can pick your choice based on what you would like in a paddle. They vary in the feel, performance, purpose, and appearance.

Greenland style kayak paddle

Their short loom brand Greenland style paddles, with long and slim blades attached. These blades have square tips and straight edges, hence pull lots of water. The distribution of surface area is impressive. Depending on your preference, you can have one with a shouldered shaft or one without.

These are the best for long distance kayaking, especially if you will do it for the whole day. This is because the numbers of strokes you make per minute are more. They are also not strenuous because of the high surface area. You pull less and cadence more. They are also best for the seep stroke because of their long length.

However, it is inappropriate for you who intend to move fast. You will get late if you are hurrying to go somewhere with a Greenland paddle. This is due to the less power it has because of the short shaft. The amount of water pulled is much, slowing your motion.

European Style Kayak Paddle

This paddle has long and slim shafts, with big curved blades attached to it. The common designs available are one, two and four piece designs. Each design has pros and cons; you get the most convenient for you.

The paddle type is slim, but has a wide surface area at the blades, enabling you to have extra massive power strokes. Instant power! The wide blades have a curved face that creates a lot of water resistance when you draw through the water.

Nevertheless, the paddle is not good for rolling. You will need to be extra careful on the angles you take, unlike if you use a Greenland blade for this. If you are using a European style willow over a long distance, you will tire very fast. The reason being the cadence is reduced.

Aleutian Style Kayak Paddles

Originally, indigenous inhabitants of the Aleutian islands of Alaska used these. They have short shafts with long and slim blades attached. They are similar to Greenland paddles, only that the blades are leaf-shaped with pointed tips.

In performance, they do it as well as a Greenland paddle. Their looms are shouldered. This is an advantage to paddlers who like moving their hands up and down the loom all the way to the tip of the blade. You can have this or a Greenland one, but having both will not mean much.

Paddle Appearance and Build

Well, it matters. The material, for instance, it can be wooden like in the old times, fiberglass or polyethylene. Remember to pick one you can handle the downsides. Wooden paddles are cheap but can slip and fall easily. Carbon fiber paddles, on the other hand, are light and strong, but chip easily.

Kayak Appearance And Build

The color of a paddle can assist you to serve its purpose. If you are in a sea or estuary with wild animals around, a plain black carbon fiber paddle suits you best. Rare to spot. If you are out with a squad and visibility is an issue, a willow with day-glow orange blades will work. You are visible from a distance.

How to determine the Paddle Length

The length of a paddle is a determinant of how swift you will be on aqua. You can both enjoy and be most productive while at sea. You can also get so tired, strain your muscles and cover a less distance than you anticipated to, depending on your paddle length choice.

The most suitable blade is dependent on your height and the width of your kayak. For relatively short kayakers with narrow kayaks, a short oar is most convenient. A tall paddler will use a long one best, and so will an individual with a extensive boat. The length of these blades is customarily in centimeter units.

You can also get your scull depending on the types of paddle strokes you prefer. Kayak width still matters in this, but you have the best choice at hand. The renowned types of strokes are the low paddle stroke and the high paddle stroke.

Low paddle strokes involve you having the shaft of the paddle at an almost horizontal angle. The blade of the paddle is normally immersed shallowly to make it comfortable. This kind of stroke is the best for tall strikers intending to cover long distances. However, the shallow immersion gives it less power.

A high paddle stroke, on the other hand, gives the shaft of the paddle and a nearly vertical angle. Call it strenuous; I call it powerful. The paddles are shorter but then your cadence is rather fast. If you are short kayaker with a narrow kayak, this is the kind of stroke for you.

Over the years, it has become a rule that the type of paddle you choose automatically stipulates a length range for you. For instance, a European Style touring paddle with the length range between 215cm and 240cm is suitable for high strokes, depending on your height and the width of your kayak.

Greenland and Aleutian style paddles are the best for high strokes when in the range of 210cm to 225cm. The exact length still depends on how wide or narrow your kayak is, as well as your height. You will be contented if you choose the best length, the outcome is worth it.

The number of strokes you make when on water is approximately a thousand. With the wrong length, you could paddle with less power or strain your body. Although at first it may feel like nothing, at the end of the journey the accumulative effect shall be pronounced. Make the best choice.

Kayaking – What to wear

You are floating on water. You will encounter some winds or the strong sun. Water may splash on you, or your kayak may flip, and you get wet. You may also just camp on that kayak for leisure. My point is, whatever you do on that kayak, you have to mind your choice of clothes and shoes.

Kayak Clothing Outlifegear

Imagine going on a fishing expedition dressed in a suit. Very laughable. Specific garments with the suitable material will serve you perfectly. For instance, cotton is comfortable for a sunny day but dries slowly, so you stand a better chance of comfort in nylon clothes.

Normally, there is a variation in the weather. You have to choose your wear over the external weather conditions around. There are outfits for the warm weather and those for the cold one. At all times, however, remember to include clothes you can swim in case of a flip.

Below are some of the apparels you should consider.

Nylon

Nylon as the material of your attire is the most suitable. It is very comfortable for every kayaking mission, as well as tough and light. The last thing you will need is you sweating in the scorching sun due to additional warmth from clothes you have.

This material is also suitable due to its ability to dry fast. In case water splashes on you, clothes should be able to dry up very fast to avoid making you itchy. Nylon dries up fast, hence saving your body the cold. The rate with which t absorbs water is also slow.

Polyester Fleece

This is another good material to have. It is light, easy to dry and absorbs minimal water. It is also comfy, just like nylon. The insulating properties it bears are commendable. You should try out this grand invention.

Long Sleeves

T-shirts are so comfortable, I agree. However, it is the opposite when kayaking. Your skin is exposed directly to water, wind and the sun is something you would want to avoid like the plague. Try out a long-sleeved shirt.  If you get one of breathable fabric and light enough, you will have a good time.

Wet Suites

A wet suit is made of foamed neoprene rubber. It is designed to have bubbles of gas enclosed within the material of varying thickness. These bubbles lower the density of the suit and make it buoyant. Your body is kept warm since this suite is thermally insulated and its abrasion resistance is impressively high.

A wet suit allows water in, a property that contributes significantly to keeping you warm. How? Once this thin layer of water enters the suite in absorbs the heat your body generates and maintains it at that. Automatically, it is an insulator. You will enjoy the privilege of warmth in a cold and rainy environment.

Dry Suites

This is a grand investment for a paddler who spends most of the time kayaking in cold conditions. It may be a little expensive, but you should try it out. It is worth it, your times on that water will be warm and your skin mostly dry since a dry suite is waterproof.

These overalls have a waterproof lining from on the inner part so that water does not get to you. The nylon on the outer surface makes it absorbs the least water it can and dry up quickly. It also has a rubber seal zipper located at the ankles, wrist, and neck, hence keeping water from accessing the covered you.

Dry Tops

The outer shell material of these tops is nylon, the best there is. It is waterproof and has a very low ability to absorb water when the later squelches onto you. This pullover paddle jacket is specially designed to keep you dry.

The inner shell is well woven with a waterproof skirt. It does not allow any water in. If you purchase this high quality wear, you will ace the row dry. You shall also be warm because no water gets in and body heat remains conserved.

Dry Pants

The principle behind these pants is the same as that of the tops, except that they are pants. You will be the comedian of the year if you decide to put on dry tops and your regular sweatpants to the kayak. It is like roofing your house just half of it.

Besides being light and warm, these pants are waterproof. They are very suitable in the cold weather for this reason. The rubber seals at the ankles and waist keep aqua out of bounds of your skin. These pants dry up fast too.

Tuilik

A tuilik is a combination of a dry top with a hood and a spray skirt attached to it. Traditionally, it is a Greenland paddling garment. Current advancements of it are made from both neoprene and nylon. When you put it on, only your face and wrists are left exposed to the environs.

This garment keeps you protected from ravaging winds and rain. It is also great for paddlers who love doing a few rolls then continue rowing. The tuilik keeps your hair dry and your body. With the spray skirt tightly fitting on the rim of the cockpit, your feet stay dry too.

Sunglasses and a Sun Hat

In the scorching sun, you might want to consider protecting the whole of your face from sunburns. A sun hat comes in handy, in conjunction with sunscreen worn. Ensure that your shoulders are also part of the protected parts by carrying a wide-brimmed hat.

Sunglasses are an addition. Too much exposition of eyes to sunrays could hitch your row a little. The reflection of the sun on the water is sometimes hard to view. Sunglasses will make your ability to see through water easy, and you shall be more on edge throughout the trip.

Footwear

A good kayaker will get footwear they can both walk on and swim. Most kayakers prefer sandals. This is because there is room for your feet to breathe in and the chances of sweaty feet are least likely. Sandals are also readily available and easy to wear. However, you could try out some special footwear.

This includes those made from neoprene rubber uppers and rubber soles that are sticky. These are specially designed for kayakers. In the case that you fall into water, you are likely to get out of there with dry feet. This wear is unlikely to fall off your foot, unlike a sandal.

Kayak Safety Equipment

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

I would rather I forget my sunglasses than leave a PFD behind. A paddler puts it on when paddling to keep them afloat in case the kayak capsizes. It could be the type of a vest, waist pack or jacket. The PFD supplements insulation too, hence keeping you warm in the cold.

Put a PFD on before you leave the shore. This applies to both professional and novice kayakers. It becomes easier to rescue you when you cannot swim due to an injury or a muscle crump. The buoyancy it provides, you keeps your head above water so that you can breathe. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Spray Skirt

A spray skirt is a round or oval cockpit cover that keeps water from accessing your space. It tightly fits onto the rim of the cockpit and the only space left is your upper body space. Tuiliks come with their spray skirts.

This gear keeps rainwater, waves and spilling water from getting into your cockpit. You would hate it if your clothes and lunch got soaked in the water yet you are in a cockpit. That water can also make your kayak unstable. Use a spray skirt to prevent this mishap.

Paddling Whistle

Yell all you can in the lake, let it all out. People do this to relieve the emotional pressure they have because they are not disturbing anyone in the water. Yep! Nobody can hear you. It is no different when you are yelling for help to people far away; they can barely see you.

If you carry a paddling whistle, you stand a better chance of winning attention. These whistles are specially created to be heard from a distance. They are also very cheap and portable so not owning one does not make sense. Attach one to your PFD so that you do not forget it and you can access it simply too.

Dry Bag

You should always have a dry bag fastened onto your kayak, especially if you do not have designated storage compartments within. These bags are specially designed to keep anything you store within out of reach of water.

You can have your food, phone, map, radio, and first aid kit, name it in this bag. Any appliance that should not touch water is safe in there. If you doubt this, try paddling with your phone in the pocket or food on your lap.

Bilge Pump

It comes in handy for sit inside kayakers. Anytime you re-enter your kayak you will allow water in, and you will need to get rid of it. A sponge, jug or empty cup will help you, but you need something better, a bilge pump. This equipment comes in different versions, but all are affordable.

The bilge has a pump handle to pull up water from the cockpit through a short tube. The effort used is minimal, and the portability of this item is favorable. You can also have your kayak fixed with an electric and foot-operated bilge but at an extra cost.

Paddle Leash

Think of what happens if your kayak overturns and you are separated from it. The panic could get you confused. There is a cord called a paddle leash that can eliminate the chance this separation. It is always attached to the kayak even in the event of a capsize.

It has a nylon collar on one end, which you wrap around your shaft. It is secured with the Velcro closure. The other end of the leash cord has a plastic or metallic clip that clips to a deck bungee of the kayak. What an attachment!

Rope Throw Bag

This is a bag with rope inside. The rope is loosely attached to it to facilitate easy access. In case you are trying to rescue somebody, you will simply throw the bag at them, having held one loose end of the rope.

Often, beginners do not have this, but their instructors definitely do. If you are kayaking without an organized crew, you need it too. In case of a rescue operation with you as the victim, your bag may be used to rescue you too.

Knives

You do need a knife, especially if you have ropes. You never know when you will need a sharp item. It is not necessarily your kitchen knife. There are special kayaking knives with plastic sheaths to avoid accidental stabs.

Have you ever thought of what will happen to you the moment you are tangled in roots or in debris after your kayak capsizes? PFDs have a special spot for the knife that you can easily access in case of such an emergency.

First Aid Kit

In case of a cut, bite or any form of injury in your trip, you will need medical attention. Before medics arrive, you can help yourself. Owning a first aid kit is very important. Ensure that you store it in a dry bag or dry box so that water does not tamper with it.

Kayaking Techniques – How to Kayak

I believe by now you have the most suitable kayak for you, paddles in place, safety gear installed and you are appropriately dressed, ready for this exciting journey. Note that it is very simple. Do not be stressed out because you are virgin at this or poor at a certain stroke. I got you.

Having this theoretical knowledge comes in handy when you suddenly do not know what to do. However, having an instructor with you shall boost your skill. Doing it all practically with an authorized guard is so much fun. Remember to keep practicing whatever you learn so that you become a pro.

I shall describe the recommended methods of entering and leaving your kayak and the best sitting posture for a calm row. Not to forget, how to hold your paddle and various strokes applied at sea for directional movement shall aid you, so they are on my list too.

Tip

  • Before you enter or leave your kayak, you need an appropriate angle to do it conveniently. If you do not do this, you may fall into water or down when trying to enter or exit. The very basic step is positioning the kayak parallel to the shore, with the leaning paddle blade on the shore.
  • Place your paddle shaft in the cockpit, perpendicular to the length of the kayak. With one of the blades on the shore, simultaneously grasp the rim and the shaft as you enter or exit. Lean on the side with the blade on shore, try to find your balance then stay upright. This way, falling is hard.

Entering a Kayak

Sitting is easy. Nonetheless, there is a technique specifically for your kayak. First, get onto your cockpit and sit on the rear deck of the kayak. At this point, your legs should be on either side of the cockpit rim. You will then strategically slide in the right position.

Extend your legs straight into the cockpit and lift yourself with your hands supporting. Slide in with your legs straight, and then rest them on the feet pegs designated. Your knees will rest relaxed on the deck. Yep, you just entered the kayak the right way.

The Exit

You will not just stand up and walk away from this journey; there is a formula. To start with, you have to get yourself on the rear deck. Remove your legs from the foot pegs and straighten them. After that, place your hands on the rim of the cockpit and lift yourself backward, moving towards the rear deck.

Once on the rear deck, get your legs out of the cockpit. You will face the side with the blade on the shore and let your feet rest on that side. When the feet touch the ground, you can stand up, stretch and pace around. Your exit is successful.

How to start

You now need to get set to depart. Everything needs to be in place. With your feet on the foot braces, your knees should press firmly onto the underside of the deck. You can now fix your spray skirt o the rim to get moving.

To attach this spray skirt, you will first introduce the attached bungee cord to the underneath part of the rim of the kayak, beginning from the back and moving towards the sides. Then, hook the bungee cord over the front of the rim. Remember to countercheck that you have sealed the cord properly.

The Forward Stroke

Most of your time, you shall be engaging in this stroke. Your torso muscles (core and back) shall be involved immensely. You need to hold your paddle correctly and tightly to do this. In the forward stroke, three phases are involved: the catch phase, power phase, and release phase.

The catch phase involves you winding your torso and immersing your blade in the water. The immersion is on the side of your kayak succeeding your feet. The power phase gets your torso rotating as the blade proceeds behind you. Watch as the blasé moves and push against the shaft with your upper hand.

Finally, the release phase comes last. In this phase, you will lift your blade out of water tactically, when your hand just gets behind your hip. This is one complete forward stroke. You will repeat this on the opposite side of your kayak and keep your journey in the forward direction.

The Reverse Stroke

You are moving in the backward course. You can also use this stroke to as a brake to your forward stroke, in case you are stopped. The phases are similar to the forward stroke except for the drop phase, which replaces the catch phase.

To do the drop phase, grasp the paddle with both hands. It should be horizontal to the rim of the cockpit. Your blade will be on the fully immersed on the side next to your feet and your torso winded. Proceed to the power phase by pushing the paddle along the side of the kayak backward.

Reverse Stroke Kayak

Rotate your upper body in the same direction. Do not forget to push your feet firmly against the foot braces. This stroke is complete. You are free to lift your blade out of the water and commence rotating it in the opposite direction for continuous movement.

The Sweep Stroke

Do you want to turn to the opposite direction? Apply the sweep stroke. It is simple; you can continuously do your reverse or forward stroke on one side of the kayak until you achieve it. You will, however, need to involve your core and back muscles properly.

If you choose to take the forward stroke to achieve the sweep stroke, the phases you shall undertake are catch phase, turn phase, and the release phase. Grasp your paddle with both your hands in the horizontal position to the rim because you are about to take an extended turn.

Immerse the paddle in the water, as far away from the side of the kayak as you possibly can. Make this a wide arc. Powerfully, optimize this stroke with all the energy you have, to make a significant sweep. Doing this continuously makes the turn successfully. You can then stop when you achieve your direction.

Sculling

It is possible for you to move sideways when on water. It is suitable when you have another boat or kayak next to you, and you need to move towards it. Your paddle needs to be vertically positioned so that one side is deep in water on the side you will move to, and the other remains positioned above it.

With the tip of the blasé still in the water, pull the blade straight towards you using your lower hand. You need to keep this tip in water as you pull, but still, avoid hitting your kayak with it. Avoid leaning because if you overdo it, you may flip your kayak. Repeat these strokes until you cover your intended distance.

Bracing

You will apply this one technique when you want to stay upright on your kayak. It was not your dream in the first place to be on board then fall off. You can go about it in of the available types of brace: either the low brace or high brace.

In the low brace, you will hold your kayak paddle such that the back of the paddle is in a parallel position to the water surface. You will push this side into the water with your body leaning in the immersed side and your hips flicking to bring your kayak back underneath you. It is the most common brace.

The high brace, on the other hand, has you holding your paddle with the front part of the blade parallel to the water surface. Your body shall lean in this immersed direction as you immerse this front side directly into the water. Your hips should flick too. This brace is suitable for kayak surfing.

In a Nutshell

Kayakers have the best time in the world. It is interesting to explore the waters. With the right type of kayak, paddles and safety gear, what could possibly hinder you? It is important you have everything required in place. Your attire will improve your comfort and even boost the levels of excitement in you; you look professional.

 

Most importantly, having your techniques in check is a plus for you. I mean, there is no place you would not go if you know how to kayak well. I know for sure that with that deep passion you have to know the kayaking procedures, you will graduate from a beginner to an expert within no time. You may even be the instructor! In the meantime, though, be the instructed. You are on the right track.

About the author

Nik Paterson

Hello, Welcome to my second home, here in this OutLifeGear blog I spend a lot of my free time writing tips, outdoor guides and product selection guides. I am an outdoor person and know how much it is crucial to be prepared for the outlife adventures. So this is where you will find all my sharings.
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