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It is one of the easiest ways you can get right into the middle of nature, and receive a good healthy workout in the process.
There are countless health benefits of kayaking, but when taking up this pastime for the first time can be somewhat daunting.
You can be a solo kayaking enthusiast, go in pairs or groups, but making that jump into finding the right kayak for your needs can be confusing.
In our kayaking for beginners guide, we run through all you need to know about finding the right kayaking gear, and how you can best enjoy your time on the water.
What Types of Kayaks are There?
Before you venture out onto the water, you do need to know the different kinds of kayaks there are. These handle differently and will change what you can do in your kayak.
Rather than looking at the different types of kayak, we will look at the different types of kayaking you can do, as this can be easier for beginners to understand.
This is kayaking you may see people doing on lakes and other safe stretches of water. These will be the ones you often see for rent in local parks and what people have tied up in their lake homes.
These are designed for paddling short distances on calm water. The most common type of these is a sit-in kayak.
These have a partially enclosed cockpit, and because the paddler sits inside, they have a low center of gravity.
These recreational kayaks are often short in length with a wide hull, which gives them lots of stability.
This kind of kayak is very different and is meant for paddling over long distances. While they are generally used on large lakes or protected bodies of water, they are not to be thought of just for beginners.
A touring kayak will offer plenty of comfort for the paddlers who wish to explore. You can recognize these by their long length and narrow hulls.
This kind of kayaking takes part on the ocean or unprotected bodies of water. They come with two sealed bulkheads, one, which is in front of the paddler, and one behind. These allow you to store lots of gear and keep it dry.
This kind of ocean kayak design is ideal for camping or longer kayaking trips where you need to camp overnight and keep your gear in a storage compartment.
Many sea kayaks come with a built-in rudder and can be easy to paddle and maneuver.
Whitewater kayaking is where paddlers hit streams, rivers or creeks where there is rough water around rapids. This can be one of the most exciting forms of kayaking when you hit the white water.
Often for the more experienced, this type of kayaking is very different and can be dangerous. It will take lots of different skills, and none more so than how to hold the paddle in rough water.
Sit On Top Kayaks
Because many people just want a kayak for fun, these sit on tops are becoming popular. These are designed for ease of use as a recreational kayak.
With specialized purposes in mind for some, they are easy to use and often seen as the best kayak for beginners.
Sit on Top Kayaks are easy to paddle, and almost impossible to sink because of their design.
These are often seen as a tandem kayak design where two people are sat on and can paddle at the same time.
This type of kayak is often designed with a specific sport in mind. They can use any of the above designs depending on the intended area of use.
If you are going on long excursions downriver, these kayaks are designed with lots of storage space for gear.
Fishing kayaks are another hugely popular kayak design. These come with comfortable seating for hours on the water, lots of storage areas for fishing gear, and many of the better kayaks for fishing come with built-in rod holders.
These can come with various hull designs and even come with pedals rather than using a paddle for power.
Some of these fishing variations have areas where the angler can stand safely, yet because of their design and size, they lack the internal storage space of sit in varieties.
Kayak Paddles and Paddle Stroke
It is essential that every kayaker knows how to paddle a kayak. To do this, you need to correct paddles for the type of kayak you purchase.
The different types have a different appearance, feel, and will deliver different performance.
European style kayak paddles were invented for whitewater kayaking, but have since grown in popularity for sea and touring use.
These are long and slim, and the paddle blades are curved to catch the most water when paddling. These come with straight or curved shafts.
Greenland style paddles have short shafts (looms) and long slim blades. These have square tips and straight edges.
They also go from being narrow by the shaft to a wide part at the tip.
Aleutian styled paddles are similar to the Greenland paddle, but their paddles are leaf-shaped and deliver comparable performance.
The size of the paddle will determine your paddle stroke. High paddle strokes are where the shaft is held almost vertical, and the blade will be deep in the water. This delivers the highest amount of thrust.
Low paddle strokes are where the shafts are more horizontal, and the blade will be just submerged under the surface. These deliver less power but more comfort over long distances.
Your kayak and your seating position dictate paddling strokes and the force you can generate.
The forward stroke propels you forward; here, you will hold the paddle in both hands and horizontal.
Rotate your body to one side and extend your arm to dip the blade in the water to the front of you. Drag the blade backward while twisting your body.
Once the blade is behind you, lift it from the water rotate to the opposite side and do the same with the other blade.
This moves the kayak in a reverse direction. The directions are the same as the forward stroke, but you dip the blade in the water behind you and push the paddle backward.
Lift and repeat as if you were using the forward stroke.
When you need to spin or turn your kayak, you need to grasp your paddle and hold it horizontal. Lean gently in the direction you wish to turn.
Rotate your body forward or backward and extend the arm on that side. Now, you dip the blade in the water as far from the kayak as possible.
When the blade is under the surface of the water, either push or drag the blade, this will rotate the kayak in the given direction.
The sweep stroke can often be used when fishing to get into position if you kayak drifts.
Your paddling technique will improve over time, and you soon see how much exercise it gives the upper
body. Sit inside kayaks allow you to generate more force because of the lower center of gravity.
Choosing the Right Kayak
With all the information above, how to choose a kayak is not as simple as just picking one. The above shows you which kinds of kayaks are suitable for what, yet it then comes down to your own intended use. This is where there are the following things you need to consider.
Where will you kayak?
Will you be on sheltered water like small lakes, large lakes or rivers? Will you be kayaking in the ocean, or do you want a kayak purpose-built for fishing?
The longer and narrower a kayak, the faster it can go. However, these are not stable for fishing or beginners. Shorter kayaks are easier to turn, while ones with wider hulls are more stable, yet harder to turn.
This is one area that is often overlooked. A kayak does come with a weight capacity it can carry.
This means, if one is loaded with more than this, it won’t be as stable. Kayaks for fishing are prime examples because of the fishing gear anglers will carry.
The weight of the person in the kayak also needs considering because it can quickly reach the upper weight limit.
The lighter a kayak, the easier it is to carry. The materials used in construction will have a bearing on this.
There are three basic material types available. Polyethylene plastic is the cheapest and is resistant against abrasion. However, it is heavy and not resistant against UV rays.
ABS plastic offers the same sorts of durability and is lighter. It also offers some UV resistance, these have decks and hulls, which are made separately and then stuck together.
Composite kayaks are lightweight fiberglass and carbon fiber. These deliver lots of UV protection, are light, and deliver lots of performance. This biggest downside being they don’t take too well to rocks.
When you want to know how to kayak, you will see it isn’t hard to do. Half of the fun is in the learning, and no matter if, you are just paddling around on a lake, or venturing down river or on the ocean.
You can even take in some scenery and fresh air while fishing from your kitted out kayak.
Kayaking gets you into places no other form of transport can under your own power. It is fun, healthy and shows you a very different side of nature.