Getting your head into the basics of kayaking and heading off with a good, founded start, is the best way to begin your kayaking adventures as a beginner. The more facts you learn up front before you hit the water and become prepared with what to expect, the more fun you will have when you are actually out there on the water and you know what you’re doing.
One of the first things for you to consider—although, there are quite a few things—is what kind of kayak to start out with. Considering your paddle and kayak before you go the store could save you a lot of time and confusion. A lot of it depends on the purpose for which you will be using your kayak. Keep in mind before you go to the store where you are most likely to be kayaking and what you will be doing. Since you are learning about kayaking for a beginner, the following kayaks are used for recreational kayaking. Recreational kayaking isn’t anything too dangerous or serious, it is a good way to start and test the waters. Recreational kayaks have a lot of benefits for beginners; they are lightweight, easier to get in and out of because of their larger openings, and they are also wider which makes them more stable.
If you are just starting out consider an inflatable kayak, folding kayak, pedal kayak, sit-on-top kayak, light touring kayak, tandem kayak for two, or a sea touring kayak. Any of these different types of kayaks could be suitable for your first kayaking experience, depending on your preference and needs. All of them can be considered with some degree of beginner status, although many experienced kayakers use them as well.
When you are going out on your first kayaking adventure, dress for the water—not the weather. When it comes to frigid degrees, the water temperature is a lot more important than the air temperature. Wear layers of clothing that dry quickly, and whether or not the day is going to be sunny bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Your feet are just as important as the rest of you, so wear water shoes or strap-on sandals. Don’t forget to wear a life vest and secure it properly.
After you have your clothes, gear, kayak, paddle, and you are standing on the dock, you may realize that your worst fear is actually getting into your kayak. If you take it one step at a time you should be dry and safe in your kayak in no time. First, untie the kayak but hold unto the line. In shallow water you can use your paddle to steady the kayak by placing it vertically into the water next to the kayak. In deeper water you can just rest the paddle nearby and use the dock to support yourself. Sit on the edge of the dock and use your feet to balance the cockpit, drop the line into the cockpit, then in one fluid, careful motion, swing one leg over into the cockpit quickly following the other, crouch, then sit. Rest your paddle across the cockpit and adjust the tie line so that you will be free of it dragging as you paddle.
Knowing the proper way to sit in a kayak is also a very important step in kayaking. Make sure you know how to set up a kayak the best way for its paddler. You will need to keep in mind the backrest, thigh braces, and foot supports and how they need to be adjusted to you. If these things are not in alignment you will not have very good control over the kayak.
Most beginners naturally hold their paddle wrong, and continue to do so until someone corrects them. Many inexperienced kayakers hold the paddle backwards, but this can be easily fixed. The smooth or concave part of the blade should be facing you. Imagine it grabbing the water and pulling it past you—you want the grooved part of the blade to face inward to give it enough grip. Many paddles are symmetrical but some are asymmetrical. If a paddle blade has the same shape on the top as the bottom than the paddle is symmetrical. If this isn’t the case, make sure you are holding it right-side up by keeping the horizontal size upward and the tapered side downward.
Of course, the next step after learning how to hold a paddle is actually paddling. The first thing to do is relax. You are kayaking for fun, so make sure you enjoy it. Then, you can lean back, line up your knuckles with the upward blade, and then begin paddling. Your dominant hand, depending on whether you are right or left handed, will be your grip hand from which most of the control comes. Pull the downward part of the paddle which is being dipped into the water and push the upward part with your opposite hand. Turn your torso into the stroke and find your rhythm. When you want to turn, simply paddle on only one side of the kayak.
The most important thing for a beginning kayaker to learn are safety basics. It’s a good idea to take a course in kayaking safety. First, be prepared by checking the weather to make sure its safe for kayaking. Tell someone you can depend on when you leave to go kayaking, how long you expect to be gone, and where you will be. Make sure you have enough water, and it is also a good idea to have a first aid kit in a zip-lock bag to keep it dry. Use bright colors for your gear and your kayak so that people will notice you easily. Prepare yourself for how you will react in an emergency so that you can stay calm and think clearly, and also be sure you practice directional awareness. You may also want to practice uprighting a capsized kayak. Consider taking safety gear, such as a whistle or air horn, flotation bag, spare paddle, in addition to others tools.