Kayaking: What to Know Before You Go

As a newbie to any outdoor sport, we all feel uncertain about where to begin and how to learn about the sport

kayaking guide for beginner - What things to consider

As a newbie to any outdoor sport, we all feel uncertain about where to begin and how to learn about the sport. We might not always need any special skill or a hidden talent before we begin to think about learning a new sport. But the one thing that everyone would surely need before they start is a passion for learning that sport. Kayaking is one such sport that requires not much in-born talent, but a lot of passion and definitely at least some basic training for the beginners is a must. Offering immense thrill and adrenaline rush, Kayaking is a water sport where the rider of the kayak boat makes use of a handheld double-bladed paddle to courageously maneuver the way of the boat amid the strong water flow.

Journey of evolution

As much adventurous sound the sport of kayaking, the history of evolution of the designs of kayaks from the ancient ages to what we see today as a modern kayak is equally enticing. The word “kayak” literally means a hunter’s boat. As the name suggests, these boats were used by the natives of north Arctic regions thousands of years back in time for hunting land and marine animals in inland water bodies or rivers. Those kayaks were made by using driftwood or even skeletons of whales for the frames. Animal skin, especially seal skin was used to cover the body of kayaks. These kayaks came to special use in Alaska where Eskimos mostly used them for stalking and hunting prey in the water or on coastal land as the water stayed extremely cold making it difficult to hunt. Also not all natives knew how to swim and it would be suicidal to even try swimming for anyone wearing thick fur coats.

Throughout the history of Kayaks, the design and make of these boats mainly evolved from the way these boats were meant to be used by individual owner. As compared to the older times when the natives preferred to make their own boats by hand as per their personal likings and usage, the modern kayaks are more or less a part of a commercial sporting kit used for this water sport. These kayaks though lack the highly customizable attribute of the older time; however they are commercially designed in a way so as to fit variants from a group of people having vastly different physical structure, skills, preferences and even different pocket size depending on how much anyone wants to spend.

Makes and designs

Depending on where and how these boats are used, these modern commercial kayaks have a variety of shape, dimensions, size and usability. The major portion of these boats is used as a part of sporting kit for Kayaking water sport. You may savor the peace of a serene kayak ride amid the soothing mountain lakes, or you might even want to take the joy and thrill of paddling through the bumpy hilly rivers splashing water on the faces. But for a beginner to learn about Kayaking you must first make sure about the place where the boat will be put in water and how the design of the boat you choose might complement the kayaking skills you have attained. The modern kayaks might be made up of plastics, fiber, metal, fabrics, inflatable PVC or rubber and even with wood. These different materials offer the advantage of having a range of kayaks with varying durability, weight, flexibility, resistance, storage capacity and accommodation space which makes it easier for the users to choose from.

how kayak works - make and design

To begin to learn Kayaking, the three things that are initially required are a kayak boat, a set of equipment and some basic training. The place of kayaking is the main factor on deciding the boat design. Forms of outdoor activities related to kayaking include whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, fishing, and diving, camping, surfing, racing and sprinting, recreational activities like exploration of the wild coastal regions with kayak camping and touring etc. Based on these activities and where they are performed, the kayak boats can differ in size and other attributes. Flat water or sea water kayaking requires the boat to cover more distance in less time. Resultantly, the flat water kayaks are essentially longer and narrower to assure higher speed. Similarly, the white water kayaking is the form of this outdoor sport performed in the turbulent river waters in hilly regions where the water appears white, thus the name. As it is useful for boats in agitated water to be able to take sharper turns and easily to man-handle, thus the whitewater kayaks are shorter in length and have a certain curve in the body for better control.

Also, while considering the paddler’s comfort and ease, the kayaks may be “Sit-On-Top or SOT” type where a shallow deck is made on the top for paddler to sit and stay above the water level. Another form is the “Sit-In or Cockpit” style where the paddler is half below the water level. The legs and hips of the paddler accommodate in a space inside the kayak boat and a spray skirt creates a water resistant seal around the paddler preventing the water to enter the kayak hull. Third type of kayaks is the less famous “tandem” which can accommodate more than one paddler in its space. The most advanced form is the inflatable kayak that, as evident with the name, can be inflated before use and deflated for storage. It conventionally is designed as a hybrid of the previous two designs of kayaks and has a larger hull to accommodate the paddler while the paddler still stays above the water level.

Gear and equipments

Next to the decision of choosing the place of kayaking and design of kayak boat, then comes the point of arranging the accessory gear to carry along. The following list will simply enumerate the basic “must have” equipments that all kayaking beginners should not forget about.

  • Kayak Paddle: It is fundamentally required for kayaking. It is a double sided handheld paddle that is used by the paddler to tread the boat’s way through the water flow.
  • Helmet: To keep the head safe from the accidental bumps, a helmet is one basic safety device for every beginner.
  • Personal Floatation Device: Commonly known as the less fancier name “life vest”, PFD is the most essential equipment to keep before any beginner thinks of taking the kayak anywhere near the water, no matter how flat and steady the water is.
  • Spray Skirt: It is like a mini kayak that fits to the cockpit of the kayak and helps to keep the water out of the hull of the boat while keeping securing you inside the boat.

Kayak gear and equipments

Last on the list

After checking the beginner’s list of equipments to have, now you are ready to take down your kayak in the water. Make sure to start by kayaking in the flat surface and protected water bodies. With many more maneuvers and kayaking to learn, with enough experience and confidence, you might soon be able to experiment your kayaking skills in open waters. But always remember that the sport of kayaking not only demands intense training, strong muscles and a decent gear; but it also requires enough caution, thinking ability and safety measures from paddlers.

A nice self-assuring gesture would be to add a compass and a whistle to the kayaking gear you buy, which can come very handy in situations where you might get stuck while kayaking alone or get lost in your way.

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