Kayaking 101: Answers to kayaking questions

Whether you are just thinking of giving kayaking a try or if you have been kayaking for years, there is a good chance that you have some lingering questions. In this article we have answered a whole bunch of kayaking related questions. Hope this helps you with your kayaking journey!

Is kayaking difficult?

Kayaking is an easy water sport for you to start. Some people compare kayaking to riding a bike, but I would say its more like riding a bike with training wheels on. Its quite easy to stay balanced on a kayak compared to a bike on the first try.

Kayaking is great exercise and besides balance you will need some strength and endurance to go really fast and long on a kayak, but you can start off with a nice paddle around on a smooth body of water. Besides the more you kayak the more you will improve! Once you get better at kayaking, there are always new challenges and tricks to learn. From kayak rolls to whitewater kayaking there are always new things to learn in kayaking. So there is always room for growth and improvement. Kayaking is not difficult, but it is a good idea to get instruction for the basics from an instructor to make sure you are safe!

How is kayaking done?

The basic movement in kayaking is done by using the forward stroke. In the forward stroke the paddle is moved to the front side of the kayak, the scoop like form of the paddle is entered into the water and pulled towards the back of the kayak. The hips and the back muscles do most of the work in the forward stroke. The movement is initiated by twisting the core rather than with the arms.

Can a beginner do kayaking?

A beginner can definitely do kayaking. We all start somewhere! For a beginner some of the main things to learn are:

  1. Getting into and out of the kayak
  2. How to keep balance in the kayak
  3. The basic paddling strokes
  4. How to get out of the kayak if capsized

When first trying out kayaking it is good to choose a shallow and sandy beach to start out from. If a beach is not available you can also start out from a deck, but it is important to note that the deck should be sturdy and balanced and also it should not be too high off the water to allow easier access to kayak.

The weather should be calm and there should be know heavy traffic in the water. Make sure to also check that there are no currents or streams in the kayaking area. The weather and the water should also be warm enough to be safe in case you are capsized. If it is even slightly windy its always better to paddle out against the wind so that you have the tailwind on the return trip.

I recommend playing around on the first kayaking try rather than planning a longer trip. You will learn a lot from trying out different strokes and finding your balance on the kayak in a safe place.

How do I stop my kayak from capsizing?

Which is more stable sit in or sit on kayak?

This depends on a lot of factors, but if the length and width of the kayaks are the same then, a sit-in kayak is more stable than a sit-on kayak, because the center of gravity is lower. That being said a lot of sit-on-top kayaks are wider and therefore more stable than most sit-in kayaks. Stability is important for beginners and the activities that sit-on kayaks are designed for. A lot of sit-in kayaks are more suitable for long distance paddling and are slimmer to reduce the resistance. Sit-on kayaks are often used for fishing or other activities where you might not need to cover a lot of distance.

How far can you kayak in a day?

If you are planning a kayaking trip you might be wondering how for you can go in a day.

How fa you can kayak in a day depends on:

  1. Your strength and endurance
  2. Your paddling technique
  3. Your kayak length and width
  4. The winds, waves and currents
  5. The other kayakers

How strength and endurance affect how far you can kayak in a day

If you are a strong woman or man you can probably sprint your kayak into top speed quickly. It takes endurance to keep up the faster pace. Especially when you are paddling for several days your fitness level will determine the distance you can go in a day.

Even an Olympic athlete (in an other sport) with amazing strength and fitness might can left behind by a recreational paddler if his or her technique is poor. Like with any sport, your technique will make you go faster. It will save your energy for a longer paddling session. Using the proper technique will have your paddle strokes focus more on the back and leg muscles rather than your arms. Good form and technique will also save you from injuries or nuisances such as blisters, back or leg pain etc. When you paddle injury free you can keep on going longer without taking breaks or days off for healing and recovery.

How the type of kayak affects how far you can kayak in a day

The type of kayak will make a big difference on how fast and long you can kayak. A long streamlined kayak is always faster than a wide and short kayak. A longer kayak moves in a straighter line and energy is focused on moving forward rather than from side to side. Also if you have something dragging from your kayak this will slow you down. So keep all traction to a minimum to gain more distance.

How the weather and conditions affects how far you can kayak in a day

If you are paddling against a current, waves or the wind you are going to be paddling a lot slower. With a tail wind or the current helping you forward makes the paddling a lot easier. The weather is definitely a factor when planning your kayaking trip. I have to admit that there are several times when I have been paddling my kayak with ease, only to notice that it was all because of the tail wind helping me. Of course after I have turned back for the return trip I have got the wind in my face.

The pace an average kayaker can paddle

The average paddler can kayak a mile in 25-30 minutes, 11 miles in 5 hours and 22 miles in 10 hours.

If you are paddling in a group you should always go on a pace that is suitable for the slowest paddler. The motivations and ideas for the kayaking can be different. Some people want to take breaks while others want to make the trip a tough workout.

Is it easier to kayak or canoe?

Many people have different opinions on which sport is easier kayaking or canoeing. Our verdict is that kayaking is easier for a beginner. While canoes are easier to enter and exit, it is easier to get the hang of kayaking faster. Especially with sit-on-top kayaks the benefits of a canoe are even further reduced. If you have issues with your back or with your hip or leg joints it might be more comfortable to start our in a canoe though. You can read a lot more on the subject on our canoe vs. kayak article here!

What’s better a kayak or canoe?

This question really goes down to what you are going to be doing, with who and where. A kayak is better for some activities and a kayak is better for other. Both vessels have their advantages and preferred uses. In the article linked to in the previous answer we go through a large number of the deciding factors.

Canoes are usually larger and heavier than kayaks. This makes it harder to carry them to and from the water. They are also harder to lift on top of the car or onto your trailer. This also makes the canoes more cumbersome to paddle in winds or currents. At the same time there is often more room in a canoe for all your gear and family.

A sit-in kayak is easier to keep dry. They have covers for storage hatches and a spray skirt for the cockpit. When paddling you also get some water sprayed in by the wind, waves and by your paddle. This is especially important on a longer trip where you need to keep dry.

What do you wear to kayak?

What you wear in you kayak depends a lot on the weather and water temperature. A good rule of thumb is to dress for water temperature not the air temperature. You can read a lot more on our article what to wear kayaking.

  1. Dress for cold weather in layers
  2. Dress for cold water in a wetsuit or dry suit
  3. Always have a personal flotation device PFD when kayaking
  4. Dress for sunny weather in clothes and hats that protect you from the UV-rays of the sun

Its a good idea to always wear clothes that are fast to dry and don’t restrict your movements. Jeans are not good for kayaking, but you can wear jean shorts. Sneakers are not good for kayaking, but you can wear sandals. Cotton is also not the best material for kayaking.

Do you need a wetsuit for kayaking?

If you are looking to keep paddling when the weather and the water gets cooler a wetsuit is a great way to keep warm. When you get it is good to have a wetsuit to keep you warm. Neioprene can be really warm if worn in the sun without getting wet. When whitewater kayaking or practicing your kayak rolls it is likely you are going to get wet often and repeatedly. When thrown out of a kayak in the rapids the wetsuit will also protect you from rocks to some extent. Check out our guide to cold weather paddling here.

Do you wear shoes when kayaking?

When you go kayaking you should ditch you sneakers and wear water shoes or sandals instead. You can read more about water shoes here. Sneakers are not good for kayaking, because usually they are not meant to get wet and a wet sneaker on your foot is not comfortable or safe. A sneaker or other regular shoe is not designed for this type of use and the materials are slippery. When carrying your kayak or when entering or exiting your boat you want to have a good grip on those wet rocks and decks that you might be launching off.

What kayak is right for me? What kayak is best for beginners?

Choosing a kayak can be tricky, as there are so many options and one person recommends this kayak and another a completely different one. Not to worry though as we have compiled various articles on how to choose a kayak for you and your preferred kayaking activity. You can find them here!

Things to consider when choosing the right kayak for a beginner

  1. What kind of kayaking you want to do: rapids, fishing, trips, compete or just splash around for fun?
  2. Where will you store the kayak and How you will transport the kayak

Is it better to have a short or long kayak?

A longer kayak is easier to paddle for longer distances while a shorter kayak is better for whitewater kayaking or splashing and playing around. Shorter kayaks are often wider and sturdier and therefore more stable, while touring kayaks are long and narrow to optimize speed.

Is a 10 foot kayak too small?

A 10 ft kayak is great for many purposes. It is a good kayak length for beginners and kids to get started with. A 10 foot kayak works nicely for many activities such as fishing. Any activities where you don’t need to cover a lot of distance can be done on a smaller kayak.

Is an 8 foot kayak too small?

A short kayak is easier to carry to the water and also it is easier to maneuver and turn in the water. This is why a lot of whitewater kayaks are 8ft or shorter.

How shallow can a kayak go?

A good rule of thumb is that kayaks can be paddled in shallow water that is only 3 to 5 inches deep. When paddling in the shallows it is always good to be cautious. Submerged rocks and tree trunks can really cause damage especially when crashing with speed. You can get stuck or capsize because a part of the kayak is stuck.

Are kayaks good for fishing

Kayaks are great for fishing! There is a large variety of options that will help you out with your fishing when you have a kayak. A sit-on-top kayak is stable and has nice accessibility to all your gear. You can even hold you fishing gear in your hands if you have a pedal kayak. Check out our article on best budget fishing kayaks here.

Are kayaks safe?

Kayaks are safe and kayaking can be done safely! Get lessons from a qualified instructor before starting to kayak.

  1. Get instruction and training from a professional
  2. Always have a PFD and dress according to the weather and water temperature.
  3. Always choose a paddling location that fits your skill level

Should you kayak alone?

If you know what you are doing you can kayak safely alone. If you go kayaking alone you should have the necessary knowledge and skills. It is also a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you expected to return. If your plans change you should let that person know. Its also a good idea to take a cellphone with a full battery with you in a waterproof bag to make sure you can call for help if necessary.

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