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Kayaking for Beginners: A Brief Introductory

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Kayaking is an extremely enjoyable activity, yet many people are intimidated by it. Granted, the idea of strapping into a tiny vessel might seem frightening for claustrophobic people. When one considers the prospect of flipping upside down and being trapped underwater while still strapped into their kayak, the activity suddenly appears even more daunting. However, the vast majority of concerns about this sport are based on unsubstantiated fallacies. This brief guide will serve as a beginner’s lesson to getting on the water and embracing your inner Inuit.

I kayaked every summer for nine years at a summer camp, and the summer after my freshman year of college I returned to work at this camp. I spent two days receiving special certification to teach the kayak class.

The first thing you need to do is find a suitable location to begin your kayak adventures. All of my kayaking experience has been on lakes, but any body of water will do. Having said that, still water is important for beginners. Research what bodies of water are in your area, based on how far you are willing to travel.

Here are some essential kayaking materials you will need for your expedition. A spray skirt, lifejacket, paddle, and a kayak are needed before you get on water. These can all be purchased from sporting goods stores, and many states have stores that offer rentals for kayaks and the required accessories. Some intrepid online research can help you find the right kayak for you, either to lease or own.

Before you get into your kayak, it is important to familiarize yourself with the paddle. The ends of the paddles are offset; that is, if the handle is held flat so that one blade is perpendicular to the ground, the other blade will be facing the ground at an angle. In order to maneuver and travel in a straight line, it is important that you hold the paddle tight in your right hand but keep a less firm grip with your left hand.

After you bring the paddle down and cut the water on your right side, you will raise up the right side naturally to cut with the left side. As you do that, if your left hand is holding the shaft but not gripping it tightly, the blade will naturally hit the water facing the right direction to propel you forward. The mechanics of your paddle motion should involve you holding the shaft tight in your right hand and loosely in your left, and naturally rotating as you alternate strokes. This sounds like it may be confusing, but it is actually intuitive and well-designed.

Now that you know how to paddle, there are still a few items to take care of before you get on the water. Put on your spray skirt before your lifejacket. It is very important to cinch your spray skirt very tight, as this garment is what keeps water out of your kayak. Also, wear your spray skirt at least a half-inch over your belly button. As someone who wears their pants extremely low, this is a very uncomfortable feeling. However, I have had kayaks flood because I chose to wear my spray skirt comfortably and fashionably instead of properly. Put the skirt high and tight, and you will stay dry.

The life jacket should overlap with the top of the skirt. If you are wearing both properly this will create a seal. Before you enter the cockpit, it is important that you understand where the buddy strap is and what it does. The small loop at the end of the spray skirt is your buddy strap, and it will save your life if you flip your kayak over. Be sure to grab your buddy and let it know that you love and trust it and will use it if you must. Since your cockpit will be a vacuum with no water, pulling the buddy strap while you are upside down will cause water to flood your kayak. You will immediately shoot out and float to the surface in less than one second.

Ease into your kayak feet first, and affix your spray skirt around the edge of the cockpit. This will create a seal that keeps water out. Place your paddle on your lap, (if you try to paddle in shallow water your paddle will get destroyed by rocks) and scoot forward with your hands to get into the water.

One of the most important facets of kayaking is hip movement. Anyone who has been in a kayak knows how much control you have with your hips. Use them to really get into your steering and pick up speed.

Now you know everything you need to enjoy a new fun recreational activity at the nearest body of water! Stay dry, hold onto your buddy, and enjoy!

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About Daniel Terracina