Beginners Guide To Kayaking

There are many amazing ways to explore nature and kayaking tops this list. The popularity of the adventurous activity over the last few years has cemented its place among the most loved outdoor recreational and sporting activities.

Kayaking is an amazing workout and a great way to see nature, but there are things you must know to kayak safely. Check out this beginner's guide to kayaking!

Kayaking can seem challenging for the beginner but once you get the hang of it, you might not want to get out of the kayak. There are a few things you should know before you get started and this guide will certainly get you paddling within no time.

What is kayaking?

The true definition of kayaking comes from the vessel itself. A kayak is a narrow vessel that resembles a canoe. There are sit-in and sit-on kayaks. Once you get into the kayak, you’ll use a paddle to propel yourself forward or backward as you wish. This is what is known as kayaking.

How do you get a kayak?

Since you are starting, chances are that you might not have a kayak lying around somewhere. While you may want to rush out and buy one, I recommend holding off until you’ve gone on a few kayaking trips. While I can’t imagine anyone not loving kayaking, it’s not for everyone. If you want to figure out if kayaking is for you, consider several options;

Rent a kayak– If you are at a resort or campground on the water, you can often rent a kayak and related gear from them. They usually give you basic instructions on how to kayak.

Take kayaking lessons – I’m a big fan of learning from people who are experts. It tends to drastically reduce the learning curve. And while it costs money, I have found it to be worth it.

Borrow a kayak from friends or family – If you know of a friend or family member who is into kayaking, chances are good that they’ll offer to loan you their kayak when they hear you’re interested in learning.

Go on a kayaking tour – There are so many great kayaking tours you can take. These are guided tours that will acquaint you with the world of kayaking while also usually allowing you to see spectacular things. I regularly see manatees while kayaking.

What will you expect during kayaking?

When on a kayaking trip, expect paddling, paddling…and more paddling (unless you go with a pedal kayak in which you can expect pedaling, pedaling and some paddling). If you’re planning a long trip, it’s best to get started early in the morning. The rays of the rising sun dancing on the water is spectacular in the early morning. If you have a guide, they will advise you on the best times to go and can often tell you whether you can expect calm water or choppy waters.

Most kayaking trips are planned to pass through an amazing natural environment that normal hiking or walking can’t allow you to see. You might feel fatigued as a beginner but it will be worth the effort.

What do you bring on a kayaking trip?

For your safety and that of others, there are some items you need to carry with you when you go kayaking.


  • Floatation gear/life jacket – you might fall from a kayak (it happens often) but you should not panic. Normally, all you need to do is flip the kayak, hop back aboard and you are good to go. Floatation gear will keep you safe if this happens. Make sure that your floatation device is coast-guard approved.
  • Swimwear to keep yourself warm and cozy all through
  • A hat to protect you from the rays of the sun
  • A raincoat to protect you from the rain


A paddle – kayaking is nothing without a paddle. How else will you control the vessel?

Coast guard approved whistle – Three short bursts signal your need for help

First-aid kit – injuries do happen (even in the water)

Bilge pump – if you end up with water in your kayak, a bilge pump can help!

Dry bags – for your phone and other devices that you do not want to get wet

GPS and/or GPS Watch – to help you navigate your way back

Headlamp– just in case you get caught in the dark. It also helps to signal your position to others.

Sunscreen – to protect your skin from the sun’s rays

Drinking water –  Always pack plenty of fresh drinking water. I usually freeze some bottles of water to take as well. If you’re going on a longer excursion, packing one of these will ensure you’re never without drinkable water.

Snacks – to keep the energy levels up

How to launch your kayak

Before you launch your kayak, you need to make sure that you are comfortable with it. Sit upright with your back against the seat end of the kayak and then adjust your feet by slightly bending the knees.  You can adjust the footpegs by sliding or tilting them until your bent knees are firmly connected to the cockpit of the kayak.

For the launch, carry your kayak to shallow water with the front of the kayak facing the water. Step into the kayak, make sure you are comfortable, and then use your paddle (or hands) to propel yourself forward. Once you get into deeper waters, you can now use the paddle to balance and control the kayak.

If you are a beginner kayaker, you are better off not launching form a dock as it requires balance, familiarity with your kayak, and the strength after paddling to pull your kayak up out of the water and back onto the dock.

Kayak paddling techniques

If you do not paddle the right way, instead of enjoying the sport, you will end up straining your body.  Before you do anything, make sure you are well relaxed and not leaning against the backrest.

Forward stroke

This will push you forward, making the kayak move in the forward direction. You start the forward stroke by pulling the paddle along the side of the kayak. You keep repeating this process until you reach your destination.

Reverse stroke

This is designed to move your kayak backward. The process is the exact opposite of the forward stroke. Instead of pulling the water, you push the water forward.

Turning stroke

This is also called a sweep stroke. It’s designed to help you turn your boat to whichever side or direction you wish. You do repeated, wide-angled stroke on one side, and the kayak turns the other direction.

Safety tips when kayaking

Your safety is a priority. If you are going on a kayaking tour, you need to be well prepared.

Check your gear– especially your floatation device. Make sure it fits snugly and never remove it when you are in the water.

Carry your whistle – if you are ever in trouble when kayaking, you can give a distress call on your whistle. Three long blasts usually indicate that someone is having an issue in the water.

Paddle close to the shore – as a beginner, do not go too deep in the waters. Keep a safe distance from the shore so that in case something happens, you are sure you can swim easily to safety.

Do not kayak solo– unless you are a real expert, it is not advisable to kayak solo. Who will assist you if something happens in the water?