How to kayak
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How to Kayak: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Kayaking is a fun and versatile water sport that makes for a great way to spend time with friends and family. If you’re new to the pastime, there are some key kayaking tips you should know before you push off. Jet Dock has created this how-to kayak guide for those new to the sport. We’re going over everything from paddling techniques to how our kayak docks can make getting in and out of the water a breeze.

The Benefits Of Kayaking

Kayaking has been growing in popularity over the past few years and it’s not hard to see why. The popular water sport provides a high-energy workout with low impact on your knees and joints. It can even strengthen your core, arm, shoulder, back and chest muscles while increasing your overall cardiovascular fitness.

In addition to being a great workout, kayaking is one of the most versatile water sports there is. The portability of a kayak allows you to launch from any shore or kayak dock with ease. You can even kayak on pretty much any body of water, which opens you up to diverse environments and scenery not always accessible by land.

Safety Rules to Keep in Mind

When learning how to kayak, there are a few basic safety rules you should know prior to venturing out. No matter how long or adventurous your journey, you should follow these rules every time.

  1. Take a buddy when out on open water — never paddle alone.
  2. Never kayak when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  3. Always wear a helmet and lifejacket while kayaking.
  4. Avoid kayaking in rough water conditions.
  5. Know your abilities and only kayak in waters you know you can easily navigate.

What You’ll Need

In order to go kayaking, there’s some equipment you’ll need and some equipment you may want. It’ll all depend on the length of trip you’re going on. As you begin to get more comfortable with kayaking, you may opt to purchase your own equipment and floating dock system.

Required Items

The following items are things you’ll definitely need on each and every kayaking excursion.

  • Kayak. Obviously, you’ll need this.
  • Bilge pump. A bilge pump or bailer allows you to bail water out of your kayak quickly.
  • Lifejacket. When engaging in any type of watersport, you should always utilize a lifejacket. Make sure it fits comfortably snug.
  • Helmet. For safety purposes, it’s important to wear a helmet when kayaking at all times to avoid dangerous collisions with branches, rocks or the bottom of a creek bed.
  • Paddle If you want to move in the water, you’ll want a paddle. Keep in mind that one size does not fit all when it comes to paddles. Follow a size chart to get one that works best for your needs.

Suggested Items

Even if you know how to kayak and feel like you're pretty experienced, the following are suggested items you’ll want to wear and/or bring, especially if you’re going on an extended kayaking trip.

  • Appropriate clothing. Dress for the water, not the weather. We typically suggest wearing a wetsuit or well-fitting swimsuit.
  • Drybag. You need someplace to safely store your keys, phone and wallet — a drybag is just the thing.
  • Map or compass. When out on the water, it’s always important to have a physical map or compass so you know how to get back to shore if you get lost.
  • Proper footwear (water shoes). It’s essential that you wear a type of water shoe when kayaking to protect your feet from rocky or uneven terrain.
  • River knife. A river knife is used for emergencies and is small and compact, making it easy to carry.
  • Spare paddle. Kayakers do often lose their paddle, so it’s a good idea to always carry a spare.
  • Sunscreen. If you’re going to be out on the water for any amount of time, you’ll want to lather up to avoid a bad burn.
  • Water. When doing any type of strenuous activity, it’s always important to stay hydrated. Make sure you pack plenty of water.
  • Whistle or signaling device. In case of emergencies, pack a small whistle or signaling device.

Getting In and Out of a Kayak

If you’ve never ridden in a kayak before, it can be tricky to get in and out. But with a little bit of practice, you’ll have it mastered in no time. There are two methods of entering a kayak: on land (or in shallow water) and from a kayak dock.

If you’re getting into the kayak from the shore, you’ll want to move the craft as close to the shoreline as possible. Then, sit in the kayak and simply push yourself into the water with your arms until you begin to float.

If you’re ever entering from floating kayak docks into deeper water, there’s a little more work involved. Begin by lowering your kayak from the dock onto the surface of the water, keeping your kayak parallel to the dock. Sit on the edge of the dock and lower your feet into the kayak first. Then, quickly turn your body toward the front of the kayak and lower yourself in.

When it comes time to exit your kayak, you’ll want to just follow the previous steps in reverse, making sure you’re as close to the shore or dock as possible. When exiting on land or shallow waters, swing your legs out, gain stable footing and stand. If you’re using a kayak dock, turn your body to face the dock and pull yourself out.

How To Paddle

Getting a feel for the paddle-stroke is crucial when learning how to kayak. This starts with knowing how to hold the paddle. The section of the paddle that you hold is called the shaft. You’ll want to place your hands around the shaft slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your knuckles pointed upward. The concave side of the blade should always be facing you.

To practice, start by sitting in an armless chair while holding a paddle or a broom. Slice the paddle’s blade vertically down, all the while maintaining a relaxed grip on the shaft. Imagine yourself paddling from side to side and you’ll start to get a better idea of your paddle style.

Types Of Paddle Strokes

Once you have the basic motion of paddling down, you can begin to learn and practice the various strokes you’ll need to navigate the waters.

  1. The forward stroke allows you to move forward. You’ll want to submerge one end of the paddle into the water near the front of the kayak. Then, propel the kayak forward by pulling the blade back toward your hip. When removing the blade from the water, rotate your body forward while you dip the opposite blade into the water
  2. The reverse stroke moves you backward. Start by submerging one end of your paddle into the water between your body and the back of the kayak. Then, look behind you and propel the paddle forward toward the front of the kayak. Next, rotate your body back into a square sitting position and then repeat this process on the opposite side of the kayak.
  3. The draw stroke will move you sideways. Place the blade of your paddle into the water in the direction you want to proceed, rotating your torso in that direction. Then, simply pull to move your kayak toward the blade of your paddle.
  4. Sweep strokes turn your kayak forward and backward. To turn forward, place the end of your paddle into the water against the front of the kayak. Draw your paddle back in a half-moon arc toward the back of the kayak and rotate your torso with the paddle. To turn backward, place the end of your paddle into the water against the back of the kayak. Now draw the paddle forward in a half-moon arc toward the front of the kayak and rotate your torso with the paddle.

Get Out On the Water Quicker with the Help of Jet Dock

With a little bit of practice and the right equipment, you’ll know how to kayak in no time. At Jet Dock, we want to help make the experience even more enjoyable. Floating boat lifts like our shallow water boat lifts provide a safe and stable platform for getting in and out of your kayak. Thanks to the innovative slide-on and slide-off design, launching and recovering your kayak has never been more effortless.

Constructed of high-density polyethylene modules, our floating kayak docks are modular, changeable and expandable. They can even be configured to match any dock configuration you already have in place. Plus, the systems work in all types of aquatic conditions, from shallow shores to deep water, in which case, you'd need a deep water dock. Reach out to one of our Jet Dock boat lift dealers today for more information.

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