Anouk Govil is a lifelong kayaking enthusiast. As a kid growing up in Colorado, she was exposed to all sorts of water sports, and she decided that kayaking gave her a different kind of rush compared to other activities. She first went kayaking with her parents who were avid paddlers as well, and went on her first solo kayaking trip at the age of 17. She has since moved to Southern California and counts La Jolla and the Channel Islands as her favorite kayaking places. Today, she discusses basic kayaking principles that every paddler should know before taking to the water.
I’ve been paddling for more than half a decade now, and there is no other activity that relaxes and exhilarates me more than kayaking. Something about slicing through clear lake water and rushing down rapids makes me feel closer to nature at its gentlest and wildest. When I first went kayaking, though, I felt a bit lost. It might seem as easy as getting into a kayak and bobbing your paddle up and down through the water, but it’s more complicated than it looks. Here, I’ll share with you some of the things I realized people should know before taking up kayaking as a hobby.
1. There are different kinds of kayaks for different kinds of water. Ever wonder why kayaks come in all shapes and sizes? As it turns out, their appearance affects the way they are handled. For example, whitewater kayaks are shorter and sturdier because they must be easier to steer between rocks and other obstacles. They are also made of high-impact fiberglass or plastic to allow them to absorb impact. In contrast, kayaks made for sea paddling have longer bodies that move through waves more efficiently.
2. One should dress as if he/she will be thrown overboard. It pays to anticipate the worst possible outcome, whether it is in the form of a sudden rainstorm or the kayak capsizing. While thin summer clothes are more comfortable while sitting on the dock, they’ll do little to keep you warm in case you get wet. Cold shock and hypothermia are two of the leading causes of paddling fatalities, so you should always wear a wetsuit. A Type III life jacket will also keep you afloat in case you are separated from your kayak.
3. You should invest in a good paddle. For every mile that you kayak, you’ll lift the blade more or less 1,000 times, so it makes sense to invest in a light yet sturdy paddle. If you are a beginner kayaker, smaller blades make sense as they are less tiring to use. I would recommend buying the paddle before the kayak so that you could test different boats using the same paddle, and many experienced kayakers I know spent more on their paddles than on their boats. The length and weight of the paddle depend on your height, weight, and strength, so I suggest that you ask a qualified kayaker to go with you when you go paddle-shopping.
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