Anouk Govil has been into kayaking her whole life. She grew up in Colorado, which has a vibrant whitewater kayaking scene, and learned how to navigate the rapids at an early age. She benefited from the valuable advice received from experienced kayakers, and has since gone through several popular river rapid spots across the United States. Now, she wants to share her love of kayaking with would-be paddlers in Southern California, where she currently lives. Today, she discusses basic tips for people who are just getting into the sport.
Kayaking is a fun and exhilarating experience. However, like all other water sports, safety should always be the primary concern. Beginners should always follow a few basic tips to ensure that their first few attempts at kayaking are safe and enjoyable.
1. Choose the right kind of kayaks and kayak equipment. Kayaks differ in shape and material depending on where they’ll be used. Whitewater kayaks, for instance, are shorter and are made of high-impact material, allowing them to bounce from rock to rock. Sea kayaks, on the other hand, have longer bodies that allow them to pierce the waves easier. Beginners are often advised to get sit-on-top kayaks because of their stability and durability. These kayaks typically have wider beams to make it easier to keep upright while riding in them. Also, the wider the kayak, the longer the paddle; and for beginners, a light paddle is recommended.
2. Invest in the proper gear. Even if you kayak in calm waters, you should get USCG Type III personal flotation devices or life jackets. If you plan to go whitewater kayaking, it’s also advisable to get a proper helmet. While a spray skirt is useful for keeping your lower body dry, you should know how to detach it quickly in case you go under. It’s better to end up wet than struggling underwater. Also, while wearing a wetsuit could be hot and cumbersome during summer, you’ll soon learn that it also helps keep you cool.
3. Learn how to get in and out of a kayak. The first thing you have to learn when kayaking is the proper way to get in and out of the boat. Maintain a low center of gravity as you get off the dock. Hold on to the dock as you put your feet into the cockpit of the kayak, then lower yourself slowly and deliberately. Getting off the kayak follows the same principle in reverse – lean against the dock, stand up slowly, and slide on to the dock.
4. Learn how to paddle. A good paddling technique starts with the proper seating mechanics. Rest comfortably and keep the boat stable. When gripping the paddle, your hands should go over the pole and the thumbs should go under, keeping your grip firm but relaxed. A kayaking stroke should involve not just your arms, but also your back, shoulders, and torso. Wind your upper body, placing the paddle blade parallel to your feet, then draw your hand to the level of your hip, then unwind. Do the same on the other side. To turn to one side, make a sweeping stroke opposite the side you want to turn to.
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