October 09, 2022 30 min read

Start Your Kayaking Adventures With Us

Inflatable kayaks on the river side

Kayaking is a fantastic way to get outdoors and enjoy nature. It can be sociable or solitary. Calorie-burning or relaxing. You can make your kayaking experience utterly unique to what you want. So whether you want to try out kayak fishing or touring around new destinations, keep on reading! 

But most importantly, kayaking offers a gateway to the water for some much-needed peace and quiet. Nothing beats going off-grid and stretching a paddle into the lake, river, or ocean.

Starting your kayaking journey does not have to be daunting either. With the right guidance and advice, you can become a kayak guru in no time! Just to make it easier for you, we are going to talk you through what kayaking is all about, where to begin with kayaking, and give you some top tips to get you started. 

Note: while this guide is set out to be informative, it is not a replacement for lessons and instruction with a certified instructor. Please still join kayaking lessons for practical guidance.

What Is Kayaking?

colorful kayaks on a river

Kayaking is a fun water activity that can fall in the same category as stand-up paddle boarding and canoeing. A kayak boat sits low to the water and the paddler sits inside facing forward. Using a double-bladed paddle, the paddler propels the kayak forward using a variety of side-to-side strokes. 

It is a fun physical activity that gets people out into nature. Kayaking is both a recreational and competitive sport that can be enjoyed on rivers, lakes, or in the open ocean. Some people get a buzz from racing or hurtling down whitewater, others simply appreciate a leisurely glide.

A Brief History of Kayaking

Kayak boats has been around for roughly 4,000 years. It is believed that kayaking originated in North America from those living close to the Arctic circle. Canoes allowed too much water in, which is not ideal when you are paddling through freezing temperatures! 

Early kayaks were made from light driftwood or hollowed fallen tree trunks with animal skins stretched over whalebone structures. This gave protection from the elements and provided a means of transportation, hunting, and fishing. 

Kayaking was brought into the sporting world in the 1800s by the Europeans. 1936 saw the first flat water racing exhibition of the sport at the Berlin Olympic Games.

Where To Begin With Kayaking

There is more to kayaking than hurtling down whitewater rapids at breakneck speed or setting out on great coastal expeditions in open water. In fact, when you are first starting out, it is best you avoid this type of kayaking, just to begin with. 

So, where do you start with kayaking? 

You have a few different options depending on your confidence level in the water.

Kayaking Classes

A kayak lesson is ideal for beginners nervous about getting in the water or handling the boat. Under the careful supervision of a qualified instructor, you will be taught the basics of 

  • How to handle a kayak
  • How to get in safely and out of a kayak
  • How to paddle 
  • What to do if you capsize

Often these lessons are within a group, although you can also find private lessons if that suits you better. 

We always recommend starting off with a lesson. This way you will be shown the proper technique and hopefully won’t start out with bad habits before you get going!

Kayak Rental

Kayak for rentals

Perhaps you did a lesson a couple of months ago. Maybe you tried kayaking as a kid on a summer camp. If you are already confident in the water then you could consider renting a kayak next time you are at the beach or lake. 

Renting a kayak from an outfitter will get you well-maintained equipment that should meet all current safety standards. Within a rental session you will be supplied with:

  • A kayak
  • A paddle
  • A USCG-approved life jacket

This is a good option if you are with a buddy that already kayaks and can show you the ropes. Kayak rental is also good for anyone that cannot travel with their gear!

Kayak Tours

Fancy having a bit more of an adventure? After you have learned how to paddle a kayak correctly and safely, maybe you can consider joining a kayak tour. 

There are some incredible places to paddle around the world. Some tours are even bucket-list-worthy, like up to the Mississippi River or the Floridian Keys. 

Guided tours include all your equipment, information on the local area you are exploring, and tips from kayaking experts along the way. Kayak tours are well worth the dollar!

Convert your SUP to a Kayak

Versatility is key when it comes to living an active lifestyle. Did you know that you can convert a SUP into a kayak? Yep, that is right. With a simple conversion kit, you can turn your stand-up paddle into a laidback kayak in no time. 

Let’s take the GILI SUP to Kayak Conversion Kit as an example. This bundle includes a comfortable kayak seat with a rear storage bag and a kayak blade that fits on your SUP paddle. The seat securely fastens to the deck of your paddle board using the d-rings and adjustable straps. This allows you to get the perfect pitch and setup that is comfortable for you. 

Converting a SUP to a kayak gives you an alternative perspective. It opens up the world of kayaking while still keeping your paddle in the SUP realm. We will say it again, versatility is key!

Buy a Kayak

So you have taken some lessons and explored caves by kayak whilst on holiday in Europe. You may be at a stage where you are ready to buy your own kayak. How exciting!

Make sure you research the different types of kayaks there are so you can find the best match for your needs. You need to consider where you are going to be doing the majority of your kayaking, how you are going to transport it, and your general experience level.

A-Z Kayaking Terminology

Kayaking Term Description
Back band A component of the backrest that provides additional support to the lower back. Typically made from padded fabric, plastic, or foam to aid posture and comfort.
Back Stroke The technique used to paddle the kayak backwards.
Base layers Essential kayak clothing. Good to keep the paddler warm or wick sweat away, depending on the weather.
Bent shaft paddle An ergonomic paddle option that suits kayakers with wrist issues, like tendonitis. The shaft is bent where the hands grip to keep the wrists in a neutral position.
Blade The broad ends of the paddle, are typically slightly teardrop-shaped with a scoop to give a more efficient stroke.
Booties Neoprene boots/shoes a kayaker can wear to give warmth and protection.
Bow The front of the kayak (nose on a SUP).
Bow Draw An intermediate paddle stroke to turn the kayak efficiently and quickly. The paddle enters the water close to the bow of the kayak and is drawn backwards.
Bow/stern lines Ropes or straps used in transporting a kayak on the roof of a vehicle. The lines are attached to the bow/stern to the car bumper, to minimize the rocking while in transit.
Bulkhead Structural support inside the kayak, watertight compartments made from composite, plastic, or foam, typically in the stern. Stops the kayak from sinking in the event of capsizing.
Cam straps Webbed straps with padded buckles that are used in transporting a kayak on the roof of a vehicle. Used to tie the boat down to roof bars/roof racks.
Carabiner Metal loop clip with a gate fastening. Commonly used in climbing and other outdoor activities. Good to secure dry bags and water bottles inside the kayak.
Class I Rapid Mellow and easy-going whitewater that is relatively safe for all levels of kayaker.
Class II Rapid Whitewater rapids with small waves. A good challenge for slightly more experienced kayakers to manoeuver. 
Cockpit The central compartment where the paddler sits inside the kayak.
Deck The top of the kayak. Some are open, many are closed – it depends on the type of kayak.
Deck bungees Bungee cords secured to the top of the kayak, either at the bow or stern. Allows for easy and accessible storage of dry bags and gear.
Downstream The directional flow of a river.
Dry bag A sealable fully waterproof bag used to carry gear, like first aid kits, keys, phones, and money. 
Drytop A jacket designed for paddlers with latex seals at the neck and wrists to keep the user completely dry.
Eddy A feature of a river where the current flows around an obstacle and water flow goes back upstream to fill in the space left by the deflected current. Eddies are useful to take a rest, check your route, or simply get out of the current.
Edge Control A skill used by more experienced paddlers. They set, maintain, and change the kayak edge to varying degrees to maneuver. Used in whitewater kayaking and ocean kayaking, less so in recreational paddling.
Eskimo Roll Technique is used to flip back upright when the kayak has been turned over.
Feather The offset between the two paddle blades. Some paddles are manufactured with a 90-degree difference in blades. This helps slice through water and wind as the kayaker paddles. Some manufacturers design paddles with adjustable feathering options. The term can also refer to the kayaker manually twisting the paddle as it stroke to get the optimum water entry.
Foot braces Small plates, normally made from plastic, can be adjusted for the best fit. The paddler's feet brace against these plates to give more leverage in every stroke, making for a stronger paddle technique.
Forward Stroke The technique used to paddle the kayak forward.
Grab loops/handles Webbed and strong handles at the bow and stern of the kayak. Used for carrying the kayak and securing it to a vehicle during transportation.
Hatch A storage compartment accessed by the deck that stays dry whilst in the water.
Hatch cover A removable cover is used to close the hatch storage compartment, keeping water out whilst paddling.
Hull The bottom of the kayak.
J-cradles A “J” shaped rack is used to transport a kayak on a car roof. 
Kayak The boat/vessel is propelled forward using a dual-bladed paddle. 
Open Water A large, unprotected body of water. Typically referring to the ocean but can also be a large lake.
Outfitting Additional adjustable features that allow for the kayak seat to fit comfortably and correctly. This term covers the seat, back band, foot braces, and thigh braces.
Paddle A shaft with two paddle blades is used to propel the kayak forward in the water.
Paddle Jacket/Splash top A jacket without wrist or neck seals. Keeps the wind off the paddler but does not keep the kayaker dry.
PFD Personal floatation device, life jacket. An important bit of safety equipment for every kayaker.
Portage Carrying the kayak around a section of rapids or an obstacle in the water that the kayaker does not want to run/paddle.
Racks A transportation system or a storage solution. Specifically fitted bars to securely hold a kayak in place.
Rapid An increased gradient causes a section of water to become more turbulent with waves and whitewater.
Reading water Deciphering and recognizing safe paths through rapids.
Rudder A device that can be dropped down from the hull at the stern of the kayak to assist in steering. Raised and lowered using a pulley system and steered using pedals inside the kayak. Not every kayak has this in place.
Sculling Draw A figure-8 stroke alongside the kayak that pulls the kayak sideways.
Shaft The long, central body of the paddle.
Shortie Refers to a short sleeve paddle jacket.
Side Draw A simple stroke is used to pull the kayak sideways.
Sit-on-top (SOT) A type of kayak without a cockpit where the paddler sits higher/above the boat. Many seats and foot configurations are often used for recreational kayaking.
Skeg Similar to a rudder but a skeg cannot be directed using foot pedals. It helps the kayak track in a straight line.
Spray skirt A nylon or neoprene skirt worn by the paddler that fastens to the cockpit so no water can enter the kayak. 
Stackers Accessory for storage and transport racks to allow stacking of kayaks without damaging any equipment.
Stern The back of the kayak (tail on a SUP).
Straight shaft paddle A paddle with a straight shaft. For more efficient paddling, the kayaker will need to introduce feathering to their technique. 
Strainer A hazard in the water kayakers should try to avoid. Refers to a tree branch or debris in the water that allows the water to flow through but would trap a kayak.
Swamp To fill the kayak with water.
Sweep Stroke A basic turning stroke technique. The paddler draws a “C” shape in the water, from bow to stern, which turns the kayak left or right.
Tandem kayak A two-person kayak, with two cockpits (if a sit-inside type) and two kayak seat setups.
Thigh (knee) braces A support just below the kayak seat for the paddler to maintain the correct leg position. The brace should fit just above the knee to be most comfortable.
Tow leash A safety accessory used for rescues or assistance for less experienced paddlers. An tow leash is a long webbed strap that is packed in a small bag and attached to the kayaker's harness/PFD/jacket. It is literally used to tow the kayaker in the event of an emergency.
Trim Levelling of a kayak from bow to stern affects boat control.
Upstream The opposite direction in which the water is flowing.
Water sandals are Specifically made footwear for water sports activities.
Wave A feature from a gradient increase underwater when the current flows over rocks, reef, or debris. Can be found in the ocean and on rivers.
Wet exit When the kayaker exits the kayak in the water and swims, either intentionally or unintentionally.
White water The term used for when water flows become turbulent. The water mixes with air, creating an aerated mixture to navigate.

Parts of a Kayak

Blue kayak with parts label

You need to know the anatomy of a kayak before you start paddling. 

If you take a kayaking lesson, then the instructor should start the session with a safety briefing and talk you through the different parts of the kayak. This way, when they are telling you to sweep your paddle from bow to stern, you will know what they mean! 

While there are loads of kayaking terms to learn as you progress, here are some of the essential names you need to know to begin with:

Types of Kayaks – Shapes & Performance

Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are bigger than others, some are made from different materials. Choosing the best type of kayak for you is a personal choice based on your skill, intended purpose, and means of transportation/storage. 

The type and shape of a kayak affect its performance. 

Sit Inside Kayaks vs Sit On Top Kayaks

Sit-inside kayaks are the most iconic type of kayak. These kayaks have a cockpit and closed deck to the boat. The paddler sits inside the kayak and low to the water. Many kayakers that paddle sit-inside kayaks also make use of a spray skirt to keep water out while navigating rapids and waves.

Sit-on-top kayaks are commonly seen within the recreational world of kayaking. These are open-deck kayaks that are generally preferred by beginners as they feel less claustrophobic. They are also great for kayak fishing as you have plenty of deck space to store gear and equipment.

The argument of sit-inside kayak vs sit-on-top kayak comes down to the type of paddling you are going to be doing. If you are heading out into the ocean or taking on whitewater rapids then a sit-inside kayak will be the most recommended option. 

Inflatable Kayaks or Hard Shell Kayaks

There are many pros and cons to both inflatable kayaks and traditional hard shells. Again, choosing between the two is a personal decision that boils down to two key aspects:

  1. Do you have the space to store a kayak?
  2. Do you have the means to transport a kayak?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, then that does not mean you cannot be a kayak owner. Instead, you could consider inflatable kayaks instead. Similar to iSUPs, i-kayaks take up less space than traditional boats. Therefore, they are easier to store and travel with, which ultimately expands the options of where you can kayak. 

What Size Kayak is Right for You?

Different kayaks with length chart

Kayak size is determined by the activity as well as your body type. 

Just as it is with stand-up paddle boarding, the general rule is the bigger you are then the larger boat you will need. Although, whitewater kayaks tend to be smaller than ocean touring kayaks to give you more maneuverability. Likewise, fishing kayaks are also longer to accommodate the additional gear you need to take on board

Recreational kayaking requires a stable, versatile, and maneuverable kayak. Generally, a kayak between 8 feet and 13 feet long will be perfect!

Adjusting A Kayak To Fit

Adjusting a kayak to fit you specifically will make the whole experience more enjoyable and comfortable. There are several aspects of the outfittings that need to be considered:

  • Back band
  • Foot braces
  • Thigh (knee) braces

When these aspects are correctly fitted, you should have contact with the kayak from your back all the way to your toes. Some paddlers even say it should feel as if you are wearing the kayak!

Some kayaks come with adjustable seats. However, you may need to look into seat pads to get the best fit. You want a snug fit that hugs your hips, but not too tightly that you cannot rotate your torso. 

The back band is there to support you in rest periods. However, while paddling, it should only gently touch the lower back and sacroiliac. You do not lean back while paddling. Instead, you need to engage your core and sit up tall, holding your upper body upright.

The ball of each foot should be touching the foot braces, with the heel resting just underneath. Your feet should angle outwards slightly with your knees bent, creating a sort of frog-leg or diamond position if looking from above. And again, your thighs should be supported by the thigh braces. 

All of these elements may need padding with foam or literally moving within the kayak (if possible) to get the right fit for your height. 

What Is The Basic Gear I Need To Go Kayaking?

As you begin to venture down specialized kayaking, like fishing or expedition paddling, your kit list will become extensive. However, just to get started with a gentle and recreational kayaking excursion, the basic gear needed is fairly simple:

  • Kayak (obviously)
  • Dual blade paddle
  • PFD
  • Whistle
  • Dry bag
  • Appropriate clothing

You can also add a spray skirt to your list if you are paddling through rapids or waves and are comfortable wearing one. Or if you are thinking of trying your hand at kayak fishing, you will need to load up on tackle boxes and rod holders. 

Everything You Need To Know About The Kayak Paddle

Man holding an aluminum kayak paddle with a red blade

Along with the kayak, the paddle is central to kayaking – you cannot paddle without a paddle! A kayak paddle is specifically designed to make each paddle stroke more efficient.

There are two main components that make up a kayak paddle: the shaft and the blades. All kayak paddles consist of two blades and a shaft, unlike a SUP paddle or canoe paddle that only has one blade. 

Paddle Type

In kayaking, there are varying factors that determine the paddle type:

  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical blades
  • Feathered or matched blades

Symmetrical paddle blades are the most beginner-friendly type of paddle, with both blades being the same size and shape. They are easy to use and are also good in whitewater for the quick displacement of water. On the other hand, asymmetrical blades give the kayaker more control in each stroke for a more streamlined paddle. These paddles are slightly more challenging to use. 

Feathered and matched refers to the alignment of the blades. “Feathered” is when the blades are offset to increase wind resistance while paddling. Matched blades are aligned to give the most powerful strokes. Generally, kayaking paddles allow the ability to alter the angle of the blades so you can match them to your paddling. 

Paddle Length

Incorrect paddle lengths can be awkward to use. Ideally, you need to take your height and add about 8-12 inches (20-30cm) for the right paddle length.

Some kayak paddles are adjustable in length as well as the feathering of the blades.

Paddle Material

Material of the kayak paddle is important. The blades and shaft will be made from different materials in order to perform the relative jobs. The overall weight of the paddle is something to consider as this will change your entire paddling experience. 

As the paddle shaft is the largest part of the kayak paddle, you want to ensure this is lightweight and durable. 

  • Aluminium alloy – functional and affordable, but not lightweight. Often paired with cheaper plastic blades.
  • Fiberglass – lightweight and stiff. Generally paired with fiberglass blades. A good mid-range option. 
  • Carbon fiber – lightest and stiffest, however, also the most expensive. Paired with nylon blades which are without question the best.

Paddle Blade

The blade size plays an important role in your paddling experience. A larger blade is more powerful, though a smaller blade is more efficient. 

There are two main parts to a kayak paddle blade:

  • The power face – this side is curved upwards so that it catches the water and faces the paddler on each stroke.
  • The back face – the side faces away from the paddler and has a ridge (called a spine) that runs through the middle, making the paddle rigid.

The material choice affects weight, performance, and affordability. 

Paddle Budget

Kayak paddles range from affordable ($30) to expensive ($300). These price ranges are determined by the materials and features included, like hand grips and feathering adjustability. 

How To Kayak

Woman on a transparent kayak

Here is your how-to kayak 101 guide – everything you need to know! 

Proper Clothing

Obviously, kayaking is a water sport. Therefore, you need to dress appropriately with the assumption that you are going to get wet. Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. You also need to consider comfort and durability when picking out what to wear.

A PFD is always part of the kayaking wardrobe. Some places even have legal life jacket requirements as well! But then after that, kayaking clothing is dictated by the conditions you will be paddling in.

Mild Conditions
  • Swimwear
  • Rashguards/water shirts
  • Board shorts/surf leggings
  • Fleece jacket (mid-layer)
  • Waterproof jackets/pants
  • Neoprene booties
  • Hat (cap or beanie)
  • Gloves 
Cool/Cold Conditions
  • Wetsuit (for water 70 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler)
  • Dry suit (for even colder)
  • Layers under the dry suit

The key to successful kayaking clothing in layers. As you paddle you will get warm, but if the sun drops or the wind picks up then you will want extra warmth. Do some research and scout out the local spot to see what other kayakers are wearing for inspiration.

Getting Your Boat to the Water

Transporting your kayak from A to B can be a challenge if you do not live directly on the water. This is where inflatable kayaks come into their element! 

Getting your boat to the water requires a vehicle and a roof rack. Some kayakers simply use the roof bars on their car and get creative with ropes and straps. However, you can buy purpose-built J racks that are secure in holding your kayak in place while in transit. It is important to secure and tie the bow and stern to the bumper of the vehicle regardless of how you choose to transport the kayak. 

And it is definitely worth teaming up with some buddies to reduce gas costs and make it more fun.   

How to Carry Your Kayak

All kayaks have grab handles at the bow and stern to assist in carrying. This is obviously easier with a friend to help you out. But do not worry if you are paddling solo! There are a couple of neat tricks to try out next time you are carrying your kayak to the lakeshore:

  1. The cockpit grab – tip the kayak on its edge with the cockpit facing away from you. Keeping your knees bent, place both hands on the top cockpit edge and pull the kayak up onto your thighs. Once the kayak is resting on your thighs take your strongest hand and hold the opposite side of the cockpit rim, stand up and lift the side of the cockpit rim up and onto your shoulder. Rest the rim on your shoulder and position the kayak until comfortable. It should feel balanced and not hit the ground at either end while walking. 
  2. The drag and glide – are strictly reserved for plastic kayaks. Use the grab handle at the bow or stern to lift one end and simply drag the boat to the water. Do not be tempted to do this if the kayak is made out of fiberglass as it will cause damage!
  3. Add in some wheels – ideal for those long walks from parking to the water. A kayak cart is a helpful addition to your kit list to save your arms from carrying the boat. This two-wheeled attachment is fitted at the center of the kayak, so you can lift one end and roll it along to your launch site.

Entering and Exiting With Your Kayak

Before getting wet, hop into your kayak to make any adjustments needed on the seat or footrest. This is just easier on flat and dry ground.

To get in the water, start by placing your kayak parallel to the shore or dock. Hold the paddle behind the seat, extending one end of it to ideally rest on firm ground to give more stability. Keeping hold of the paddle for balance, simply slide your legs inside the kayak (one foot at a time) and set your bottom on the seat. Use the paddle to help push off if you are in shallow water, otherwise, start paddling!

You can use this same technique when exiting the water, just in reverse. Swing your legs out of the kayak, holding the paddle on the ground for extra stability. 

Before you even think about getting wet, make sure you know where your launch and exit points are. It is always a good idea to pick out a significant landmark at your exit points. This will help you spot them while in the water. 

How To Hold A Kayak Paddle

Paddling should be relaxing and fun. So to start with, you need to make sure your grip is nice and relaxed. 

To find the correct hand position on the kayak paddle, hold it up horizontally and put the center of the shaft on the top of your head. Hold the paddle so your arms make a 90-degree right angle at the elbow – that is how far apart your hands need to be while paddling.

When gripping the paddle, hold the shaft with your thumbs and forefingers in a ring, as if you are making the “OK” sign. Keep all other fingers loose and relaxed. This technique will allow you to direct your blades and gain reach without overstressing your wrists.

As previously mentioned, proper kayaking paddles are asymmetrical with a spoon/scoop side to the blade. This is also known as the power face. It is designed to grab water with each forward stroke, making for a stronger and more efficient paddle. Make sure you are holding the paddle the right way with the power face facing you.

Posture For Kayaking

Posture equates to balance, efficiency, and safety. Therefore, it is important to maintain a good posture at all times while kayaking. 

  • Keep your head, chest, abs, hips, and rear all evenly aligned and central in the kayak. Yoga and pilates are excellent exercises you can do on the land to help make you aware of your alignment.
  • Keep your hips loose, allowing the boat to rock underneath you.

Tandem Kayaking 

Tandem kayaking is exactly the same as regular kayaking, just with an extra person on board! Having a buddy join you for a paddle is always good fun, and they can help carry the kayak to the water. 

While both people are paddling, they do also have two different roles within a tandem kayak:

  • Front paddler – the smaller and weaker paddler, sets the pace for the session.
  • Rear paddler – the heavier and stronger paddler, controls the direction and provides power when needed.

When launching a tandem kayak, the stern (rear) paddler will hold the kayak steady whilst the bow paddler gets in. They will then get into the kayak as you would in a solo kayak. 

For efficient paddling, both paddlers need to get in the same rhythm with their strokes. This will keep the kayak tracking straight and help build up speed. 

Using Rudders and Skegs

Rudders and skegs are two accessories you can bring into your kayaking experience to assist steering. However, they are not a necessity for general recreational kayaking. Both are located at the stern of the kayak and help control water displacement to turn the kayak.

  • Rudders – connected to a pulley system so the kayaker can raise and lower the rudder into the water when needed. They are then controlled by foot pedals.
  • Skegs – fixed in place and cannot be adjusted mid-session. Short “fin” attachments that dig into the water give more resistance and stability at the stern. These are helpful when you start kayak surfing and tackling voracious waters.

How to Paddle Properly: 4 Basic Kayaking Strokes

Man and a woman on a blue tandem kayak

A variety of strokes exist for whatever direction you want your kayak to go. Here are some of the basic paddle strokes and relevant techniques to get you started.

Forward Stroke Technique

To move forward.

Start with your strong-hand side and place the paddle as far into the water as you can comfortably reach. Rotate your torso to the opposite side without pitching forward. Now pull the blade back towards you, keeping the path of the stroke parallel to the kayak. Repeat on the other side. 

The smoother you can make this technique, the more speed you will gain, and the straighter the kayak will glide. 

The key to a successful forward stroke paddle is engaging and using your core. This is achieved by twisting your torso rather than using your arms like a bicycle. By doing this, you will have a stronger technique, reduce early fatigue, and work stronger muscles. And remember to breathe!

Backward Stroke Technique

To move backwards.

A backward stroke should be used minimally just to adjust your position in the water. Movements are exactly like the forward stroke but in reverse. Use the back face of the paddle and start with the blade at the rear of the boat. Use your torso and push the water toward the front of the kayak. Soon you will find yourself moving backwards.

Turning Technique

To change direction and turn.

Turning is also known as a sweep stroke. First, place the blade with the power face out towards the front of the kayak. As you pull the paddle back, draw a wide “C” on the water that ends at the back of the kayak. Do this stroke on the right side and you will turn left. Do it on the left side and you will turn right.

You can also reverse sweep stroke by using the back of the blade with the same motion, just starting from the back of the kayak and ending at the bow. You will be pushing the paddle with your rearmost hand.

There is also a turning technique called a Rudder Turn. This is performed while the kayak is in motion. Dip the backface of your paddle in the water near the stern and apply pressure against the water outward. This will demand core strength and engage your shoulder muscles.

Draw Stroke Technique

To move sideways.

This technique is commonly used if you are exiting onto a raised dock or bank. Maintain your kayak in a parallel position to the dock/bank without turning. Put the blade in the water vertically between the two and pull the water towards the kayak. This will ‘pull’ you towards the paddle and your exit point.

Sitting, Kneeling, or Standing in Your Kayak Boat

Woman on a green jacket standing while fishing on an inflatable kayak

Generally, the standard position for kayaking is sitting with your legs out in front of you. You may find your kayak is molded to this shape, and any other position may be uncomfortable.  However, there are some instances when kneeling or standing could be a better option. 

Kneeling gives more stability in windy conditions. It is also a safer option if you are kayaking with pets or children – if they fall in, you are in a better position to assist them in getting back on board. Kneeling is more comfortable in sit-on-top kayaks.

Standing gives more visibility and a higher vantage point, it is good for exploring or kayak fishing trips. Again, this is better in a sit-on-top kayak as you will not have the cockpit restricting your position. Standing while kayaking is moving into the realms of paddle boarding. It may be worth looking into SUP kayak conversion options to get the best of both!

Capsizing While Kayaking

Capsizing is nothing to be afraid of in kayaking. As you get more comfortable and experienced, you can practice your Eskimo rolls with a sit-inside kayak and spray skirt attached. 

But let’s assume you are not there yet. We are going to talk you through a self-rescue if your kayak capsizes.

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Inflate your PFD if it is not already inflated.
  3. Flip your kayak upright. 
  4. Re-enter your kayak by lifting your chest up first, then swinging your legs in and around.
  5. Swim to shallower water to make re-entry easier.

We recommend you practice self-rescues in the waist to chest-deep water early on in your kayak journey. There is no need to wait for the emergency to happen. Practice beforehand so you know what you are doing when it does happen.

Sit-on-top kayaks definitely have an advantage when it comes to capsizing. It is pretty much impossible to get stuck when flipped over and it is far easier to get back onto the kayak. It is also extremely unlikely that you will get stuck in a sit-inside kayak type, but the risk is there. 

Accessories That Assist In The Event Of Capsizing

Preparing for tipping over is a good and safe practice for all water sports. Here are some accessories you may want to consider to help you out:

  • Paddle Float – keeps your paddle blade afloat and gives you something to push off of when re-entering your kayak.
  • Bilge Pump –  portable hand pump that removes excess water from your kayak cockpit.
  • Kayak Sponge – to soak up excess water from inside your cockpit.
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device) – keeps you buoyant and safe in the event of an emergency.

5 Common Kayaking Mistakes

Group of kayakers on a different types of kayak

Mistakes happen, so don’t worry about them! Here are some of the most common mistakes to keep an eye out for so you can improve your kayaking skills.

  1. Wobbles and Balance Moving from edge to edge rather than maintaining a level of balance. This reduces speed and increases the risk of tipping up!
  2. Incorrect Paddle Angle Many beginners perform their forward stroke with the paddle at a low and horizontal angle, almost as a mash-up of a forward and a sweeping stroke. This is slow and inefficient. The paddle needs to be sent deep and vertical!
  3. Short Strokes equate to more strokes, which ultimately will bring on fatigue a lot quicker. Ideally, you want to reduce the amount of time the paddle is out of the water to the absolute minimum.
  4. Not Taking The Time Rushing in your paddling is not cool. Not only does it take up more energy, but it also means you are missing out on the whole point of kayaking. Remember to take a moment to hang out in an eddy and look around you. You are in nature and it is beautiful! Enjoy the moment and simply hang out from time to time.
  5. Missing The Rivers Features Every river has fast lanes and rest points. Use these parts to your advantage to save energy in increasing and decreasing your speed. So be sure to take the time to suss out the situation and know where you are paddling.

Beginner Kayaking Tips For Your First Kayaking Trip

Make your first time kayaking as smooth as possible with these beginner-friendly tips:

  • Choose your location carefully – ideally, you want a flat body of water with no motorized boat traffic making a wake. 
  • Suss out the launch and exit points– avoid rocky entry points. To begin with, you want a gentle slope and ideally sand to make the experience easier. 
  • Check the weather – no one likes paddling in the rain or wind. As a beginner, you want to have the most comfortable ride possible, which will generally come with sunshine and no wind. 
  • Use the wind to your advantage– sometimes you cannot avoid the elements. If you do get stuck with the wind, start out by paddling into the wind so you have a tailwind to come back. This will be a far more pleasant experience!
  • Start steady – do not get caught up in big ideas and plan an expedition for your first-ever time kayaking. It is ok to start small and build it up.

Safety Precautions While Kayaking

Regardless of your kayaking experience, safety should be a key priority. Stay safe whilst out on the water kayaking by following these guidelines:

  1. Book a lesson if you are new to kayaking
  2. Choose the right equipment for you and your intended activity
  3. Dress for the water temperature, not the weather
  4. Always use a PFD that fits you correctly
  5. Maintain a proper posture while kayaking
  6. Hold the paddle correctly and don’t overstrain
  7. Pack a spare change of clothes, because you will get wet and you don’t want to get cold
  8. Practice self-rescue and assisting others
  9. Never kayak alone
  10. People are more important than kayaking equipment – just in case you get in a sticky situation!

Advanced Kayaking Techniques To Aim For

The most important thing for all kayaking techniques and manoeuvers is activating the core and stabilizing the muscles for balance. You can spend months training and practicing your various strokes, only to discover yet more and more elements you can finely tune to make them even better. 

While you are in the process of learning and advancing your skills, there are some more “advanced” techniques that you can strive to achieve down the line. From various forms of braces to rudder turns, add these to your list of “must-learn-and-master” skills:

  • Low brace and high brace
  • Sculling brace
  • Stern rudder
  • Low-brace turn
  • Bow rudder
  • Side slip (hanging draw)
  • 30 Second Cowboy Scramble recovery roll

Kayak Care

Man taking care and checking his kayaks

So you have taken the plunge and invested in your very own kayak and equipment. That is great! Now to keep your kit performing to its top standard, you are going to need to take care of all of the gear. 

Storing Your Kayak and Accessories

First and foremost, rinsing off salt water is the secret to good kayak care. Saltwater can be incredibly damaging to materials over a long period of time. Therefore, we need to make sure it is of everything before putting your gear into storage. 

You then need a clear area for your kayak to be stored – this is where inflatable kayaks trump. There are several rack storage solutions that are perfectly viable but do depend on your space. Typically, kayakers use ‘J’ racks attached to the wall. This rack is perfectly shaped to securely hold your kayak in place. Ceiling racks are another great option for kayaks and are a good space-saving option. You may need to also rig up a pulley system to assist in lifting the kayak up high. 

The paddle can neatly slot in with your kayak on whichever rack you have chosen. We also suggest hanging your PFD and other accessories so they can dry out properly to avoid a build-up of mildew. 

Inflatable kayaks take up significantly less space than a hardshell. Therefore, they are growing increasingly popular within cities and for those that have limited space available. To store i-kayaks, you must rinse off any salt water, allow the boat to dry, and then fully deflate. It then rolls and folds up into a large backpack and can be stowed away wherever is convenient.

Repairing Your Kayak

Dings and cracks is an inevitable part of kayaking. And you can repair most, within reason, by yourself or with a professional shop. How you do repairs depends on the material the kayak is made from. 

Scratches and gouges are the most common damages to kayaks from paddling over rocks and through shallow waters.

For all repairs, you must prepare the area properly. This means it needs to be cleaned and dry thoroughly, ideally using the sun to dry out any hidden water. Use sandpaper to buff up the area regardless of material and then proceed with the appropriate repair kit.

Plastic Kayaks

Plastic kayaks are made using high-density polyethylene, HDPE. This material can be difficult to repair, so professional repair jobs may be the best way to go here. 

To repair plastic kayak scratches and gouges, you need to melt in more HDPE to fill the gaps. You can use offcuts from previous repair jobs or buy HDPE weld-rods for the job. Make sure you use relevant safety equipment to protect yourself from fumes and exposure. 

Fiberglass Kayaks

To repair fiberglass kayaks, you must use epoxy resin. This technique can also be used on some linear polyethylene models as well. 

Ensure you prepare the repair area thoroughly before starting. This will improve the quality of the repair and make for a better end result.

Inflatable Kayaks

Many inflatable kayak manufacturers will provide a basic repair kit. This will include vinyl sheet patches and vinyl cement glue. Be sure to follow all instructions provided. 

Transporting Your Kayak

Transportation is similar to storing. Hardshell kayaks require a lot more space than i-kayaks. 

When loading a kayak onto a vehicle, ensure you have appropriate roof bars and/or rack. You need heavy-duty webbed straps and rope to secure the kayak to the car. Due to the size of the boats, you need to strap them across the girth and bow/stern. This will stop them from rocking while in transit.

Ideal Conditions For Kayaking Beginners

Woman kayaking on a lake with a view of snow capped mountain

It helps to pick and choose your conditions so you are not setting yourself up for failure at the start! Beginner kayakers need to check some boxes in order to achieve maximum levels of fun and practice from a session. Ultimately, this comes down to two things:

  • Weather
  • Location


It is true that you are going to get wet anyway while kayaking. However, things are always a bit nicer in the sunshine, are they not? So for your first few sessions, check the weather forecasts and try your best to pick a decent day if possible. 

The wind is another factor to consider. The more wind there is, the more challenging paddling will be. Sometimes wind cannot be avoided. If this is the case, pick a more sheltered location to get in the water to help yourself.

Ideal weather conditions for kayaking beginners: sunshine and no wind.


Beginner kayakers should ideally start off in calm flat water locations. Lakes, ponds, and reservoirs are best! Entry and exit points should be gently sloped and preferably sandy to give you the easiest launch possible. If you are nervous in deep water, stick to waist-deep water, to begin with, whilst you build up your confidence.

Rivers and the ocean can also be suitable, under the right conditions. Slow-flowing rivers with plenty of eddies and minimal obstacles are recommended. This will give the paddler a good sense of currents and moving waters. Similarly for the ocean, fewer waves, to begin with, is ideal. As the water gets choppier, the kayaker will be challenged more to maintain balance and this can be tiring.

Ideal location conditions for kayaking beginners: flat and calm water, ie. lakes.


🏆 Is kayaking easy for beginners?

Getting started with kayaking is not as hard as you may think. There are just a few basic skills you need to learn as a beginner to get started. These include how to enter and exit a kayak, how to do a forward stroke and a sweep stroke to turn, and some safety tips while on the water. Once you have nailed these elements, then there is no stopping you from soaking up all the kayaking experiences.

Beginners are recommended to book on to a kayaking lesson. A professional instructor will be able to teach all the relevant skills needed and keep a safe eye on you the whole time.

👍 How long should you kayak for the first time?

Do not be tempted to embark on an expedition for your first time kayaking. Start simply with an outing. Anything up to an hour’s worth of paddling will be enough for your first time. Your muscles will not be used to the exertion and you do not want to get too tired to return to shore! Keep in mind that a beginner kayaker will average approximately 2mph to start with.

🏝️ Can you use a kayak on a lake?

Lakes are perfect for gentle and recreational kayaking. Typically, lakes have calm and flat water that is perfect for beginners to learn the ropes. Be sure to check local guidelines and regulations for your area as to any restrictions or requirements for vessels.

❓ Is kayaking good exercise?

Kayaking is a fantastic workout for overall fitness through low-impact activity. When you are paddling with the correct technique, you are engaging your core as well as using the arm, shoulder, back, and chest strength. Kayaking is good for aerobic fitness, strength, and flexibility.

📦 Do kayaks flip easily?

It is a misconception that kayaks capsize easily. In fact, it is pretty hard to flip one over. If you are paddling on gentle and calm waters, it is highly unlikely that you will flip the vessel.

📦 Is a sit-on or sit-in kayak better for beginners?

Sit-on-top kayaks are typically recommended for beginners. They are less restrictive with the open top deck space. They are also great for learning basic techniques, cooling off, and getting in/out of the kayak easily.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Kayak Expert Advice

White folding kayaks
5 Best Folding Kayaks and Buyer's Guide

December 05, 2023 13 min read

Read More
Woman cleaning the interior of her kayak
A Complete Guide To Cleaning Your Kayak

October 26, 2023 7 min read

Read More
Kayaks with rudder
Kayak Skeg or Rudder: What’s the Difference?

September 05, 2023 6 min read

Read More