Sea Kayaking for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know
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Can you think of a more stress-free experience and a better connection with nature than when you are paddling your kayak on the open sea, passing by stunning stretches of coastline, surrounded by crystal clear water, absolutely no one and nothing to break the silence?
Kayaking is a thrilling sports activity that involves the use of a small and narrow watercraft to explore the open waters of bays, river rapids, seas, lakes and oceans.
The history of the kayak can be traced back at least 4,000 years when the Inuit people used the vessel for seal and walrus hunting. The first kayaks were made from wood covered in sealskin, and it wasn’t until the 1950s that fiberglass was introduced. In the 1980s, the first plastic kayaks were made. Kayaking has evolved into a popular sport today, and the watercrafts are now lightweight and sturdy, and extremely versatile.
There is a number of different types of kayaking. For beach and ocean lovers, sea kayaking is definitely at the top of the list. It is an incredible adventure of exploring inaccessible marine environments while connecting with nature. No wonder sea kayaking has gained numerous fans from around the world!
If you’ve decided to give sea kayaking a try, you should first have all the basics covered. If you’re a beginner, follow me as I explain the fundamentals of kayaking.
Benefits of kayaking
Aside from the unique adventure and environment it offers, the sport has numerous other advantages too. Sea kayaking provides a varied exercise experience, from smooth paddling to intense handling of rapids and waves along the way. Kayaking is a calorie-melting watersport, burning up to 500 calories per hour. Furthermore, it helps build your physique and improves self-confidence.
This amazing sport is a fantastic anaerobic exercise, providing numerous health benefits. Kayaking builds endurance and mental toughness, especially on longer trips. Needless to say, beginners will find the activity even more challenging, as it works muscles they might not even know existed. But most importantly, the serene environment, stunning backdrops, and stops on secret beaches are guaranteed to clear your mind.
Types of kayaks
The choice of a suitable vessel is of the utmost importance for beginners in this sport. Your kayak should suit the conditions in which you are paddling. It is for this exact reason that you will find seasoned kayakers own several kayaks for the varied waterways in which they practice the sport.
The kayak should suit to your body frame and the paddling style you intend to learn and use. The most popular types of kayaks are:
- Sit-on-top kayaks are the most beginner-friendly option out there – they are easy to use, very stable, easy to get in and out, and even have self-bailing (small holes to drain the water out). Just as the name suggests, instead of sitting inside the vessel, you sit in a depression on top, and not inside as you would in the traditional sit-inside kayak. On the downside, you are almost guaranteed to get wet. Sit-on-top kayaks come as hard-shell or inflatable.
- Sit-inside kayaks provide shelter from water and the wind for your lower body. With this type of vessel, the paddler sits in the cockpit, which has a rim where you can attach a spray skirt to keep the water out. On the downside, these kayaks do not offer the same freedom of movement as a sit-on-top. But then again, if you are paddling in cold water, you’ll definitely want this type of kayak to keep your feet cozy and warm.
- Touring kayaks are quite stable and suitable for both beginners and seasoned kayakers. They are ideal for lakes, bays and moving bodies of water, but have limited ocean use. Touring kayaks are recommended for two-day tours, as they can gain generous speed and are easy to maneuver.
- Sea kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and choosing the right one depends on your intentions. If you are planning to go on longer trips on relatively flat water, then a long kayak is the solution, as if offers more speed and storage space. For day trips that might include the occasional turbulent waters, an average waterlline and gentle rocker will come in handy. If you’re planning to hit the waves and maybe even do a bit of surfing, then a short waterline and more rocker are what you should be looking for.
- Whitewater kayaks are typically used for paddling on a moving body of water, such as river rapids or turbulent seas. They can also be used for surfing, as the kayaker can reach high speeds on any type of wave. In 2012, athlete Tao Berman surfed the gnarly break at Nellscott Reef, riding the 40ft (12 meters) wave in his whitewater kayak.
- Kids’ kayaks give young kayakers more control over their vessels, meaning that they can tag along on a well-deserved family trip. They differ from adults’ kayaks in size and weight, while mimicking their counterparts. Since kids grow up so quickly, I recommend a used kids’ kayak.
- Inflatable kayaks are currently the most versatile option out there. They are easy to carry and take up minimal storage space, which means that you can easily get to kayaking spots that cannot be reached by car and even combine kayaking with some good old backpacking. They are easy to set up, have enough room for luggage and equipment, and come with a compact design for use on all water surfaces, from whitewater kayaking to sea kayaking.
Most sea kayakers choose affordable kayaks that have a low profile, with a width of 18" to 24" (45-60 cm), hence very stable in windy conditions. Sea kayaks offer comfort over long distances and are suitable for straight-line applications due to the waterline, between 15 to 18 feet (4.5-5.5 meters).
Undertake skills training
After choosing the type of kayak that suits your needs, it is now time to learn the kayaking skills that are fundamental in practicing the sport. I highly recommend that you begin with learning the basic techniques from a seasoned kayaker.
Basics such as how to grip your paddle, the deep forward strokes for movement, the wider strokes for maneuvering and other comfortable paddling techniques should be learned, as well as essential skills such as changing from simple paddling to maneuvering in your paddle strokes. Practicing these skills should be gradual, starting with shallow, flat water.
Choose a suitable location
You should pick a suitable location to undertake your sea kayaking training sessions, taking into account the weather conditions. You should consider joining adventure groups with planned schedules for a safe and more fulfilling adventure.
Carry your essentials
To make the most out of your sea kayaking trip, you should carry along all essential equipment and provisions. The most important accessory is the Personal Floatation Device (PFD’s), which includes a life jacket that should be comfortable enough and allow for free movement of the arms.
You should have a waterproof bag to store your clothes and essentials and keep them dry. You can also bring a dry box to pack items such as cameras and phones. A bilge pump and sponges should also be carried in your kayak and be easily accessible. Use these items to remove water from your kayak in the event of flooding.
If you plan to camp on the beach along the way, pack a lightweight, compact tent that does not to take up space in your kayak. You should also carry along a quality sleeping bag, preferably a synthetic one, that will still keep you warm when wet. If the sleeping bag is not synthetic, carry it in a dry bag.
You may also carry iodine tablets and water filter to make the water drinkable if you are paddling in fresh water. Sunscreen is also important since you will spend most of your day under the sun.