During the summer, there is nothing like being near or on the water. While bigger boats like sailboats and motorboats can be fun, sometimes you want to be a bit closer to nature.
That's why one of our favorite nature pastimes is kayaking. Getting out on the water in a kayak, moving through the strength of your own paddles, just you and the water — you feel a real connection to the world around you.
If you've never been kayaking before, it might sound a little daunting to be out there all alone in your little kayak fighting the current. It's not quite as scary as you might believe. With the right guidance, you'll be ready for anything you might paddle across.
Here are the eight kayaking tips that you should know before you set out:
1) Practice Before You Get on the Water
The first thing that you should practice on land is getting into and out of your kayak. This move requires some practice and finesse to perfect. Those may seem simple, but it’s best to practice a little before heading out to avoid embarrassing early dips in the water.
Do yourself a favor and learn some basic paddling techniques. You’ll save yourself a lot of energy and time. Having the right technique with your paddling will give you much more power and control over your kayak, helping you grow more accustomed to steering than learning to paddle once you're out on the water.
2) Dress Appropriately
When going out in your kayak, you're going to get wet. Falling in is also a part of the game. It's bound to happen to you at least once or twice while you're learning and maybe even a bit after that.
You'll also likely have to step in some water to get in your kayak or push yourself off. Then there's the splash from your paddles and the spray of water from the wind, basically — dress to get wet.
You're also probably going to be a bit colder than you think you will be, regardless of the weather. Bring water shoes, a water-resistant jacket, and pants, as well as some warm clothes just in case. You should also consider the sun and sunburn. Wear a long sleeve t-shirt and your favorite cap to protect your skin, as well as apply sunscreen regularly for your health.
3) Learn River Hand Signals
Many first-time kayakers fail to realize just how loud it can get out on the water. When the water is moving quickly, and you are splashing your paddles in and out, the volume of things can quickly make it difficult to hear the others in your party. Learning basic river hand signals can keep you from spending a day on the water shouting yourself hoarse to make yourself heard.
There are only a few basic standard hand signals, like:
- Arms out in a row (or paddle horizontal) to stop
- Paddle/arm up and then wave 45 degrees left or right to direct the party to the best way around obstacles.
Familiarizing yourself with a few of these basic commands and signals can keep communication easy and help you level up quickly.
4) Know Your Self-Rescue Techniques
Before you get out on the water, it is essential to practice a few self-rescue techniques to be prepared should you capsize. While you aren't going to flip every time you go out on the water, it is a possible risk. Knowing how to handle this situation safely is crucial for your well-being and confidence in the kayak.
You should practice (or at least familiarize yourself) with the technique of rolling your kayak if it flips over without getting out. You should also practice getting out of your kayak while it is capsized and learn techniques to get back into your kayak from the water.
There are three popular techniques that are taught for re-entering your kayak from the water. The first requires a partner's help, the T-rescue. The two solo rescues are the paddle float rescue and the scramble or cowboy scramble rescue. Knowing at least one or two of these rescues is important for both safety and your self-assurance that you can handle whatever the water throws your way.
5) Bring a Water Bottle
You are going to find that you are absolutely exhausted after your first trip out on your kayak. Kayaking is a very serious physical activity, and you need to stay hydrated to stay safe and capable. That's why a water bottle is essential on any kayak expedition.
You can't bring just any old water bottle with you on the water. You need a water bottle that is secure, built tough, and durable that keeps your drink ice cold all day, even in the sun. Patriot Coolers drinkware has all the perfect solutions for your kayaking needs.
Patriot Coolers insulated water bottles are the ultimate combination of built-tough durability and insulation technology to give you the best of both worlds. Our water bottles come in a variety of sizes and feature our no-sweat grip exterior, which prevents the build-up of condensation on the outside of your bottle and improves your grip.
You can add a carabiner into the screw-on cap, letting you secure it firmly to your jacket, backpack, lifejacket, or kayak, so you know you aren't going to lose your grip.
6) Bring a Bilge Pump
Most kayaks are designed as sit-in kayaks, meaning that when you are seated, you're below the water level. Some more advanced and modern kayaks have sit-on-top designs, which keep you above the waterline. This tip is for the former class of adventurers.
A bilge pump is a simple and compact device that will help you to remove water that has gotten into your sit-in kayak, either because of capsizing and flipping your kayak back right side up or because of rapids and rough wears splashing waves into your kayak.
Without a bilge pump, you could take on too much water and have to go to shore to dump your kayak out before getting back on the water.
7) Pay Attention to the Weather
The weather plays a major role in your kayaking experience, both from a safety perspective and from an enjoyment perspective. Going kayaking with a bit of cloudy weather or even some drizzling and wind can be okay if you're dressed warmly. However, heavy storms can cause flash flooding and debris to run loose in the currents.
Stay on top of the weather forecasts not just for the day of your kayaking trip but also the several days beforehand. If there is a lot of rain expected the day preceding your trip, it may be in your best interest to postpone it to avoid rushing floodwaters, debris, and other potential safety hazards.
On top of this, lightning poses a major safety threat anytime you are near water, as it's an excellent conductor of electrical currents. Anytime you see or hear lightning or thunder near your kayaking site, you should immediately get away from the water and avoid tall trees. Do not set back out on the water until at least 30 minutes have passed since the last thunderclap or lightning strike.
8) Do Not Drink and Boat
Our parting piece of advice to you as you begin your kayaking adventures is that you need to be wary of the dangers of drinking and boating. In fact, in several states, it is illegal to operate a boat, even a kayak, while under the influence. This is for your safety and for the safety of everyone you share the water with.
Not only are you putting yourself at greater risk when kayaking and drinking, but you're also putting others at risk of boating incidents. Oftentimes, these accidents have proven fatal.
So, be safe and don't drink and kayak. It may sound like a good time, but it simply is not worth the risk. There are plenty of other outdoor activities and water-based fun that are safer if you are looking to do something while you drink.
Wait till you’re onshore to raise a glass to your oceanic escapades.
Kayaking Tips: Takeaways
Kayaking is a great way to enjoy time outdoors, get in some exercise, and spend time on the water. To have a memorable kayaking experience, these tips should help you prepare and improve your skills for your first trip.
Make sure that you start by practicing on land, both getting in and out of your kayak and your paddling technique, to save yourself some time when you get to the water. You are also going to want to dress warm, and for the water, you will likely get wet. It's just a part of the game.
It can also help to familiarize yourself with the basic river hand signals to communicate easier across distances without shouting. You should also practice self-rescue techniques so you can get back in your kayak if you were to fall out.
A bilge pump is a must-have item to get you out of a pinch as well, and don't forget to keep an eye on the weather before you head out. Remember to never drink and boat.
Staying hydrated is crucially important when doing outdoor activities like kayaking. Patriot Coolers water bottles are built tough to keep your drink secure no matter what the water brings upstream.
If you can follow these few tips, you are ready to paddle off into the distance.