Here at Folbot, we think kayaking is a great way to spend time outdoors, get a low-impact workout, and explore the natural world around you. For a beginner, learning to kayak might seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually much easier to master than you might think. Your first step is to decide what kind of kayak is right for you. Kayaks are built differently for different tasks—fishing, recreation, touring, expedition, etc—so make sure the kind of kayak you buy is appropriate for the type of outings you want to take. If you’re not sure, visit our website, or call us, and we can help point you in the right direction. We offer two great recreational kayaks, the Citibot and the Gremlin, but you can certainly use any of our other boats for a fine time out on the water.
What To Bring
- Make sure you always wear a Personal Flotation Device (aka PFD or life vest) anytime you’re out on the water. Safety should always be your number one priority.
- You want to make sure you stay hydrated, so bring plenty of water. We recommend a BPA-free refillable bottle that seals securely. Opt for one with a carabineer so you can attach it directly to your kayak. If you’re planning on being out on the water for a while, try filling a wide-mouth water bottle (like a Nalgene) with trail mix, crackers, or other snacks so you don’t have to cut your trip short due to hunger.
- If you have equipment you need to bring with you that you don’t want getting wet, such as a camera, car keys, medication, etc., we recommend using a dry bag to keep your belongings nice and dry during your trek. Make sure it’s attached to the boat in some way so that it doesn’t float off if you flip over.
- If you’re going to be out in the sun for a while, make sure you apply sunscreen at regular intervals to avoid getting burned. We also suggest wearing a hat to avoid burning the top of your head.
- To avoid squinting all day from the glare of the sun off of the water, bring a good pair of sunglasses with you. Use a croakie to prevent losing your glasses in case you get flipped over.
- Check the weather before you go and dress accordingly. We recommend dressing in layers so as to be prepared for any weather condition. Make sure that you’re wearing lightweight clothing you can swim in, in case you end up in the water. Also, keep a dry change of clothes in your car. You’re probably going to get a little wet while out on the water (whether you mean to or not), and you’ll be thankful for not having to drive home in wet pants.
- Have a spare paddle with you just in case anything happens to your main paddle. You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a kayaking trek without a paddle. There’s a reason the phrase “up a creek without a paddle” has such a negative connotation.
Find A Trail
When looking for a good site to go paddling, start locally. Look for a flatwater lake, river, or inlet. It’s better to pick a spot that you’re a little bit familiar with so you’re more comfortable in the water.
If you want to try branching out a bit, trails.com has listings of flatwater paddling trails around the US. Just make sure to do some research on any site you choose before you go so you know what to expect.
Although it’s not necessary, it may be helpful to you to take a basic kayaking skills course if you’ve never been in a kayak before. This way you can learn how to stay safe on the water and you’ll know what to expect when you finally cast off on your own. The American Canoe Association has listings of various kayaking skills classes offered around the country. There are probably kayaking schools or retailers that offer lessons in your area, do a search and see what works best for you.
Getting In And Out
To get in and out of a kayak, remember to keep your weight low and centered. If you’re launching from a dock, hold onto the dock as you enter the kayak feet first, and slowly lower yourself fully into the kayak. To get out, you just do everything in reverse order. For launching from water’s edge, place your paddle in front or behind the cockpit opening, across the deck. Lean to one side so that the blade of your paddle is resting on the ground, steadying the kayak as you enter. Quickly enter the cockpit, crouch, and sit and use your paddle to gently shove you off. And to get out, you simply do everything in reverse order.
Basic Skills Techniques
Grip the paddle firmly with your thumbs under the bar, facing the water, at about arms length. Use your core to power each stroke in order to prevent strain on your arms and back. For a basic forward stroke, start by placing one edge of the paddle in the water and dragging it toward you until your hand reaches your hip, then repeat the process on the other side.
There are several ways to turn, but the most basic is to use your paddle as a rudder and drag it close to the kayak. The boat turns in the direction of the blade. This technique causes you to slow down a bit, so to keep your momentum, use a sweep stroke. A sweep stroke requires you “sweep” the paddle wide on one side of the kayak until it reaches the back of the boat (the stern) Alternate a forward stroke on one side of the boat with a sweep stroke on the other. Continue this pattern for a wide arc turn.
And that’s all you really need to get started. There’s plenty of time this summer to put a kayak to good use, so get out and get paddling and remember HAVE FUN!