So you’re thinking about going kayaking for the first time. Maybe you know someone who got you interested in trying out a new sport, or maybe you’re just figuring out the difference between a kayak and a canoe. Either way, you’re a beginner, and you want to get off on the right foot. One thing that’s important to a good start is having the right equipment. It can be difficult to master a new skill if you’re working with the wrong tools. But not to worry – this guide is here to help you get started!
1. The Kayak
The most important ingredient for a quality kayaking experience is probably the kayak itself. While it might seem like most kayaks look the same, there are actually dozens of different kinds with subtle differences among them. A popular choice for beginners would be a simple recreational kayak, which land on the shorter end of the spectrum at around 15 feet. Large cockpits allow passengers to climb in and out easily, and these boats will often provide comfortable back support. Some even contain a foot pedal, which can be helpful for steering in less than ideal water conditions.
Another option for new paddlers is the sit-on-top kayak, which has a seat in place of a cockpit. This way, if you capsize, you’ll just fall into the water rather than risk getting stuck inside the boat. This might make some riders feel a bit safer – but beware, you’re going to get wet on this type of kayak when the water drips from the paddle.
2. The Paddle
Speaking of paddles, that brings us to the second most important component of a successful kayak ride. Unlike canoe paddles, kayak paddles have a blade on each end. Kayak paddles average from about 210 cm to 260 cm (or about 6 to 8 feet, roughly). The taller you are, the taller your paddle should be. For beginners, a plastic paddle should do the trick. As you get more experienced and begin taking on rougher waters, you’ll probably want to bring an extra paddle with you in case one breaks. You wouldn’t want to be left up a creek…without a paddle…
3. Wet Suit
As with most sports, clothing is another important thing to consider. If the weather is nice, you may be able to get away with wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but as you get more serious you’ll probably want to invest in a wet suit. You’ll definitely get wet – and even if the air is hot, the water may still be cold.
A good rule of thumb is to dress according to the water temperature. If it’s a chilly day, you might even consider wearing a dry suit, which is completely airtight and allows you to wear normal clothing underneath. But since wet suits tend to be less expensive, most beginners choose them to start out.
4. Buoyancy Aids
Buoyancy aids are like life jackets, but allow for more arm and neck movement, which is needed for kayaking. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and if there’s even the slightest chance you might fall in, it’s in your best interest to either buy or rent something to keep you afloat.
You might not immediately associate kayaking with wearing a helmet, but most beginners and even advanced kayakers will typically wear one to protect themselves in case they are hit in the head by a paddle – either their own or someone else’s. It will also help protect you from injury if your boat capsizes.
6. Other Equipment
There are lots of other things you might like to purchase as you get more serious about kayaking. You’ll want wet shoes for walking safely on slippery surfaces. Perhaps a spray deck to help prevent water from getting inside the cockpit. A rope bag is useful in the event you ever need to rescue a fellow kayaker. And carrying a kayaking knife can get you out of all kinds of sticky situations.
Whenever you begin a new sport, it might seem overwhelming to keep track of all the new equipment you’ll need to buy just to get started. But don’t let that discourage you from getting out of your comfort zone and learning something new! Once you have the essentials, you can develop your new hobby and let it bring you fun and fulfillment for years to come, and your investment will be more than worth it.