Kayaking is a sport that can be done in any river, lake, ocean, or any other water body and is enjoyed by everyone, beginners and pros alike. Different kayaks are designed to handle different water conditions- some are designed for beginners kayaking in calmer waters, others are meant for races, high current waters, and so on.
Whether you want to reconnect with nature or embrace the challenge of navigating around a waterfall, or you see it as a good workout, kayaking is a great sport for everyone. In fact, some people also combine it with other activities such as fishing, hiking, and so on.
So this brings us to the real question: what is kayaking? We’re going to dive right into that in this article and uncover all the basic equipment you need for the sport as well as all the benefits it offers you.
What Is The Point Of Kayaking?
Kayaking is a popular sport among many, not just because of the serene surroundings, but also because of the health benefits involved such as:
It Provides Stress Relief
Pretty much any form of exercise helps the body release endorphins and provide stress relief. Aside from this, the disciplined movement of the paddle helps focus the mind away from any worries.
Just being in incredible places, like kayaking among the glaciers of Alaska, or the waterfalls in Hawaii can uplift your mood. The rhythmic movement and sound of the water have been scientifically proven to soothe the mind. The sound of the water acts like white noise, and the mineral-rich sea air provides an abundant supply of oxygen to stimulate mental energy.
It’s a Great Workout for Anyone
Paddling across the water strengthens your muscles and your core. It’s a particularly solid upper body workout, regardless of whether you’re kayaking in calm, flat water, or battling through a strong current. Your movement against the water resistance strengthens your arms, shoulders, back, and chest. Steering your boat through the water is great for your core and legs.
A major plus point about kayaking is that it provides a great cardio workout, and you control the intensity. For instance, kayaking in the ocean will be a higher impact workout as opposed to kayaking in a calm lake. This low-impact workout is easy on the joints and is ideal for anyone recovering from physical injuries such as joint pain.
It’s an Adventure
Good news for thrill-seekers- wild water kayaking is about as adventurous as it can get. Apart from exploring more places on the map, maneuvering through a waterfall on a small boat is a great way to get the adrenalin pumping.
What Do You Need For Kayaking?
Before you’re ready for your kayaking adventure, you need to make sure you’ve packed all your equipment. The type of equipment you’ll need will vary based on the type of water you are kayaking in.
Packing the Essentials
- Kayak – the type of kayak you use depends on the type of water and your level of expertise (for more information, check out the next section which discusses the different types of kayaks).
- Paddle – different types of kayaking require using different paddles. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, you can consult with the store manager to find out which paddle works for which occasion.
- Floatation Device – every kayaker needs to have what is known as a PDF (Personal Floatation Device). This may be a life jacket, a life preserver, and so on.
- Helmet – this is optional. A helmet is needed for whitewater kayaking, but it not necessary for sea kayaking and kayaking in a lake or pool.
- Spray Skirt – a spray skirt is essential for kayaking in rough water to keep the water out of the kayak. The skirt should be able to fit you and your kayak comfortably.
Packing Additional Equipment
Apart from the basics, there is some extra equipment you may need depending on where you are paddling:
- Dry Bag – you can attach this to the inside of your boat to store anything, from snacks to your camera to some spare dry clothes.
- Knife – this is rarely used in kayaking, but it can be a lifesaver if the kayak gets stuck anywhere or your life jacket gets snagged in a tree branch, etc.
- Rope Bag – a bit of rope can come in handy in many emergency situations, including roping in a friend who accidentally fell in the water.
- Whistle – this is another one of those safety devices. You can use it to signal to others in the water or on land in case emergencies, and so on.
- Float Bags – these help your kayak stay afloat at all times.
- Pair of Gloves – gloves can keep your hands warm if you’re paddling in cold areas. Some people find it difficult to kayak with them on, but wearing them will protect your hands from any scrapes and blisters while you’re in the water.
- Booties – again, these can help keep you warm, but make sure that the booties fit into the kayak.
- Additional Clothing – some people choose to wear a drysuit to stay warm, or at least a dry top. Many people opt for wetsuits in case they fall in the water, etc.
- Compass – this is particularly important if you’re sea kayaking since you need to know which direction you are headed in.
What are the Different Types of Kayaks?
Like we mentioned before, different kayaks serve different purposes. The common ones include:
- Sit on top Kayaks- this type of kayak includes an open, concave deck. It is used for non-white water kayaks (since the strong current of the water can make it difficult for the kayak to stay upright). These paddlers have plenty of space for a dry hatch so that you can store extra gear and food inside. This hatch also helps the kayak maintain its buoyancy.
- Cockpit Kayaks– this paddler involves placing your legs inside the hull covered with a spray skirt from the waist up to keep water from getting in. There are different variants of the cockpit kayak for different purposes. Some are short for easy maneuvering, while others are longer to cover large stretches of water.
- Inflatable Kayaks– unlike conventional kayaks, these ones may even allow two or three people to sit in the same paddler. They’re not as stable as other ones and are mostly suitable for recreational use. These paddlers feature an open deck with the paddler sitting a notch below the deck.
Kayaks may be made of different materials such as plastic, fiberglass, or even wood. This will determine the waters it can be used in as well as the price. Basic paddlers start out at a couple of hundred dollars and may go up to a few thousand depending on the model you choose. Many recreational kayakers choose to rent kayaks from look rentals if they’re on holiday.
The Main Features of a Kayak
Whether you’re using a sit-on-top or inflatable kayak, it’ll have a similar style. In order to maneuver comfortably through the water, you need to know how the kayak operates. The core parts include:
- The Bow & Stern- the front and rear of the kayak.
- The Starboard & Aft Side- the right and left side of the paddler.
- The Deck- this is the top of the kayak. It is also the spot where you’ll attach your hatches, spray skirt, bungees, etc.
- The Hull- generally, this term is used for the entire paddler, but kayakers generally use it to refer to the bottom of the boat.
- The Cockpit- the space in which the kayaker sits.
- Footpeg- the additional foot support built in the kayak.
- Coaming- the rim of the kayak to which the end of the spray skirt is attached.
- Thigh hooks- these are the supports on the underside of the cockpit that help a kayaker stay in control as they maneuver through the water.
The Basics of Kayaking
Now that you know what benefits kayaking offers and what the core features of your paddler are, it’s important to figure out how to actually get into the kayak and start moving.
What Are the Different Kayaking Strokes?
There are different ways of maneuvering through the water in your kayak. Most kayaking strokes have the same foundation, but as kayakers become more advanced, they need to know all of them. The basic strokes include:
The Forward Stroke
This is the first stroke you’ll learn as a kayaker. This involves moving the paddle with your torso, not because of the movement of your arms. Your ability to pick up other strokes depends on how well you know how to do the forward stroke.
The Back Stroke
Although moving backward isn’t really a style adopted by kayakers, it is required when kayakers find themselves in a narrow spot and need a way out. You may also need to go back to pick up a kayaker who has fallen out of their paddler.
The Forward Sweep Stroke
Whether you want to make a turn, spin your kayak around or change your direction, you’ll use the forward sweep stroke.
The Draw Stroke
This is a bit more complicated than the other strokes. The draw stroke helps you move the kayak sideways- it’s useful if you’re trying to dock the paddler, help a fellow kayaker, or you just want to impress someone.
The Reverse Sweep Stroke
This stroke is used to turn the kayak around, even if you are paddling backward.
The Spin Maneuver
This isn’t exactly a stroke- it basically combines the forward and reverse sweep to spin the kayak around.
How to Get Into Your Kayak
Once you know the proper way of settling into your kayak, the entire step will take you less than a minute. You will need some practice to maintain your balance and get it right. Start off by looking for a calm spot in the water, far from any rocky spots to get into your kayak.
Getting Into the Kayak on the Land
If you are white water kayaking or using a plastic paddler, you may opt to get into your kayak on the land and pushing yourself into the water. Look for a level surface (may even be a flat rock), sit inside the paddler, and push yourself into the water with your hand. Either hold on to the paddle with your free hand or keep it on the deck.
Getting into the Kayak in the Water
Start by sliding the kayak into the water, bow first. Hold onto the stern firmly and bring the kayak to a point in the water where it is shallow enough for you to stand. As you get in, make sure you have one hand on the boat at all times to maintain stability.
How to Step Into Your Kayak
Steady the kayak by using one hand to hold the rim of the cockpit. Hold the paddle in the other hand and keep it perpendicular to the boat. Place one foot in the kayak and shift your body weight over the kayak, all the while keeping your other foot on the ground.
Now, switch the paddle to the hand on the side of the foot already in the kayak. Sit over the back of the cockpit. Steady yourself on the kayak, grip it on both sides with your hands, and bring your other leg in. At this point, you can slide into the cockpit and into place.
Attach the spray skirt if you’re using one before moving further into the water. Once you’re in place, you’re ready to start paddling.
You will need a fair bit of practice to get it right, and you’ll probably lose your balance many times, to begin with. Falling and losing balance is all part of the process.
We’ve uncovered some common questions people have about kayaking:
What Muscles Do You Use Kayaking?
Kayaking uses many important muscles in the body, such as:
- The back muscles which play a pivotal role in guiding your stroke
- Shoulders (particularly exerted in the forward stroke)
- Rotator cuff
- Biceps and triceps
- Legs and hips
Can You Lose Weight Kayaking?
Kayaking can help you burn a solid amount of calories. On average, a kayaker can burn up to 500 calories per hour. The amount of calories you burn depends on your weight, tendency to lose/ store fat, weather, and water conditions.
What is the Difference Between a Canoe & a Kayak?
A canoe is basically an open vessel in which a person sits or kneels. It is maneuvered with the use of a paddle with a single blade. A kayak may be closed at the top or open, and the kayaker sits with their legs extended. The kayak is maneuvered with the help of a paddle with a double blade.
Is it Easy to Tip a Kayak?
Unless you’re in very choppy water, it takes a lot of deliberate effort to tip over a kayak, especially one that’s made of sturdy material like fiberglass. Sea kayaks and other lightweight designs, however, can be flipped over easily, and you may need to secure hatches on the deck to keep it stable.
However, most recreational kayaks have a flat hull offering more stability and making it difficult for you or the water current to tip them over.
Is Kayaking Dangerous
Although there are some risks involved with kayaking in rough waters (such as white water rafting), taking a few safety precautions is the key to avoid dangerous situations. This includes checking weather forecasts and water conditions before kayaking and not exerting yourself beyond your capacities.
Make sure you’re alert and well-hydrated and choose the location and kayak style according to your skill level, and your life won’t be at risk.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you should have at least some idea of the answer to “what is kayaking?” The next important step is to get the right training before you get into a kayak. Even if you’re paddling in calm, flat water, you need to know the strokes properly so that you can glide through the water properly.
Make sure to lather on plenty of sunscreen before getting in the water. Also, check the weather and water conditions before planning a trip.
Once you’ve covered all the safety precautions and have all the necessary gear, you’re ready to start kayaking. With proper training and frequent practice, you’ll be good enough to participate in races and kayaking competitions. You can also eventually venture into white water and surf kayaking for a real adventure.
Many people also combine kayaking with other activities like fishing, swimming, and camping for a complete connection with nature.