You don’t have to stick to boating to enjoy your time on the water. Learning how to kayak can be a great hobby to pick up at any age. If you aren’t a fan of swimming, or it’s not safe to swim around your waterfront site, then kayaking can be a fun way to exercise—you just need to know how to start out.
Using a Kayak Launch on the Dock
The first thing to practice when you’re beginning to kayak is how to get in and out of the kayak. Some areas will only give you the option to get into your kayak from the shore. In that case, move the kayak as close to the water as possible. Then just climb in, sit down, and you should be able to push yourself into the water with your arms. Once you’re floating, you’ll be able to start paddling.
The other way to get into your kayak is from a dock. When your dock has a designated kayak launch, sitting down is usually much easier. Otherwise, you have to carefully balance your kayak as you step into it. Depending on the dock and water level, you might have quite a drop into the water!
A kayak launch is usually more convenient, especially for beginners. These setups let you ease yourself into the kayak in a secure, stable way. We like the EZ Kayak Launch because it’s durable and slip-resistant. It also goes above and beyond the ADA requirements, so pretty much anyone can use it to safely enter and exit their kayak. If you have questions about installing this feature for your waterfront, we’d be happy to help.
Learning How to Paddle a Kayak
There are four basic paddle strokes for navigating your kayak. Even as a beginner kayaker, it’s pretty simple to master these movements. The first one is the forward stroke. You start with one end of the paddle in the water, down by your toes. Then you pull back so the paddle’s blade ends up near your hip. Next, slightly twist your body forward as you put the other end of the paddle into the water on the opposite side. Soon you’ll get into a rhythm and be moving right along.
The reverse stroke is simply the backwards motion of the forward stroke. Instead of pulling back on the blade, you push the paddle away from your chest so it goes toward your toes. As you back up, just remember to watch where you’re headed so you don’t run into anything.
If you’re trying to move alongside another kayak, then you’ll need to use the draw stroke. This is where you stick a paddle blade in the water and pull yourself over. You’ll want to reach over far enough so both of your hands are hovering over the water in the direction where you want to move. Rotate your body toward the blade and pull to draw your kayak to that side.
Finally, there’s the sweep stroke. This helps you turn your kayak quickly. You just need to make a half-moon or arc shape . To turn forward, put the blade in the front of your kayak and draw a curve in the water towards the back. Moving your body with the paddle makes this easier. To go backward, just start with your paddle in the back of the boat, then draw your arc toward your toes in the front.
Practice those four types of strokes, and you’ll quickly build your confidence on the water. You can also check the diagrams for these kayak stroke patterns to get a better idea of how to use your paddle.
Kayak Safety Tips and Reminders
Whether you’re planning to rent kayaks for the day or you’re ready to invest in some kayaks to keep, brushing up on a few of the basics is a smart move. This article’s kayak buying guide can be a helpful resource as you sort through your options. Once you have your gear collected, you might be ready to get a kayak launch of your own. When you waterfront has a kayak launch, your transition from the dock to the water can go much smoother and safer. Being able to carefully enter and exit your kayak puts you in a better position to enjoy your time on the water.
It’s also important to wear a personal flotation device whenever you’re enjoying a watersport. Grab some sunscreen and snacks, and you should have a nice time with some good weather. Stick to areas that match your skill level, and have fun on the water!