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Kayaking Basics


It’s a striking image of an open-air investigation: a kayak glides along a glistening stretch of water, its bow cutting through the fog and its wake glistening in the specular light. If you are interested, we can provide you with instructions on how to kayak. After thorough preparation, you can slip into the cockpit and place your paddle by the pond.

You probably won’t buy a boat right away, but it’s certainly an option, and REI can help with that. If you can, think of other ways to start kayaking:

Use a friend’s kayak as a loaner.

It’s even better if your buddy is an experienced paddler who can accompany you on the water and teach you the basics.

Rent a kayak.

So that you don’t have to worry about transporting the boat, go to a clothing store that operates on the water. It’s a cheap way to get your feet wet in the sport, but you won’t get much help or equipment.

Take a tour.

In one package you get the boat, equipment and basics. A park section at your local lake or a kayak trip with REI Adventures to an exotic location are both options.

enroll in a class. Everything is secured, like a tour. If you intend to get serious about kayaking, an introductory lesson is a better option as it provides more detailed instruction than a tour.

 Kayak Gear and Clothing

This article assumes you’re in a traditional kayak: one with a cockpit and one or two hatches to store gear. If the water and weather are warm, your friend or guide can put you in a wide, stable boat without a cockpit.

Kayaking Equipment Necessary: ​​Anyone providing a boat should provide the following items:

Correct clothing:

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PFD (Personal Flotation Device) that is Coastguard approved and fits properly Paddle (make sure they check the size) Bilge pump Spray skirt (optional on warm, calm days) For a trip in warm weather and warm water, bring the following :

  • Swimwear or shorts (non-cotton and optional)
  • Rash top with short or long sleeves (any non-cotton top will work)
  • Neoprene shoes
  • Sun hat
  • Light woolen coat or vest (subject to climate)
  • Coat or coat and jeans (subject to climate)

A wetsuit is also required if conditions are colder than 60F (especially water). For more information, see What to wear while kayaking.

Personal Stuff:

 Many of these you should know if you know your ten essentials:

First aid kit Signal whistle Watch (to give yourself plenty of time to return) Headlamp (in case you are returning too slowly) Dry bags (for things you don’t want to get wet) How to adjust your kayak A well-adjusted kayak will be more stable and comfortable when paddling. Snacks for energy and lunch for longer trips Sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses (with holder) Adjust the boat when dry and focus on three contact points:

  • Press your butt firmly against the back of the seat. Do what works best for you if your boat allows you to adjust the angle of the seat or backrest. However, if you want strength and balance, you should sit more upright.
  • Place the balls of your feet on the footrests; then see if you have a slight bend in the knee. Most of the footpads are changed by moving them and moving them along the track to pre-set the suspension locations. Getting out of the boat is often easier when you put the pegs in.
  • Make sure each side of the cockpit is firmly in contact with your bent knees. As you paddle, you can use this to control the boat’s side-to-side movement. The fit should be snug, but not so tight that you can’t escape if you roll over.

 How to launch your kayak

Most trips begin with a shore launch that gradually slopes down. Be careful not to drag the trunk, especially on surfaces that are rocky, sandy or made of cement:

  • Ask a friend to take the ship with you to the place where you placed it. Place it parallel to the shore in shallow water. A parallel launch may be preferable if you are launching into a river or have a very long kayak. The stern should be close to the bank (but completely on the surface) and the bow should point away from the bank for a vertical launch.
  • In front of the cockpit, place one of the paddle blades below the deck line. The shaft can be bent in the direction of the support.)
  • Stand above the kayak and take a ride in the cockpit.
  • After gripping the cockpit and placing your bottom on the seat, lift your legs and place your feet in the cockpit.
  • Place both feet comfortably on the footrests and return your butt back to the seat.
  • Grab your paddle and use it to steer the kayak away from the boat’s wake and incoming waves. Then, if you have a spray skirt, put it on.
  • When it’s time to disembark later, simply paddle to your starting position, set the boom, and take steps in the opposite direction until you’re back in your kayak.
  • Check out our How to Launch a Kayak article and video for more information, including how to enter from the dock.


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