3 Things to Consider for Beginners & New Kayakers

I’ve been getting questions from new paddlers or potential new paddlers like, “What type of boats should I get? Where should I look to paddle? How do I find groups?” And while I’ve answered that in different videos, I thought maybe I’d put them together into one single spot. So if you’re thinking of getting into kayaking, which is a fantastic activity, a fantastic sport, a fantastic thing to share with friends or do alone. And whether you want to explore far away places, or just hang out all day on the water, it’s just a great activity to get you outdoors. But there’s three things I want to mention that I think would be helpful for someone that’s getting into the sport. I usually get the question of this is my height, this is my weight, what kayak do I need? But it shouldn’t start there.

Let’s take a step back and we first have to figure out what type of paddling you want to do. So a lot of times, what type of paddling you want to do is dictated by the type of water you might have near you. Are you near the coast? Are conditions rough where you live? Are you near rivers? Are you thinking of doing whitewater? Are you thinking of racing? Do you want to go as fast as possible and compete? Are you thinking of just hanging out all day in a small lake, in a bigger lake? Do you want to fish? Do you want to surf? While there are hybrid and crossover kayaks that can do a couple of things, each type of paddling, each discipline will have kayaks that will excel in that particular area. So if you start backwards with what is available to you, then you can start to think of what type of paddling do you want to do.

You might already know that you want to go kayak camping. In which case you want something that’s going to be able to take lots of gear. You might already know that you want adrenaline pumping all the time and you want to do whitewater. Fantastic. You might already know that you just want to focus on fishing. Then you should choose only from the best kayaks for fishing. Bryan Ward did a great review on his website, go take a look. Or you might just want to get a little bit wet and hang out on a Lake all day, completely fine. But each one of those will require slightly different gear. The second item to consider is researching and finding local paddling groups and local paddling outfitters in your area, because they’re going to be a great source of information, for example, where should you paddle? When should you paddle? What type of weather causes what types of conditions? Are there areas that really are off limits or are there areas that are absolutely fantastic during certain times of the year?

Also, what’s great about groups and outfitters is, as I’ve mentioned many times before, they’re a great source for used gear. They’re also a great source for helping figure out what gear is right for you. Meaning, not only something that will fit you, but something that will do and behave the way you want in whatever type of paddling you want to do. So for example, if there’s a group that sets up monthly races, they will be the right group to go talk to, to figure out what gear you would need. And not only that, that means people within, paddlers within that group, they will probably be buying and selling their gear. That might be the perfect way for you to pick up something that you want to use. And don’t get me wrong, if you want to paddle in a small pond or a small lake, or just have fun and splish splash around with your family, you don’t need to go through all these lengths, but to cover all the different disciplines.

And some of them really do depend on being very safe on the water, whether it’s a rough coastal kayaking or high level whitewater, those levels require a lot more equipment, training, understanding, learning about weather, where if you just want to go and relax in a tiny pond on the water, all you really need is a kayak, a paddle and a PFD, and just have fun. Now the third thing to consider is actually looking into and researching classes, researching information, researching about cold water, if you happen to be in an area with cold water. Putting in the time to learn the skills that might be needed for those specific types of paddling. For example, if you wanted to paddle in a spot that has a lot of current and certain conditions arise when the wind does X, Y, and Z, that’s a specific skill that would be required for a specific place.

And once again, that’s why I say that finding a paddling group and a paddling outfitter, where you can either work with other paddlers, learn from them, take lessons and learn specific skills to paddle in those specific areas. Maybe you were thinking of doing a trip alone, but you don’t really know the ins and out, maybe it turns out that a local outfitter actually does that same trip. It might be worth it to do it with them the first time and then once you have a little bit more knowledge of the local place, of the gear that’s required, then it might be a good idea to tackle it by yourself. So consider where you want to paddle, try to find a great group of paddlers that could be a great source of information, lessons, et cetera, and then dedicate time and effort learning, taking lessons, depending on the type of paddling you want to do, and the level of paddling and knowledge and skill required to paddle in those specific areas.

So I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts to wrap up. First, learn about weather because almost every story always starts with it was supposed to be a beautiful day and then fill in the blank. Second, have local knowledge. Don’t just show up with any kayak and go in the water. Find out if what you have really is the right equipment to go in that particular place. Third, learn about cold water paddling. If you happen to be in a place where cold water is present, we always recommend having and wearing a PFD. And lastly, don’t forget to have fun.

I know that I am a very big advocate for learning and pushing your skills and developing skills on the water, but that should be complimentary to having fun on the water because I really am a firm believer that someone that’s riding a wave or dropping on a waterfall or exploring a far away place, or just sitting in a small lake all day is going to be having fun on the water. We can’t forget that, and that’s what motivates us to get out on the water time and time again. So I hope that was helpful. See you next time.

Guided sea kayaking trips

Our guided sea kayaking trips are geared for individuals and small groups of all sea kayaking abilities. You could be a complete beginner, a watersports enthusiast or an experienced sea paddler looking to venture into the West of Scotland’s waters for the first time.

Whatever your background, we’ll put together a trip to suit you. We can provide all the equipment you need and we’ll advise you on what to wear and bring along with you. A waterproof camera is a good idea – a sense of adventure and a smile are essential!

Your sea kayaking trip

Trip arrangements are flexible to suit you. We’ll pick you up at an agreed location in Oban or at your holiday accommodation if it is within a 20 minute drive of Oban. We also provide a pick-up service from Oban railway or bus stations. We’ll drive you to our launch point where you will be given your kayaking gear and fitted in your kayak. During the trip we will provide hot drinks.

Call to arrange your trip

Your trip will be crafted to suit you. Just let us know what you would like from the trip and your level of paddling experience. Coaching and skills improvement can be incorporated into your trip.

A fabulous range of sea kayaking

The Oban area offers a fabulous range of possibilities for sea kayaking. Your trip will be arranged to suit your needs, but here are a few of our most popular journeys.

Kayaking with overnight camping

Two day kayaking with an overnight wild camp, this trip is aimed at beginners/novices who either haven’t camped from their kayak before or wild camped. The route will be tailored to suit your skill level. After a day’s paddling, we’ll set up camp where you can simply relax and enjoy looking out to sea as the sun sets. Bring your own tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag. We’ll supply a kit and food list.

Contact us to arrange a suitable date.

Paddle and a Pint

A memorable day trip by kayak– a paddle taking in interesting sights along the way, a lunch stop on Kerrera with good food and fabulous views of Oban Bay.

We’ll start at Ganavan Sands to the north of Oban, and paddle out to Maiden Island where the views across to Lismore lighthouse and Mull open out. We’ll cross the channel to Kerrera bay and enter the marina – see which sleek yacht you dream of owning! Stop for lunch at Oban Marina’s Waypoint Bar and Grill – a relaxed eatery where you can sit quite happily in your paddling gear and take in the view. Enjoy a simple bowl of chips and a pint or sample the daily seafood specials – local mussels, scallops and fish. Whilst we’ll get to Oban Marina by kayak, your friends and family can join us there for lunch as there’s a free ferry out from Oban’s North Pier.

After lunch we’ll paddle across the bay to Oban taking in the best view of the town ad harbour before working our way back along the coast to Ganavan.

We plan to run this trip frequently May to August so check the Diary for the next date.

Novice/intermediate day trips

  • Oban harbour, go around part/all of the island of Kerrera, stop off at café, Island of Shuna, Castle Stalker and Appin
  • Evening paddles – sunset over Kerrera

Advanced day trips

  • Open crossings to Grass Point, Mull
  • Explore the Sound of Luing
  • Circumnavigate the Island of Seil
  • West coast of Lunga and the Grey Dog

Advanced Skills

  • Tidal races off Easdale, Fladda, Belnahua
  • Oban and around Seil
  • Surfing at the Falls of Lora or Loch Creran
  • Guided trip prices

Our trips cost £75 per person per day, based on a minimum of two persons.

For bespoke trips and courses, or longer trips including overnight camping out, please contact us for prices.

Equipment

We can provide all of the equipment you need: high quality sea kayak, paddle, spraydeck, waterproof cag, buoyancy aid (PFD) and dry bag for spare clothes. You may of course prefer to bring your own gear.

Kayaks

We use two types of sea kayaks: SKUK Romany RM (4.88m long), a stable, fast and manoeuvrable kayak and P&H Scorpios (5.16m long) which are super stable and easy to control.

Beginning Kayaking Tricks

How To Do Wave Wheels In A Kayak

The wave wheel is one of many down river moves. It’s done as a paddler is traveling down a rapid and they have a nice wave and at the very peak of that wave, they’re going to do a double pump. And so as you come up and over this wave, you’re throwing your bow onto the backside of the wave. And it’s actually an easier way to get vertical and start cartwheeling than just trying to do flat water cartwheels or cartwheels in a hole.

So it’s a really fun move. And what you’re going to do is paddle fast down the wave train. Take one last forward stroke. That actually pulls your bow up and you try and shoot past the wave. As you hit your highest point, you’re then going to rotate as far as you can and bring the bow underneath your body. So again, you’re like the axis of a wheel. You want to be straight out to the side of your boat and really pull that boat through the move. And then you’ve finished and keep on floating down the wave.

Entering a Wave from Above

There’s two main ways to get onto a wave. You can either ferry onto the wave, which is easiest, or you can get onto the wave as you drift down to it. The best way to drift down to a wave is to face upstream as you begin, and then start paddling upstream to slow your momentum. As you come down to the wave, you want your eyes to look right at that face of the wave of the entire time, right where you’re going to want to end up sitting. As you come down the green water in front of you that’s when you want to paddle really hard and you’re going to lean back a little bit on that green water to keep your nose up. Once you feel the foam hit you in the back, that’s your signal to lean forward and take some fast forward strokes to slide down the face of the wave.

The Power Stroke Move

Being able to time your tricks on a wave comes from the ability to move around on the feature. When I’m kayaking on a wave, I want to be able to do fast climbs to pull myself up to the top or curve over to the shoulder of a feature in order to bring myself to the very peak of the wave. When I’m at the very peak of the wave, this is where I can really accelerate down the face, and then I can use a big powerful power stroke to lead into any move that I want to do.

Timing your tricks is really important. If I come down the face of the wave too far, then it’s hard for me to get enough balance to do anything. Also, if I start too soon, it might not have all the energy that it could have. So you want to get a lot of energy buildup on the way down the wave and then you can either from there, do a spin on the face or a number of other more advanced moves.

How to Paddle Through Waves: Kayak Technique

The reason for this post is in that recently when I was discussing stability, I was showing the kayak being sideways to a wave. And several people commented, “Well wouldn’t you want to be facing the wave instead of being sideways to the wave?” And while that is true, that’s actually the first tip for this one. That doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself at some point in different positions and orientations that you want to the wave. Trust me. There’s been times upside down, sideways, backwards being slammed against the ground. Sometimes despite your best ability, the wave will decide for you. So if your plan is to only deal with waves, when you’re launching and landing, there’s still a chance you might end up in a different position you’re not expecting on the wave.

All right? So let’s get into the tips. The first one, as I mentioned before, orientation. Usually the best position that you want to be in versus the wave is staring right at it. Your kayak as it is we’ll want to get through it if it’s pointing directly at the wave. The same way, the water parts, as you paddle through, don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of situations that the waves are going to behave very differently. It might pick you up and slam you without you even trying, but lengthwise, you just have a lot more stability than side to side and facing the wave means you can keep an eye on it the entire time. You know exactly where it is.

And lastly, and this will tie into the next tip ,is that you can power into it. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but a fun thing to do as kids is, if you’re in the ocean and waves are coming at you, you wait at the right time and then you try to dive right under it. The idea is if you have enough momentum, you punch right into the face of the wave. You’ll end up on the other side. It can be a similar thing if you’re trying to punch through or over a wave.

So the second tip is, make sure your blade is in the water. And you’re getting momentum into that wave. I know that one of the reflexes we have is as a wave comes, we think, “Oh, we got to lift their arms up and go over it.” If the blade is in the water, you have control of your movements. If your blade is up in the air, you’re not in control, the wave will be taking over. From me to reminds me of my time years ago in Charleston for training, I went out with a group out to the jetty in the Charleston Harbor, and we were playing in a tie race, Nigel were sort of coached that day. One of the exercises we were doing as we were going up and into the waves coming around, and then coming back with the waves, always trying to be in control.

For a couple of us that were just getting used to being in those waves. As we did the exercise, Nigel was next to us and every time a wave was coming, he would just yell out, “Power!”

Power!

Similar to the way Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear would do. And the idea was plant your blade in the water. And as you see that wave cresting, make sure you get through. Adding to that tip, be wary of where your paddle shaft is. Make sure you’re not holding it right in front of your face, because if the wave crashes and slams into you, that shaft will slam right into your face. Keep that shaft to the side a little bit just away from your face.

At the same time, a little tip. This is something I really liked doing. I can’t remember who mentioned it to me, but if you get the timing, right, I really like trying to make it so that the wave comes right past my feet. And then I plant my blade on the other side of the wave. So on the back face of the wave, and then I power through, that’s helped me a lot of times with bigger waves because as they slam into me, my paddle is already past the wave and it’s pulling me through the wave. So even though the blade might have a lot of power slamming into me, I am pulling myself right through it, rather than just hoping that I had enough momentum to get through.

Another thing you could do is if something is really going to slam on you, try to present less surface area to the waves. So a lot of people like ducking a bit as you’re doing this so that the wave doesn’t just slam into your body and push it backwards, but it will allow you to punch through the wave a little bit easier, depending on the type of wave you’re going through.

Last tip, which is my favorite and this one might be a little more advanced, so you need to be comfortable in your role and you need to be comfortable in waves to pull this one off. But the idea is, as I mentioned before, as kids, it’s always really fun to try to dive under the wave as the wave face appears, because if you go under the wave just goes right over you. And the idea is the same here as the wave approaches, as long as it’s deep enough under you, you can roll and let the wave go past you and then roll back up.

I know that Kate and Jeff, out in Mendocino, they have a really great blog post and they have a couple of different ways of punching into ways, which I highly recommend reading up on because they also have very different conditions than we do here in New York. They have several other tips and I highly recommend that read, but they call it a turtle dive. And it’s just a lot of fun to do. I think it’s also really good for just feeling more confident with waves. I mentioned previously about managing fear when you’re sea kayaking, where one of the things I like to do is try to go to a setting and then just practice for a while in an area that I feel more confident, or I may feel more comfortable in.

When I was in Oregon for Lumpy, there was a time that we were playing in an area that had bigger waves that I know I could have handled, but instead I chose to play in slightly smaller waves and then I was presenting my side to the wave. I was forward to the wave backwards to the wave. I was getting tossed around and I was doing these rolls as waves came, just to feel more confident.

Recently when I was in Maine, I took a swim when we were playing in current in looking back on that I know it was because I didn’t feel confident enough or comfortable if I had just taken the time, tried a bunch of roles before doing the exercises. We were there three days. The first day I kept thinking, “Oh man, if I miss this wave, I don’t know. What’s waiting for me behind me.” But by the third day I felt a lot more comfortable. And then I felt more confident to paddle better playing in the current. I didn’t take the time to feel more confident. So this is a move that always helps me feel more comfortable in different paddling situations.

Anyway, to wrap up, please do not underestimate waves. The sea always wins, but it’s great to work on skills, learn how to handle waves and do the best you can in them. Please, if you can always work with paddlers that know what they’re doing, either friends or coaches. Don’t go out alone, especially in the beginning, go with someone that can help you out. That can give you tips on the spot. Maybe taking some surf classes, some rough water classes, and the same thing goes for our conditions. “Okay, can you handle what’s in front of you? Have you been watching sets? Do you understand where waves are breaking?” It’s very easy to get hurt and waves, even small ones. They pack a lot of power. If there’s anything you’d like to add, or you have any stories you want to share, or any other tips that you like to have while you’re playing in waves, please comment below. I hope this post was helpful. Subscribe if you’d like. See you next time.