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.

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