You may have seen them. People out kayaking on a beautiful day and thought to yourself, I'd love to do that. It's easy to envision yourself out there. Maybe you've been out with a friend for the first time or rented one on vacation and now you're hooked.
There's plenty of reason why one might feel this way. The beauty of nature, a change in perspective or the calm tranquility you can sometimes feel. I know one thing, when I'm out there on the water I'm not thinking about anything else. It is one of the most fun, relaxing and rewarding things I do.
So, what exactly does a beginner kayaker need to know?
There are two categories of kayaks. The Recreational Kayak and the Touring Kayak. Recreational kayaks are where the beginner starts. In general they are shorter, 9 up to 14 feet. They are wider in the Beam, or the widest part of the boat which is right under where you sit. They are much more stable than a Touring Kayak.
A touring kayak is a more advanced kayak, capable of big open waters like larger lakes, bays and touring miles off the coast. Controlling a boat in these environments warrants taking a course or two through which you learn more advanced technique.
Some things a beginner needs to know are how to hold the paddle correctly, how to twist at the waist using your core muscles to pull the paddle through the water, how to get in and out of the kayak safely, adjusting your life vest or Personal Flotation Device properly and using good judgement while on the water to avoid hazards.
It's a great idea to take a course on recreational kayaking for beginners although it's not absolutely necessary. You might find such a course offered through a local outdoor club. These days, their are plenty of online videos that can teach you the basics, but you won't get the hands on experiential learning that comes from taking a course. You also get to meet people just like you and possibly find a few people to share your first experiences with.
The only other things to know are performance aspects of kayak design. The longer the boat, the straighter it tracks through the water. A boat with a defined Keel line will likely track better and be a lot more stable. Being fitted for a kayak is also very important. Some kayaks are better suited to people with a smaller frame and others are not. Some kayaks have a more adjustable seat and foot braces which lead to a more comfortable fit. A good outfitter will take the time to explain the features and benefits.
I hope you've learned something more about recreational kayaking for beginners. Kayaking has improved the quality of my life dramatically. It's one of my absolute favorite things to do. Wear your life vest, don't forget the sunblock and hat, stay hydrated and I'll see you out there on the water!