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10 ways to make your kayaking easier.

Over the years of instructing, or just paddling with friends, I have asked the question - What ideals of kayaking you know now are topics you wish you knew when you started for the first time? I have compiled ten of the most common subjects which came up in the conversations. The reoccurring theme within these top ten is paddler development.

  1. How to properly paddle

Kayaking is fairly easy sport to pick up for the first time. I normally can identify true rookies within minutes.  Such attributes which raise red flags are: difficulties getting in and out of the yak, holding the paddle incorrectly, running into objects, and using just your arms to paddle. Anyone can sit in a kayak and float with the current, as the operator you also have the responsibility to control your craft much like a powerboater. Gaining efficiency over effort does take practice and time – something kayak instructors enjoy providing.

  1. Reading the water

Depending if you are paddling the rivers, lakes or open waters – one common denominator will influence your day, water. With moving water (rivers) one should understand why CFS and Gauge height are important values to use before you head out. They are the determining element and will dictate if you are scraping the entire way, or managing a raging river. Open waters (lakes and coastal) wind speed, direction, duration, and fetch are elements which create natural waves.

  1. Knowing limitations

Not all kayaks handle all types of water environments/situations. Paddler skill levels also have limitations. An example of this: a recreational kayak does not have the design, maneuverability, or structural integrity to withstand a pure whitewater environment. Paddler’s should understand what their limitations are as well. Exceeding your abilities and forgoing safety is a concern and not only a risk to yourself but possibly to others.  Matching the abilities, and placing the two in the right situation will create a more harmonious pairing.

  1. Have an option B, C, and maybe D

Let’s face it, not everything goes as planned. Risk management is an ideal which can be applied to your paddling experience. One can attempt to plan for nearly any situation which may arise during time on the water – realistically, this is not obtainable.  The steps in which a person can balance risk with experience is pretty simple – have risks which can be manageable and don’t overstep limitations. An example of this: Jimmy wants to paddle down the river, however the river is swollen and near flood stage since the ending of the massive rain storm. He doesn’t have the proper kayak, gear, or experience to respond to the river and current. His best option would be to find a body of water which is within his scope and abilities.

  1. Dressing for immersion

Do people fall out of the kayak and into the water – they sure do. At times, it can be refreshing – specially during the warmer times of year. One aspect many do not pay attention to is the water temperature. Common clothing we typically would wear when it is cool or cold while on land, is not always suitable for water activities. There are numerous paddling specific clothing options available on the market which adds to the value of time on water. The idea with these options is to keep you warm and dry and to retain body heat, should you happen to fall into the water. Nobody likes to be cold and wet. Should one not properly dress for paddle sports, this can be a potential health risk. Think of paddling specific clothing as ‘survival gear’.

  1. It’s ok to say no

            Sometimes, when you arrive at a paddle destination and get an overview of the paddle environment – it may not ‘feel’ right to you. Your observations of the current, the winds, waves, the company you are paddling with, or perhaps that gut feeling leaves you questioning if you are making the right decision. There is nothing wrong walking away from the planned destination if the situation isn’t a perfect match. This may provide an opportunity to seek out a different body of water. There are times however, when a challenge is needed – this is the way we improve our skills and abilities. These are the times a more skilled paddle partner is helpful to have at your side.

  1. Education

There are numerous of ways to learn about kayaking. Whether it be from reading, watching, or listening (or a combination of these) about a specific topic. Paddling friends can give you tips and tricks, however their words of wisdom may be limited. Certified kayaking instructors and coaches have the expert experience to provide a safe educational environment. They provide feedback (both verbal and hands-on) to make corrections, answer questions, and are present for reassurance – something which can only be achieved from in-person.

  1. Life vests (PFD) saves lives

One of the easiest and affordable insurances one can have is wearing a life-vest while paddling. The most effective ones are fitted for your body type, snapped, buckled, zipped and secured to your body. Kayak specific ones are made to ensure the paddler has ample arm movement in the shoulders, and are designed to keep your head above the water, should you fall in. The PFD doesn’t work when it is stored somewhere on/in the kayak..and when there is separation between you and your kayak.

  1. Know the forecast/recon area

Much like a road trip, or camping adventure we tend to plan for our trip. We take a look at the weather, road constructions, plan for our meals, etc. Kayak trips should be done in the same manner, even if it is a known paddle location.  Should you wish to explore different waterways, it would be best to do a little research. There are numerous devoted social media which are paddler specific which one can inquire, various books, and Google maps, which can be used as a reference.

Ideally, do a deeper research and see if there are local outfitters and guide services who know that specific river – and can provide you accurate current conditions. Last thing you wish to encounter on your paddle trip is an unforeseen risk.

  1. Mother Nature rules

Dynamic waters (current, waves, tides, and river height/cfs) occurring mostly on river and coastal waters, creates both exhilarating and enjoyable paddling environments. To the unskilled, the ill equipped, or the reckless paddler who doesn’t respect the power of water – this can be a fatal mix. One should grasp understanding how both paddle strokes and kayak design play an integral role for time on the water. Working with these elements versus against, will provide a more harmonious experience.


So, get out there, locate your nearest kayaking class and take your kayaking to the next level. If Silent Wake is too far for you to travel, we suggest you find a local certified instructor via the ACA page.


For the Paddler Within.