6 More Kayaking Mistakes Beginners Make

4-minute read + 12 minute video

Kayaking is such a great paddle sport for beginners. It’s easy to learn, fun and a great way to get active in nature. But there are things to learn, both for your enjoyment and safety.

woman in a sea kayak on a cool day

Aqua Bound Ambassador Ken Whiting covers several mistakes beginning kayakers often make. Then he shares what to do instead.

Watch the video here:

1. Your Paddle is Upside Down

Kayak paddles (good ones, anyway) are designed specifically to be used only one way. If you look at a paddle’s blades, you’ll notice they’re slightly longer on the top edge, and have a very defined shape. That’s so every time you pull back in the water you get a smooth stroke without any flutter or wiggling of the blade.

All kayak manufacturers place their logo on the blade to be read right-side up. That’s a good indication of how to hold your paddle. After a while your eyes will get used to the shape of the blades, and holding it correctly will be second-nature.

2. The Drip Rings are in the Wrong Place

The drip rings on each end of a kayak paddle have one job: to prevent the water on your blades from running down onto your hands and inside your kayak. If they’re positioned too close to the center, all that water will drip in your lap.

Your drip rings should be about a hand’s width from the shoulder of each blade (where the blade connects to the shaft).

3. You’re Not Prepared to Flip

Of course, you don’t intend to flip your kayak when you’re out for a paddle. But it can and sometimes does happen due to one reason or another. So you need to keep a few things in mind just in case:

Wear a Paddling-Specific PFD (Life Jacket)

It does no good behind you or loose around your shoulders. If you end up in the water, you want your PFD secure and ready to do its job. A PFD designed for paddlers is the most comfortable for kayakers while giving you plenty of shoulder freedom.

man in a sea kayak, turning to look behind him

Dress for Immersion

This is especially important if you kayak on a warm or hot day on water that’s cold enough to cause hypothermia. This is the 120-degree F rule: As a rule of thumb, you should wear a wetsuit or dry suit whenever the sum of the air temp and water temp is less than or equal to 120 degrees F.

Plan for “safety over comfort.” If you kayaking will be a lifelong activity for you, invest in a wetsuit, and even a drysuit if your budget allows.

Also, keep your valuables like your wallet, keys and phone in a waterproof dry bag that you can clip to your kayak. Then that’s one less thing you have to think about in the unlikely event of flipping your kayak.

4. You’re Wearing Flip Flops

If you’re at the family cabin that’s one thing. But if you’re going to kayak down a river, across a large lake or along a rocky shoreline you want footwear that can handle a possible hike with a load on your back.

Again, it’s unlikely an emergency will happen—but if it does flip flops won’t cut it. Invest in a pair of shoes or booties made for water sports. They’ll have soles thick enough to handle rough shorelines.

5. You Don’t Know How to Get in Your Kayak from the Water

This can be challenging and needs some strength. But if you’re on a large body of water and capsize, you’ll need to be able to get back in your kayak from the water.

This is something you want to learn and practice on a nice hot day in warm water with friends around. Get good enough that you know you can do it if you need to.

If you can’t re-enter your kayak, and you won’t be paddling with others, the safest decision is to stay close enough to shore to swim if you have to. Of course, your PFD that’s securely fastened will help you with this.

6. You “Bridge” Your Kayak at the Launch

You know how a bridge is secure on either end, but has only air beneath it in the middle? You don’t want to enter your kayak when it’s in that position.

If the stern is floating in the water but the bow is up on shore, the middle is in limbo. That’s an extremely unstable position to try to enter, and you could end up in the water.

Instead, put the entire kayak in the water and bring it parallel to the shore. You can get in easily and launch out from there.

two people kayaking into the sunset

Also read: New to Kayaking? Don’t Make These 11 Mistakes

(All photos by Andrew Strain)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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