Ocean Kayaking Tips for Beginners

Are you eager to try an ocean kayaking adventure? If you’re a beginning kayaker, there are some important things to keep in mind when considering paddling in the ocean.

ocean kayaking tips for beginners

Safety First

Kayaking is one of the safest sports there is. But anytime water is involved there’s risk. The ocean is a constantly changing environment that needs to be respected. Here are three musts for ocean kayaking:

  • Always wear a life jacket (PFD). Lots of paddling-specific PFDs are available that leave your shoulders free for movement.
  • Stay within a swimmable distance of shore and out of high wind and waves until you’ve mastered the skills necessary to handle rougher water.
  • Consider air and water temperatures when heading out. Wear a wet or dry suit if hypothermia is a risk in the event of capsizing.

Get Comfortable Capsizing

One of the fears almost all beginning kayakers have is capsizing. It’s important to learn from an expert how to wet exit and how to re-enter your kayak in deep water. The more you practice in calm water, the more you’ll be able to keep your head in a real-life situation.

ocean kayaking tips for beginners

Know Your Strokes

Learn basic kayaking strokes in calm water first. Learn and use the power of torso rotation—using your whole upper body and not just your arms. Get comfortable moving forward, backward and turning.

Ocean-Specific Tips

The ocean isn’t an ideal beginning kayaker’s environment. So start in areas that are protected from wind, waves and strong currents, like a small bay.

  • Stay close to shore in the event you capsize and aren’t able to re-enter your boat.
  • Tides can change the shoreline, sometimes drastically. If you’re in an unfamiliar location, talk to the locals to find out the best times of day and launch spots to venture out.
  • Currents, though mostly associated with rivers, are often a concern in the ocean, too. Be especially watchful in tidal areas.
  • Rip-currents can be a concern on beaches. A rip-current is water pulled in by the waves, then pulled back out by gravity. They can be very strong, especially where the shoreline is steep. They’re the most common reason for rescuing swimmers!
  • Remember the ocean is a very dynamic world. It’s constantly changing, even along the span of a shoreline.

ocean kayaking tips for beginners

Launching into the Waves

Stick to beach areas that have a gradual shoreline and where the waves aren’t breaking high and hard. Each beach will have spots where the waves are lower—look for those spots to launch from.

Pull the kayak into knee-deep water and get in quickly. Approach the incoming breakers head-on with a strong forward stroke.

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Here’s a video from Paddling TV and our friend Ken Whiting on Launching in a Surf Zone: