There isn’t much that beats the freedom and adventure of sea kayaking. However, to make the most of this unique experience, there are a few things you should know before you try it out. Here are our sea kayaking tips for beginners.
Practise the basics
Before you even start paddling, you need to learn how to position yourself properly in the kayak, how to launch from the shore and how to perform a ‘wet exit’, i.e. getting out of your kayak safely when it has capsized.
If you’re nervous about this, you can practise tipping your kayak upside down a few times and trying to get out. We recommend doing this first without a spraydeck and then adding it once you feel more confident.
Then there are the more technical aspects of kayaking, such as:
• How to grip your paddle
• The correct posture
• The types of strokes required for movement and manoeuvring
• How to deal with adverse weather conditions
Learning your strokes should be done gradually – you should start on land, then move to shallow, calm water. If you’re comfortable executing the strokes and can remember the basic safety protocols, step it up by heading to more open waters.
Check the weather
The weather can be volatile at sea and the calm, still water you encounter in the morning can be a very different place come the afternoon.
This is why it’s important to read up on the weather before you go out. There are a number of metrics you need to look out for – wind speed and direction, surf height, tidal range and tide times, to list just a few.
In fact, The BBC Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 covers all 31 of the ‘sea areas’ around the British Isles, sending out four broadcasts a day at 00:48, 05:20, 12:01 and 17:54. Be sure to tune in if you want total peace of mind!
Go in a group
If you’re not used to paddling in the ocean, and something goes wrong, you don’t want to be left to your own devices. After all, it can be an unpredictable place at times, especially when large waves and choppy waters are at play.
You also want to feel like you’re sharing the experience of sea kayaking and making memories with others.
For these reasons, we would recommend bringing a few friends along or going on a guided trip. This way, you can get relaxed on the water much quicker than if you were going solo.
Should you opt to paddle with friends who don’t know the area very well, you need to take some sort of navigational tool with you. This could either be a good old-fashioned map, or one of the cutting-edge pieces of navigational software you can download to your phone – which leads us nicely onto our next tip.
Get some amazing apps
These days, going kayaking isn’t just a case of packing a map and compass and hoping you don’t get lost or have an accident.
As you might expect in today’s digital age, there are a whole host of apps which can guide you on every facet of kayaking, from what you should pack for your trip to what to do in an emergency.
While the cynics among you might be wary of taking your phones on a kayak (since nature is meant to offer a reprieve from staring at screens), anything that makes kayaking more practical and safe can only enhance your experience.
Trying to choose which app or apps you want can be tricky when there are so many on the market, but here are some articles we found which may help inform your choice.
Canoe & Kayak Direct: https://www.canoeandkayakdirect.com/the-best-apps-kayakers-need-to-download/
Be prepared to paddle
Sea kayaking requires a certain level of physical fitness, as you can probably imagine. The wind isn’t always in your favour when you’re at sea, and there aren’t the same calm stretches of water as in a river or lake. Therefore, you have to be prepared to paddle more vigorously than you might be used to.
The muscles you’ll work when paddling are, unsurprisingly, your core muscles (i.e. your back and abdominals) and your arms. As such, it’s worth building up your strength in these areas if you’re not confident in your ability to brave the elements.
The ‘plank’ is a great core strengthening exercise. To do this exercise, lie yourself face down on toes and elbows, holding your body in a straight line and hold this position for as long as possible.
You can also perform a variety of arm strengthening exercises which engage your biceps, triceps and shoulders. You just need a set of dumbbells and you’re good to go!
The final tip from us is, remember to take out specialist kayaking insurance before you even think about taking to the water. This covers you if something happens to your kayak and if you damage another boat or property or injure another person.
Once you’ve ticked off all these top tips, the only thing left to do is to make your sea kayaking trip one to remember! Enjoy!