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Kayaking For Beginners -All You Need To Know

Hello there, are you looking for some tips on kayaking for beginners? Or are you looking to find out as much as you can about kayaking before heading to your first kayak session? 

You’ve come to the right page! 

Kayaking is an excellent sport for beginners to learn as it is quite simple to pick up especially with practice – like cycling. If you haven’t tried it, now’s the time!

Kayaking is a versatile and fun water sport that you can enjoy on your own or with family and friends while spending some time in nature. You could also improve your fitness and take some time off mentally as you cruise over the waters. 

If you’re trying to kayak for the first time, this beginner’s guide to kayaking aims to help you understand what to expect when kayaking for the first time, what you’ll need, and some additional tips to get you started. 

Below is a quick summary of everything we can tell you about kayaking: 

Kayaking For Beginners 

  • Types of Kayaking – Explore the different types of kayaking that you can learn and where you can practice
  • What Do You Need For Kayaking? – Everything you need to carry with you on your first kayaking for beginners trip and what to wear 
  • How To Paddle A Kayak? – How to paddle effectively and safely on your first kayaking trip
  • Basic Kayaking Strokes You Need To Know – Learn the basic strokes you’ll have to apply when kayaking 
  • Kayaking For Beginners Safety Tips – What to look out for on your first kayaking trip to stay safe 
  • Can You Lose Weight Kayaking? – Find out how much calories you can burn with just one hour of kayaking! 
  • Kayaking For Beginners Tips- All the best kayaking for beginners tips you need to know!


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Types of Kayaking

Did you know there is more than one type of kayaking? 

Kayaking has different types that take place in different types of waters and can differ in intensity – some fairly simple to learn and some types that take a little practice beforehand. 

Your experience may differ depending on where you’re going, the weather conditions, and how far you intend to push yourself. 

1. Recreational Kayaking 

This is normally where people begin as kayak beginners. This type of kayaking is perfect for newbies as you will be able to learn the basic techniques and adjustments – getting in and out of the boat, basic safety maneuvers, how to paddle correctly, and how to grip your paddles efficiently in the water. 

Recreational kayaks are wide and stable, making them perfect for those who are new to kayaking. 

kayaking for beginners

One of the best entry-level kayaks you can check out is the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105, a recreational and versatile kayak that is both beginner-friendly and adaptable – perfect for beginners! 

2. Kayak Touring 

Touring is when you kayak on big bodies of water like the sea or a big lake for hours or days on end. Here, you will need to master speed and efficiency in the water to cover as much distance as possible.

This type of extended kayaking trip is more for those who are more experienced to long periods of paddling in the water. You can explore long distances in one day, especially if you’re paddling downstream. 

kayaking for beginners

Some of the best touring kayaks for beginners who are looking to explore kayak touring are the Aquaglide Navarro 130 Convertible Kayak and the Driftsun Almanor Kayak, both equipped with comfortable seating and stable design, perfect for long hours on the water. 

3. Sea Kayaking 

One of the more challenging types of kayaking, sea kayaking takes place on the sea where the conditions and weather can be unpredictable regardless of how calm they may appear. Due to this, sea kayaks are built with two bulkheads sealed in the bow and stern. 

When paddling in the sea, it’s important to respect your surroundings and be aware of any changes in the tidal waves, windy weather, and the resistance experienced by the current in the water. 

best sea kayaks for beginners

One of the best sea kayaks for beginners is the Perception Carolina 12 Kayak, one of the most versatile sit-in touring and sea kayaks made with ergonomic structures for your seat and back. It is also spacious and can accommodate paddlers of various sizes.

4. Whitewater Kayaking 

For those who are up for a good challenge, whitewater kayaking might pique your interest. This type of kayaking is mostly done in rapids and whitewater which can be nerve-wracking and gets your pulse racing. 

This type of kayaking is recommended for skilled kayakers who know what they’re doing in the waters. It can be dangerous if you don’t because you will need to employ all your skills and strength to power through the rapids and keep yourself safe at all times. 

Whitewater kayaks are usually shorter and stubbier as they are built for maneuverability – for easy turning and rolling in case you end up upside down. A good starter kayak for whitewater is the Dagger Mamba Creeker Kayak. 

kayaking for beginners

It offers more volume, improved distribution, and better control when you’re in choppy water. 

5. Kayak Fishing 

As the name suggests, this is just fishing from a kayak. With a small craft, you can reach fishing spots larger boats can not reach – increasing your chances of getting a bigger catch. 

Kayaks that are specifically designed for fishing are usually more stable and often come with certain attachments to hold your fishing rods and an anchor to ensure you’re not drifting away. 

best beginner fishing kayaks

If you’re keen to try kayak fishing, some of the best beginner fishing kayaks include the Hobie Mirage Passport 12 and the Bonafide EX123 Kayak

6. Kayak Surfing

Not much different from surfing itself, kayak surfing is just surfing but instead of a board, with a kayak. This type of kayaking is usually catered to those who enjoy kayaking and surfing – riding waves that break along the sea’s coast using a sea kayak. 

It is important to train beforehand and get a hold of your basic techniques first before trying kayak surfing. Otherwise, we would suggest you go with someone who is familiar with kayak surfing and will be able to help and guide you. 

beginner’s guide to kayaking

If you’re looking to try kayak surfing, the Dagger Jitsu 6.0 Kayak and the Riot Kayaks Boogie 50 are good choices to start with if you’re looking for something sturdy, and reliable with a wide range of motion. 

What Do You Need For Kayaking?

When heading to your first kayak session, keep in mind that some items are necessary for you to have to ensure your safety. Some of the essential gear that you should have along with a kayak are: 

beginner’s guide to kayaking
  • Paddles that are the correct size for you 
kayak beginners

You should always have these items every time you go out into the water, unless you are renting, these items have to be provided along with the kayak. 

You should also wear proper, comfortable clothing especially if you are heading out in warm weather. Some essential outfits include: 

kayak beginners
kayak beginners
best entry-level kayaks
best entry-level kayaks

Should you find yourself in cold or rainy weather for kayaking, consider taking these items with you for good measure:

best touring kayaks for beginners
best touring kayaks for beginners
best entry-level kayaks

Other essentials you should also consider taking with you on your trip are: 

best entry-level kayaks
kayak beginners
kayak beginners
kayak beginners
  • Headlamps to check out your surroundings when it gets dark
beginner’s guide to kayaking
beginner’s guide to kayaking

How To Paddle A Kayak?

First and foremost, upon entering the kayak, you should adjust yourself comfortable while you’re still on land, focusing on three important points of contact:

  • Sit upright and snug your bottom comfortably and firmly against the seatback
  • Ensure that the ball of your feet are on the footpegs and check if you have a slight bend in your knee to make it easier for you to come out of the boat later on
  • Make sure that both your knees are bent and in firm contact with each side of the cockpit to help you control the boat’s side-to-side motion as you paddle. 

Next, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, grab the paddle in both your hands and rest it on top of your head. This is where you’ll be gripping the paddle. 

When you’re holding the paddle correctly, the long, straight edge of your paddle blades should look like it’s closer to the sky whereas the tapered side should be closer to the water. To propel yourself forward more effectively, the concave side should always face forward. 

To launch your kayak into the water, make sure you’re comfortably seated with your legs stretched out with a slight bend and use the paddle to launch the boat into the water. 

To paddle the kayak forward, make small strokes at the side that are parallel to the kayak whereas if you’re trying to turn, do the sweep strokes – a big arching stroke away from the boat using your paddle. To stop, reverse your paddling from back to front in the water. 

Remember to engage your core and use your abdominal rotation to perform your paddle strokes effectively without overworking your arms and shoulders. 

In the case of a capsized kayak, and you find yourself out of the kayak – don’t panic. If you’re closer to the shore, swim the kayak to the shore or have someone helping you by attaching your kayak to theirs. 

If you’re not close enough to the shore, you will have to do an “open-water rescue” that can only be taught by an instructor to reenter the boat. Open water rescues can include self rescues where you flip and maneuver into it as well as assisted rescues whereby another kayaker helps you out. 

For a better understanding on how to master your paddling techniques as a beginner, check out this video on how to paddle your kayak effectively. 

Basic Kayaking Strokes You Need To Know

kayaking for beginners

Navigation and proper strokes are important skills to learn to navigate a kayak safely and properly as a beginner. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn the different types of strokes you can use in the water to enjoy your time paddling in the water and getting back to shore safely.

1. Forward Stroke

This is the type of stroke you’ll be using most of the time so the good technique will get you a long way. There are three main phases to this stroke – the catch phase, power phase, and release phase. 

The catchphrase is when you fully immerse your blade in the water on one side parallel to your feet while keeping your torso engaged. 

This is followed by the power phase – as the blade moves behind you, follow the in-water blade with your eyes and rotate your torso in the same direction. Make sure to focus on using your upper hands to push against the shaft. 

The release phase happens when you “slice” the blade out of the water as soon as your hand reaches behind your hip. To continue to move forward, repeat. Simple, right? 

2. Sweep Stroke

The sweep stroke is a basic turning stroke used by kayakers to turn to the left or right. If you continue to do forward strokes on one side of the kayak, you will notice that the boat will begin to slowly turn the other way. The sweep stroke exaggerates this. 

It is similar to the forward stroke except that the blade now has to carve a wider arc on the side of the boat instead of paddling next to the boat. Sweep strokes on the left will turn the boat right whereas strokes on the right will turn the boat left. 

3. Reverse Stroke

Also known as the “brake” stroke, the reverse stroke is the exact opposite of the forward stroke. You will have to immerse the blade in the water next to your hip and push with your lower hand. When it nears your feet, slice the blade out of the water. 

You can also use this stroke to move backward if your kayak has already come to a stop. 

Kayaking For Beginners Safety Tips 

kayaking for beginners

It should be your number one priority to ensure that you keep yourself safe when kayaking in open waters, especially if you’re a beginner. Below you will find some handy tips you can apply when you head to your first kayak session!

  • Don’t go too far if you cannot swim. Avoid parts of the water where you cannot touch the bottom or where it gets too far from the shore or too deep.
  • Bring a friend with you, especially if you don’t have a guide. It can be helpful to have someone nearby should you require any assistance or to ask for help. 
  • Find out about possible hazards from the local paddler about places you should avoid, tides, currents, and weather forecasts. 
  • Make sure your floatation device (PFD) fits you tightly but is still loose enough so that it doesn’t disrupt your breathing. Should the weather warms up, and you need to remove a layer of clothing, paddle to shore first – don’t remove your PFD on the water. 
  • Only paddle in waters you know you can swim in confidently. 
  • Find out what the water temperature is and always dress for capsizing. If you are going into waters that are 15 degrees Celsius or less, be sure to wear at least a wetsuit. 
  • Don’t forget to carry your whistle and keep it close. The universal signal for distress is three long whistle blasts. 
  • Consider taking a rescue class or classes that cover navigation, currents, tides, and surf. These classes can come in handy should you need them someday.

Kayaking For Beginners Tips 

  • Choose a small lake or pond with calm waters with no powerboat traffic and one where you can see the shoreline on the opposite side, to begin with. 
  • Avoid mucky, steep, or rocky shorelines when launching your kayak.
  • Launch your kayak from somewhere on the shore that is visible to those on land. In case of any emergency, you can be spotted and reached easily should you require assistance. 
  • Your first few trips should be short and safe. Avoid going on days where it will be windy, or rainy to avoid as many environmental changes as possible. 
  • Don’t overdo your first kayaking trip. Plan and start slow – maybe an hour to start and slowly increase the duration as you get more confident and your endurance improves. You won’t want to be too exhausted to paddle back, do you?

Can You Lose Weight Kayaking?

Yes, you can! Kayaking is a low impact workout that can help burn calories. Harvard Health Publications and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted research that found an average kayaker with an average weight (around 125 pounds) burns up to 283 calories per hour or 150 calories per half an hour kayaking. 

Your body engages a wide variety of muscle groups every time you dip your paddle in the water and propel yourself forward in your kayak. Even trying to stay balanced keeps your muscles engaged, not just paddling.

Whereas an individual with a slightly heavier weight, say about 150 pounds, burns roughly 340 calories per hour. Technically, the more you weigh, the more you burn – so, a 200-pound kayaker could easily burn at least 454 calories per hour just by kayaking! 


Kayaking is a great sport, one that not only burns calories but also keeps you toned and improves your endurance. It is also a fun activity you can do if you’re looking for some time away from the screen and enjoy a little of both nature and water. 

We hope this simple guide to kayaking for beginners has helped you understand the sport better, how to do it efficiently and how to be safe at all times when kayaking. If you still haven’t tried it, you should! We bet you’ll have lots of fun (and fatigued arms) with it. 

Good luck!