is a lot different than running the rapids of whitewater
kayaking. It is usually peaceful and serene, like a hike
in the woods or a walk on the beach. It does require more
strength and endurance than a casual hiking, but the right
technique makes all the difference.
A typical sea kayaking trip
might consist of investigating a 15-mile strip of coastline.
As a sea kayaker you'll want a boat that is easy to paddle
straight (tracks well), is fast and requires as little
effort as possible. Sea kayaks are around 17 feet long
and designed for speed. On the other hand a whitewater
kayaking trip might consist of running a 3 mile section
of a river that is full of rapids and eddies. The whitewater
kayaker wants a boat that is very easy to maneuver. These
boats are much shorter, around 10 feet long.
The most incredible thing
about sea kayaking is how close you can get to animals.
Most wildlife don't fear kayaks, yet. And because kayaks
only draw about 3 inches of water you can go practically
anywhere there's water.
Sea kayaks are much more
stable than whitewater boats. This makes the learning
curve shorter. A novice can immediately participate in
the sport. As you get into the sport you'll hear a lot
of people talk about the dangers. Sea kayaking can be
dangerous. However, most of the danger lies in not using
your common sense. Many people cross open bodies of water.
If anything goes wrong when you're 2 miles out, you could
be in real trouble. A sea kayak has no engine, so you
must rely on your own ability. This is the key, only take
part in a trip that is at your level and ability. You
are responsible for your own safety. Also, there are lots
of safety devices, which you must be familiar with and
have on you at all times.
You don't have to cross
the oceans to enjoy sea kayaking. Exploring hidden shorelines
and inlets is a wonderful way to spend your day. Because
you're close to shore it's much safer. There are a lot
of weekend trips you can take that combine camping. Most
sea kayaks have waterproof bulkheads (compartments) that
you can store overnight gear in. Check out the section
to find clubs and organizations that organize these trips.
Your First Paddle
On your first day, you'll
need to get a feeling for the boat and the proper paddle
stroke. Even though sea kayaks are more stable than whitewater
boats, they're still rather tippy. You'll want to become
comfortable with the natural movement and rolling motion
as the kayak goes over the water. If you consider yourself
a novice on the water, your first day should be very safe.
Use a beginner kayak, which is more stable and unfortunately
slower. Make sure the group leader knows that you're a
beginner and that you're participating in a beginner level
trip. Stay together with the group. Staying close to an
expert kayaker means that there will be help close by
if you get into trouble.
Getting into trouble for
a beginner doesn't always mean capsizing or flipping over.
Trouble can be getting into currents and waves, and in
the way of other water traffic. Keep in mind most other
boats can't see you because a sea kayak is so low to the
water. By being close to an experienced kayaker, they'll
be able to point out trouble spots. It's also a good idea
to ask a lot of questions. Why not learn from their experiences.
On a beginner trip the leader
should start off by demonstrating how to correctly paddle.
There's a proper way to hold the paddle and a proper paddle
stroke. The proper stroke utilizes all your upper body
muscles, instead of just your arms. If you're using only
your arms, you won't be able to complete the entire trip.
You'll be too tired.
Most importantly, dress
appropriately for the weather conditions. If the water
is cold be prepared for a possible swim with a wetsuit
or drysuit. You must always wear a life jacket. Make sure
the beginner trip provides life jackets if you don't have
For colder days wear a farmer
john style wetsuit, waterproof boots, full waterproof
gloves, fleece top, warm hat, waterproof jacket or dry
top, and a life jacket. For warm days, you'll want to
wear quick drying shorts, booties, thin open fingered
gloves, tshirt, a hat to protect from the sun, a light
dry top, and a life jacket.
The other key piece of equipment
for kayaking is called a skirt. It is a device that like
a skirt secures around your waist and then flares out
to cover the boat's cockpit opening. The skirt is designed
to keep water out of the boat. A cold weather skirt is
made of neoprene and a warm weather skirt is Nylon. Both
sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking use skirts.
Now that you're hooked,
it's time to improve your skills. The best way to do this
is to take pool lessons. You probably didn't flip the
boat on your first day out. In order to be fully prepared
and comfortable, you should practice capsizing and wet
exits in the pool. Make sure you do this with an instructor.
Being upside down in the boat can be disorientating. The
pool offers a safe environment in which you can perfect
all your safety and rescue maneuvers. Know these well
before you need to use them in the open water.
Usually the pool lessons
are taught in whitewater boats. Sea kayaks are just too
big to get into most pools. It can be an advantage to
use whitewater boats. Because whitewater kayaks are less
forgiving and more difficult to control than sea kayaks
you're skills will improve faster. You'll also get a better
feel for how to maneuver kayaks.
Once you're committed you'll
want your own boat. Don't buy a beginner boat if you're
goal is to do long day trips and over night trips. You'll
grow out of a beginner kayak almost immediately. Look
for an intermediate boat with a good design or shape for
the conditions you'll be kayaking in.
It's important that you
fit snuggly in the boat. Pros refer to this as wearing
the boat. A proper fit helps you maneuver and control
the boat. There are fit kits available to properly fit
your boat to you. Try as many boats as possible before
you buy one.
Long Distant Touring
The more you kayak the better
your boat handling skills will be. Long distant touring
will expose you to rough conditions including strong currents,
high winds, and steep waves. Because weather conditions
can change rapidly on the water, you'll need to be prepared
for the worst. As an expert you'll be prepared with strong
boat handling skills; the ability to navigate; read charts,
weather conditions and water movements. Your reactions
will be automatic.
It's important to perfect
your boat handling skills so you'll always be in control.
If you've stayed with your pool lessons you can probably
Eskimo roll a whitewater kayak. The next trick will be
to roll your sea kayak. This is important for conditions
where an assisted rescue isn't possible.
The profile of an expert
kayaker is someone with several boats in their garage.
Most people keep their first boat, which makes a perfect
boat to take friends out in. If you haven't already checked
out the ultra sleek fiberglass boats, after a couple of
long trips you'll be convinced that you need one. They're
light, fast and beautiful.
Now that you're an expert,
stay an expert. Take your safety precautions seriously
and always use your common sense.
- Never expect another
boat to get out of your way. Firstly, they probably
can't see you. Secondly, they are twice you're size
and will crush you. It's a simple term, tonnage. Stay
- Don't just follow someone
else's lead. If you're not comfortable with the situation
don't do it. You are responsible for your own safety.
- For all trips be fully
prepared with water, food and all your gear.
- If you need a wetsuit,
a farmer john style without sleeves is the best. A full
suit is too restricting in the arms and will make it
difficult and uncomfortable to paddle.
- A waterproof wide brimmed
hat works well to keep the sun off your face and your
head dry if it rains.
- Bike gloves are light
and provide enough protection from blisters during warm
- Always wear something
with sleeves. The life jacket and constant paddling
motion will chaff under your arms.
- There are great accessories
for sea kayaking including waterproof map bags and deck
bags to keep the essentials handy.
- Always keep a few energy
bars on hand. As in mountain biking, if you begin to
feel thirsty and tired you're already dehydrated. On
a strenuous trip you need to regularly hydrate yourself.
- There are no bathrooms
out there, so go before you launch.
- Your waterproof bulkheads
should provide floatation for your boat. However, if
there's any kind of leak they may begin to fill with
water. As a safety precaution keep float bags in the
bulkheads when your not using them for gear.
- Use your common sense.
- Only participate in trips
that are at your level. Plan your trip. This includes
checking currents and weather conditions.
- Have all you safety gear
including a whistle, flares, strobe light, bilge pump,
paddle leash, and paddle float.
- Ensure your safety gear
is in good working order for every trip. Your flares
should be replace periodically.
- Periodically check that
your bulkhead compartments are still waterproof.