Practical Advice for New Paddlers

So you are heading out for your first day of kayaking. Before hitting the water and just winging it, there are a few practical things to know first that will greatly help to make the experience positive and fun.

Below are 5 tips for new kayakers to know before your first paddling trip.

1. What to Pack: Packing a few essentials will make sure you are comfortable and safe. Below is a list of common things you might want to bring paddling (some are only necessary in cold weather/water):

My Dad's 1st time Kayaking

  • hat
  • sunblock
  • sunglasses
  • insect repellent
  • PFD
  • water shoes – and possibly a change of shoes for when you are finished
  • clothing layers
  • dry bag
  • kayaking gloves
  • helmet – if you are whitewater kayaking
  • camera
  • food and water
  • cell phone
  • bilge pump
  • repair kit (if you are in an inflatable)
  • first aid kit

2. Basic Paddling Skills: When first starting out there are two basic paddling moves you will need to know… the forward stroke and the reverse stroke.

Many people just figure these strokes out themselves while playing around in the water but few people actually do the strokes correctly if they have not been taught the proper movements.

It is common to see people using too much arm and shoulder motion instead of twisting from the core instead. Paddling is truly a core workout.

If your arms and shoulders are getting a little too sore, go back to the basics and practice twisting your core in order to paddle from side to side. has a great description of the forward paddling stroke and the reverse paddling stroke.

3. Getting In and Out – Wet Exits: Depending on where you plan to go kayaking it may be important to know how to get in or out of your kayak from the water. You may decide to go swimming or it’s possible you may even tip. If you do you will need to know how to get back in safely.

We did an article awhile back on how to safely wet exit and swim with your kayak.

Practicing these maneuvers before you ever have to use them will help you to feel more confident and possibly save your life in an emergency situation.

4. Food and Drink: Even if you are just out paddling for a couple of hours it is always nice to have snacks with you and some water or your drink of choice.

Sometimes it is easy to forget how hard you are working out there because paddling is so much fun. I find that I always get hungry and I love taking a snack or a lunch break.

Water is a must if you are kayaking in warm weather so you do not get dehydrated. In cooler weather I love to bring a thermos with my herbal tea… nothing like a cup of tea while out in your kayak (at least in my opinion)!

5. Be Smart: Do your research before heading out… check the weather report, the tides, the wind, etc. Know what to expect and where you plan to go.

Then tell someone your plans. If no one knows where you are and what time to expect you back then no one will know to come looking for you if you do not return on time. Be smart and stay safe!

Now you are ready to go out, explore and have fun.

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