If you read the glossy magazines about kayaking, it's easy to get a couple of wrong impressions. Kayaking isn't just for hardcore hardbodies who work as river guides, and who pack their 4x4 vehicles to the roof with every conceivable kind of expensive gear. There are plenty of people who enjoy kayaking who get on the water only once in a while, and who have just enough gear to do it right.
Because of requests from a couple of frequent readers, here are some tips for kayakers with less experience. Doesn't matter whether you're going for your first time in a kayak, or if your summers always include a day messing around at the lake with friends or family. Here are some ideas that can help you have more fun in a kayak -- and some errors that are easy to avoid!
-The best kayak isn't necessarily the longest or the biggest. It's the one you're in and having fun.
-You don't have to buy a kayak. Rent one for an afternoon or a day.
-Rent a kayak when you're travelling -- it's usually way cheaper than hauling one a long way or buying one once you get there.
-Before you get in a kayak, do some stretches. You don't want to pull a muscle just getting in!
-Adjust the foot pedals to suit you before getting in. You may have to do this on shore, then put the boat in the water and get in. It's especially important if you are very short or very tall.
-When you grip your paddle, your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Hold the paddle in an easy grip, not too tight.
-The paddle should enter the water at an angle, not straight up and down. It doesn't have to dig deep like a canoe paddle.
-How to tell if you are holding the paddle upside-down or backwards: If your paddle has labels on the blade, you should be able to read the words. The paddle will work better if it's right side up.
-Have a small dunk bag ready. If you don't have a dry bag, it can be a plastic bag that seals. It should hold a spare t-shirt and sweatpants, snack bars, big kerchief, headache pills, Band-aids, and coins for parking meters. Bring a bottle of water too. It can stay in a car until it's needed. If somebody gets dunked you are going to be a hero.