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How to Kayak

Kayaking is both great fun and great exercise. Here are a few pointers to get you started on this popular sport.


  • Step 1: Gear up Choose a kayak suited for learning. A sit-on-top model is best for beginners. Wear a life jacket and a whistle on a string around your neck for emergencies. For cockpit kayaks, bring a hand pump.
  • TIP: Choose a bright red or yellow life jacket for visibility. Wear a wet suit when paddling in cold water.
  • Step 2: Get in Step into the kayak, crouching to keep your center of gravity low, and quickly sit down. On a beach, lay the paddle across the cockpit and rest one end on the sand to steady the boat as you get in.
  • TIP: Lean back comfortably in the seat as you paddle. This will help the boat stay stable.
  • Step 3: Paddle Hold the paddle with an overhand grip, thumbs under, and dip one side into the water. Pull down and back with one hand while pushing forward with the other hand. Dip the paddle straight in and pull it back even with your hips. Then dip the other side.
  • TIP: Paddle with a smooth, rhythmic motion. Use your torso muscles and sit up straight without leaning into your strokes.
  • Step 4: Turn Paddle on only one side to turn the kayak in an opposite direction. Or use the paddle like a rudder, dragging it on the side you want to turn toward.
  • Step 5: Practice capsizing Practice capsizing with a buddy in calm, shallow water by grabbing your paddle first; then righting the kayak. Strap the paddle, with the paddle float, to a swamped kayak while you pump it out, and then kick to pull yourself onto a sit-on model.
  • Step 6: Watch conditions Be aware of water and weather conditions. Paddle at an angle to the wind until you're near the shore before continuing.
  • Step 7: Know the rules and your limits Learn the rules that determine right-of-way on the water. Don't kayak alone or attempt deep water, ocean swells, or strong currents until you have plenty of experience.
  • FACT: Aleut kayaks were made of driftwood and animal skins and designed for hunting seals.

You Will Need

  • A kayak and paddle
  • A life jacket
  • A whistle
  • A hand pump
  • A buddy
  • A paddle float
  • A wet suit (optional)

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