Kayaking is a great way of getting away from it all, I found nothing more chilling than being out on the water where no one can interrupt your batteries being recharged. The above photo was taken when I was kayaking some of the Forth and Clyde Canal. The Forth and Clyde canal is 35 mile long 56km. It runs from Grangemouth to Bowling near Dumbarton in Scotland. part of it is a less than a ten minute drive from where I stay, so I was a regular visitor as it is a nice easy paddle on a calm day. As you can probably gather I never used to do all 35 miles, I just did a few miles maybe up 6. 3 out and 3 back but you dont have to do much distance at all to get enjoyment out it.
Fancy giving kayaking a go? Why not. Read on and find out some of the things you’ll need to consider.
First things first, some people get a kayak and a canoe mixed up. A canoe is an open boat usually with a couple of bench seats inside as pic below:
A kayak is a boat that your feet and legs go into and are covered so all that is can be seen is from just about your waist up, see pic below:
There is also such a thing as an open top kayak pictured below. These are straight forward to use, and as long as common sense is applied and you use a buoyancy aid, and are accompanied with someone else, paddling in one of these is more straight forward than a sit in kayak. Also you need to be a good swimmer in case you come off it and go into the water.
The type of kayak I will be talking about in this post is a sit in kayak like the blue one in the photo, but even if you prefer an open top kayak read on as some of the safety principles mentioned below are worth a read, and I also explain what a buoyancy aid is.
The reason I prefer the sit in kayak is, when paddling it you feel like your part of the water and part of your surroundings and that is avery free feeling. There are a few types of Kayaks, Sea kayaks touring kayaks, stunt kayaks, rapid water kayaks and kayaks that suit to more calm conditions. One similar to the blue one in the photo you could use with the pointed bow that cuts through the water and makes it easier to paddle, you could also start out with a kayak like my first one in which the kayak glides on top of the water kind of like this one:
Before you go spending your hard earned pennies on all the equipment you will need, I would highly recommend joining a kayaking club for two reasons: One, if you find you do not like it as much as you thought then you have not waisted your hard earned money as kayaking clubs have all the equipment you will need and in my experience their membership charges are very reasonable. Two, before you are tempted to go on the water yourself with no prior experience, being in a club allows you to get the skills to make sure you can cope with capsizing and confidently deal with situations you are likely to be faced with. Clubs will also run safety and rescue courses that will build your confidence even more on the water. Knowing you can help yourself and others if you get into trouble will make your experience more satisfying and enjoyable.
When I look back, I went and bought all the equipment I needed first and then went out on the water with no prior experience. It was a very silly thing to do, I went way out in lochs and deep water by myself and in my naivety the only reason and I do mean the only reason I never got into any danger was through sheer luck and nothing else, make no mistake about that. When I think about that, it makes me shudder, had I been faced with any situation I would not have had the skills to cope with the danger I would have found myself in.
Don’t let the word skills put you off, the skills needed to get you confidently going are not that hard. If you do decide however to go out on the water with no experience despite considering the above points, make sure you go with someone else preferably with some experience, and stick to shallow water. Always let someone at home know where exactly you are going. You must also use a buoyancy aid. Do not use a spray deck, I will explain what those are below.
Kayak: Make sure you get one that you feel comfortable in. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. A point to note is your knees sit against the side wall of the kayak, that keeps your balance, you don’t sit in a kayak with your legs straight out as you will loose your balance. So adjust foot rests so your legs are comfortably bent and your knees rest snugly but comfortably against the upper sidewall of the kayak. Most kayaks have knee rest or supports built in. I’ve always bought mine second hand and have been very lucky that they turned out to be just as the seller had advertised. If buying a second hand kayak always thoroughly check it. Look for repairs, damage, splits, and check underneath for any deep gouges. Gouges underneath are normal with coming in and out from the shore but should not be too deep. Some kayak retailers sell second hand kayaks that way they will be able to advise you on a suitable size and fit.
Paddle: You can get a paddle quite cheaply, the cheaper the paddle I have found the heavier it usually is. Ultra light ones are made from carbon fibre and are often quite expensive.
Buoyancy Aid. A bouncy aid is like a foam waist coat covered with material. You must get one that is suited to your weight, A label inside the buoyancy aid will let you know the weight it is suited to. A buoyancy aid is a must never go out with out one no matter what craft you are paddling. I would strongly advise that you buy a brand new one for yourself, do not buy a second hand one as it might have lost some if not all of its support. Please note a buoyancy aid is not a life jacket and will not keep your head from tilting into the water if you come out or off the craft you are using . You have to be conscious and keep your head up. This is why it is so imperative that you never go out on the water alone incase you lose conciousness for ny reason.
Spray deck: A spray deck is either waterproof material or a neoprene cover that fits over you round your stomach area then when you sit in the kayak it covers the cockpit of the kayak. This stops water getting in the kayak especially if you capsize and are able to right you self up again, it keeps the kayak from filling up with water. I cant stress this enough if you have not got experience in capsizing and righting yourself up again or you do not have experience getting your self out a kayak underwater with a spray deck on a kayak then do not use a spray deck. The spray deck fits round the lip of the cockpit and the spray deck has a handle that must not be tucked under the lip of the cockpit it always sits on the outside. If you capsize underwater the handle loop can be pulled to release the spraydeck from around the cockpit of the kayak so you can get yourself out whilst upsidedown under water. A common mistake an inexperienced kayaker can often make is have a tendency to unwittingly tuck the handle under the lip of the cockpit and this could lead to major problems if you capsize depending on how tight the spray deck is around the cockpit of the kayak. Again do not use one if you have no experience using one unless you are under the supervision of an experienced kayaker.
Helmet: Is a must if kayaking around rocky or any area if you capsize that you could hit your head off. It’s always best to have one with you and they are not expensive for a basic one.
Air bag: These fit on the in side of the front (bow) and back (stern) of a kayak. These keep the kayak from filling fully with water and sinking or at least fill with so much water you cant right the kayak up properly to get back in it if you have capsized. These are a must and are not expensive.
waterproofs: I just used a cheap set of waterproofs but depending on the time of year will depend on what fleeces raincoats etc you wear. Although there is clothing geared at kayaking you will most likely have somethings in your wardrobe at home that you could use. Dry suits are excellent and do just what it says, these can be expensive but are worth the money.
Waterproof bag: For mobile phones wallet etc very handy.
Dont be put off by anything mentioned in the post. If you join a club you will in a good enviroment to keep yousafe. Coaches and other experienced kayakers in the club will keep you safe if anything does go wrong.
So friends go join a club, get out there where you will feel free more than ever before, get experience, get confident, but most importantly enjoy yourself and be safe.
please comment below on what you think of kayaking and on any pointers I have missed. Please feel free to share on social media using the icons below