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Learn kayaking for fun, fitness and food.

Updated on September 13, 2014

Discover the world of kayaking and expand your horizons.

There is nothing quite like a paddle on the ocean, down river or on a peaceful lake.

Kayaking is an activity that can be as fast or serene as you like.

My personal memories of this aquatic activity vary from surfing the waves on a city beach to peaceful moments paddling along a slow meandering river.

I have been investigated by curious dolphins checking out my craft and raced my nephew on a dam.

Kayaking is just plain good. 

This lens will attempt to give you a brief introduction into kayaking and what you need to get started.

Enjoy! 

Types of Kayaks. (and a little history).

Kayaks come in all shapes, sizes, materials and even how you sit in one!

First some history:

Kayaks were originally produced by the eskimo people and were constructed of whalebone and sealskin (and waterproofed with oils).

The construction created a long narrow (and unstable) covered canoe with a hole in the top for the paddler.

The purpose was to create a watertight vessel that would keep the paddler's lower body dry.

Nowadays Kayaks are made from everything from timber to kevlar and fibreglass to plastic.

Their construction has also changed - sometimes radically.

Basically though, it's still a boat.

To make things simple I have divided these kayak characteristics into a few groups.

Sit in or sit on top?

Sit in or sit on top?

There are two basic types of seating arrangements for a kayak and these divide kayaks into two kinds.

Sit in kayaks.

The paddler actually sits inside the kayak and their lower half is covered by the top or deck of the boat.

In choppy seas or rapids the person will usually wear some kind of waterproof skirt that seals over the entrance of the boat and prevents water from splashing in.

These kayaks are usually made of fibreglass, plastic and even timber or materials such as kevlar.

Sit on Top.

These kayaks are constructed differently in that the paddler sits on top of the kayak and the hull and deck are one piece with depressions for the paddler's feet and where they will be sitting.

Kayaks of this type are usually constructed of plastic.

Solid, Inflatables and Fold ups.

Kayaks come in three basic constructions.

Solid.

These require a rack for your car.

They are effectively a completely rigid boat.

Solid kayaks are probably the most commonly used.

They are usually the strongest and fastest (due to their rigid construction).

They also are heavier and require the most space to store and transport.

Inflatables.

Inflatable kayaks are usually constructed of a hard wearing PVC material which is welded together into two or more air chambers to create a boat.

Sometimes an outer skin and foam bracing is added for rigidity.

Better quality kayaks that are resistant to damage are popular for whitewater and some have even been used in ocean paddling.

Inflatables tend to be slower in the water (and less rigid).

They do have the advantage of being easy to store and travel with.

Folding Kayaks.

These are constructed of a strong, waterproof material stretched over a rigid frame which collapses for easy storage.

The Kayaking Store.

Great gear for the kayaking fan

Kayaking experiences.

After having a solid sit on top kayak (worth around $1000 AUD) for a few years I recently made the switch to an inflatable canoe (manufactured by Sevylor).

The boat pictured is the two seater which is only slightly larger than the single seater I'm using.

At first I was skeptical - to me solid seems safer but after taking this unit for a few paddles I was pleasantly surprised at how stable and rigid my boat was.

(Obviously putting enough air in has a lot of influence).

I couldn't fault this boat for comfort and maneuverability - and it seemed pretty tough too.

The big plus for me was storage - being able to fold up my kayak and keep it in a corner . Also going on a recent road trip I was able to put it in the back of my car and not have to mess around with a roof rack or straps.

Paddles.

Next to your kayak, the most important item on the list is a decent paddle.

These vary in size, shape and construction.

The most common types are of one piece consisting of an aluminum shaft and plastic blades, although they are also available in anything from fibreglass to carbon fibre which are lighter and stronger although you can expect to pay much more.

For beginners aluminum/plastic is fine.

Most paddles come with their blades offset to reduce wind drag (you need to develop a twisting action in your wrists in order to use them effectively).

You can always have the blades changed if this is difficult. (I personally prefer blades that are in line with each other since drag is not a huge issue unless you are intending to race).

Also paddles are available in pieces for easy storage or transport.

Tip: Choose a paddle that floats and attach it to your kayak with a strong cord in the middle of the shaft if you are expecting rough water so you don't lose it.

Other important stuff.

Flotation-

If you are intending to paddle in anything that is either fast moving, rough, deep or not very close to shore (In other words almost all the time) a flotation vest or life jacket is essential.

Head protection -

A helmet for rapids.

A wide brimmed hat for sunny paddling (and sunscreen).

Fluids-

Water bottle or hydration pack.

It is easy to become dehydrated - top up regularly with water when you are paddling.

Foot protection.

This is especially important when landing or launching from the water to protect your feet from cuts from barnacles, sharp gravel or stepping on some spiky sea creature.

Dry packs.

All kayaks end up with some water in them at some stage (speaking from experience).

Keep your gear dry by using waterproof plastic bags or containers and secure them well so they don't float away in the event of a tip over.

Another idea is to have your drypacks, and pieces of flotation foam (the kind they make coolers and boogie boards out of) inside the cavity of your kayak.

This has three advantages - It adds flotation to your boat in the event of a capsize, prevents your gear from floating away from your kayak and adds rigidity and stability by having the weight lower down to the waterline.

A roof rack for your car.

These come in a variety of styles.

Choose one that is strong and attaches easily.

Also get some ratchet straps that will secure your precious cargo.

Kayaking ideas.

Below are some examples of how to use your kayak.

Kayaks not only are a great way to spend a summer afternoon paddling in a quiet bay, they are also excellent for camping trips upriver and the sit on tops are a perfect platform for snorkeling and fishing.

Setting up your kayak with a bucket for your catch and carrying you gear is a great way to move in your search for that perfect fishing spot.

It is possible to rig up a rod holder for your fishing reel and do some trolling (who knows what you might catch).

You could also try your hand at fly fishing.

Some sit on tops come equipped with a clear viewing port on the floor and this is an excellent way to see what is below without having to put on snorkeling equipment.

Want something with speed?

Try you hand at surfing the waves (a sit on top is best for this) or take on some rapids in a strong inflatable that's built for punishment.

Kayaking with a difference. - Another use for kayaks when snow sets in.

Here's an interesting take on kayaking and also a beginners instructional video about how to use a paddle.

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    • profile image

      SmokyMountainKayaking 8 years ago

      Nice job on the lens! Good vids.uidwingsquidwing

    • Ryse LM profile image

      Ryse LM 9 years ago

      This is a very thorough and well put together lens on the sport of kayaking. Great work mark!