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Sea Kayaking If You've Never Kayaked

Updated on November 12, 2015
Kayaker in Sea Kayak
Kayaker in Sea Kayak | Source

Sea Kayaking is a Sport for Everybody!

This page offers an overview of sea kayaking or ocean kayaking for the newcomer or beginner. You'll find information about the sport, the gear needed, safety issues, and even some jokes about ocean kayaking.

If you have never sea kayaked, you are missing out on one of life's greatest experiences. It's a sport that almost anyone can do. Women and seniors are well represented among those who enjoy this fascinating recreational activity.

You don't have to be a fitness buff. You don't have to know how to swim. You don't have to be a daredevil adrenaline junkie! You don't have to practice for months and years before you can kayak.

All you need is a love of the outdoors, a body of water, and of course, a kayak and kayak equipment.

I am a senior. I kayak in Indian Arm and Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, Canada. I would rather kayak than do almost anything -- so if I go a little overboard with enthusiasm, please excuse me.

Better yet, book yourself a kayaking session and find out why I'm exuberant on the topic!

About most of the pictures on this lens. Many are a little blurry. That's because I took them from a kayak that was bobbing in the waves.

Is Sea Kayaking For You?

View from a Kayak in Bedwell Bay, Belcarra, BC, Canada
View from a Kayak in Bedwell Bay, Belcarra, BC, Canada | Source

What's your Thought about Ocean Kayaking?

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Seals on Log Boom - Close to Nature in a Kayak

Harbor Seals on Logs
Harbor Seals on Logs | Source

Paddling Close to Marine Life

These harbor seals sun themselves on a kayak in Indian Arm near Belcarra, BC, Canada. I took the picture from a kayak. It's a little wobbly because the ocean does not hold still upon command.

In a kayak, you often get up close and personal to marine life. Naturally, as a responsible kayaker, I do not paddle close to sunning seals. Zoom lenses are wonderful things.

While kayakers are discouraged from approaching marine life, nobody discourages marine life from approaching us. Seals often swim up and follow the boat from a very close distance.

Sea Kayaking Myths and Facts

  1. I can't kayak because I can't swim.

    You don't need to know how to swim. You kayak wearing a life jacket or a PDF. Should you ever capsize, the flotation device keeps you above water. I know how to swim -- but it is next to impossible to swim wearing a PDF. The best you can do is try to dog paddle and even that doesn't work well. You do not EVER remove your PDF -- but you can get yourself back into the kayak using a technique called a wet recovery.

  2. I can't kayak because I am not a fitness buff.

    Sea kayaking can be challenging depending on the type of kayaking you do. However, assuming you do not plan to engage in kayak surfing or to take your boat on long journeys in rough water, or to go out in a storm, you do not need to be a fitness buff. You need to be able to sit in the kayak for awhile (two to three hours, perhaps) and you need the ability to paddle your boat. Assuming your do not have back or shoulder problems, you should be fine. At the start of the season, my arms tire after about two hours. By the end of the season, I can paddle for double or triple that amount of time.

  3. I can't kayak because I don't think I can do the roll.

    The roll is an advanced skill. Beginner kayakers are advised to learn an easier rescue technique called the wet rescue. With this technique, you are taught to exit the boat in the water, flip it right side up and re-enter from the water. Admittedly the roll is faster and more convenient, in that you do not get out of the kayak. However, it is more difficult to learn and requires more dexterity. The wet rescue is easier to learn.

  4. I can't kayak because I don't live near the ocean.

    Admittedly, that is a good reason. You can do sea kayaking on a lake however. Alternatively, if you vacation in Mexico, Hawaii, Florida or other such places -- you are likely to find kayaking offered as one of the features. Take advantage of this and go have some fun on the water.

  5. I can't kayak because I don't want to buy a bunch of gear.

    If you live near the ocean, chances are good that there is a kayak establishment where you can rent kayaks and the equipment you need.

    As for clothing, you need a hat to keep the sun off your head, shoes that you don't mind getting wet and casual clothing as dictated by weather. In warm weather, a t-shirt and shorts are just fine.

Kayaks at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Club
Kayaks at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Club | Source

Kayaks Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

People are sometimes surprised to learn that kayaks come in many shapes and sizes. There is something to fit every body type and every level of experience.

You can get kayaks meant for one, two, or three people. You can get kayaks that are "sit on top" kayaks. You can get inflatable kayaks. You can get kayaks that fold up for easy carrying.

You can get kayaks with huge storage areas suitable for packing camping material. You can get skinny, light weight little kayaks that go at great speeds but tip easily. You can get kayaks intended for kayak surfing.

Beginners are wise to choose a stable, sturdy kayak that does not tip easily and that will not damage easily if you bump into a rock or the side of a dock.

The type of kayaking that I do is called tracking. In other words, it is nothing fancy and nothing that gets the adrenalin racing.

Kayaker with Basic Equipment
Kayaker with Basic Equipment | Source

Additional Equipment for Kayaking

What you Need

If you are going to kayak, there are some items you will need.

1. Paddles. Self explanatory. You won't get far without one.

2. A life jacket or PDF . Paddling without one is just plain foolish.

3. A spray skirt. If you paddle in Florida, you may not need one of these. If you paddle in cooler waters, they are beneficial, and if you paddle in rougher water, they are necessary.

4. A rudder. A rudder, operated by foot pedals inside the boat, helps you steer. You can steer with paddles alone, but a rudder makes it easier.

5. A paddle float. This is a safety device that helps you get back in the kayak should you ever tip over. It's possible to get back in a capsized kayak without a float, but it's a lot harder to do.

6. An anchor. You may need this if you plan to combine your kayaking with bird watching or photography, for example.

7. A water pump. You need a small, hand held pump to pump water out of the boat should you ever capsize.

In the picture of myself in the kayak, you can see the spray skirt, the paddle, the PDF and the water pump.

Eagle on a Rock - Taken from a Kayak

Eagle on Rock as Seen From Kayak
Eagle on Rock as Seen From Kayak | Source

While kayaking near Belcarra, BC, I came upon this HUGE eagle sitting on a rock. He stared at me for the longest time. My friend suggested that he was checking his recipe book.

I was actually much closer to the eagle than it appears in this picture. It's not a great photo because I was sitting in a bobbing kayak and using the camera in my cell phone.

It's a great example, though, of the cool things that can happen when you are ocean kayaking.

Kayak Expedition
Kayak Expedition | Source

How Dangerous is it?

Safety Matters

Sea kayaking of the sort I'm describing is not a dangerous sport, provided you use your head and observe some safety rules. That having been said, there is an element of danger to everything you do. Crossing the street puts you at risk.

I have kayaked for about eight years without an accident. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen, but it does mean it's not a huge risk.

Basic safety rules to follow:

1. Always wear a life jacket or a PDF.

2. Learn to do a wet rescue.

3. Avoid kayaking in storms and rough water.

4. Never go out in a thunderstorm.

5. Carry a cell phone or ship to shore radio.

6. Kayak in safe locations. Avoid areas such as boating lanes, areas known to have strong currents, etc.).

7. Learn the basic rules of the water, including kayak etiquette.

8. Before going out alone, take a kayak training workshop to learn the basics.

Kayaks at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Club
Kayaks at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Club | Source

Kayaking from Deep Cove, North Vancouver, Canada

Where I Kayak

I do almost all of my kayaking from a place called Deep Cove, in North Vancouver, Canada. Deep Cove is situated on a fiord called Indian Arm. You can kayak up the arm for approximately six hours, or you can go the other direction and enter Burrard Inlet. Once in Burrard Inlet, you can turn north and kayak to the end of the inlet, landing at Port Moody, or you can turn south and head in that direction for about an hour until you reach an area that is off limit to kayakers due to ship traffic.

I do not own a kayak. I take out season's passes with Deep Cover Canoe and Kayak Club. This means I can try out a good selection of kayaks and pick and choose which one I want to use on a given day. It also means I do not have to store and transport my kayak, both important considerations for me.

The web site is: Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak.

Kayak Approaching a Boat House
Kayak Approaching a Boat House | Source

Sea Kayaking Vs River Kayaking

A World of Difference

Sea kayaking and river kayaking are vastly different.

River kayaking, also known as white water kayaking, involves using narrow, tippy kayaks that are built for speed and intricate navigation around rocks, currents and white water. It's a sport for adrenalin junkies.

Sea kayaking, on the other hand, uses wider, more stable kayaks.

You are very likely to get wet using a river kayak. You are much less likely to get wet in a sea kayak.

Video: Orca Whales Approaching a Kayaker - on Johnstone Straight

This video was apparently taken in the Johnstone Straight, which is off Vancouver Island. Orca whales are seen often in the Straight. I would have been a bit nervous to have whales jumping around so close to the boat, but wow, what an experience.

Top Ten Ways to Know You're Hooked on Kayaking

  1. You chose your car because it worked with your rack system.
  2. You replaced the living room sofa with a kayak.
  3. Your life jacket is the most stylish piece of clothing you own.
  4. You annoy people at the movies by shoving your legs into the vee position.
  5. You think the ideal first aid kit is a roll of duct tape.
  6. The longer you go without kayaking, the more you want to kick the dog.
  7. People ask why your arms are brown and strong but your legs are flabby and pale.
  8. You feel under dressed without your spray skirt.
  9. When friends talk about hitting a deer or a moose, you talk about hitting a salmon or a seal.
  10. When driving your car, you lean into the turns.

© 2012 June Campbell

Paddler's Place

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    • junecampbell profile imageAUTHOR

      June Campbell 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      @TanoCalvenoa: I envy you for having kayaks at your disposal. I have nowhere to store them and no way to get them on top of a car without assistance, so I rely on a seasons' pass at a local kayak club. I pay a yearly fee and get to use their kayaks as needed.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I've done it on Catalina Island and in Newport Harbor in Southern California. It's fun, I ought to do it more often. My dad owns two kayaks that I could borrow.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      4 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I would love to try kayaking.

    • junecampbell profile imageAUTHOR

      June Campbell 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      @NoNameVoyager: Thanks for visiting and commenting. I am so envious that you were kayaking in Thailand! That must have been awesome.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I've been sea kayaking for a few years now. Only just obtained my British Canoe Star qualification January of this year. I have to agree with a number of things. It can be darned ADDICTIVE! And i can personally verify that anyone, no matter what age (in reasonably good health of course) is capable of picking up the skills in due time. During a kayak expedition in Thailand early this year, I was struggling to keep up with my fellow expedition kayak mates, (a) a 60 year old Italian who smokes & drinks & only picked up kayaking the previous year & (b) a 63 year old Englishman from a whitewater kayak background. Technique & experience triumphs over muscle here!

      Enjoyed your article very much :)

    • junecampbell profile imageAUTHOR

      June Campbell 

      4 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      @Magicality LM: No, I don't paddle that way! LOL Thanks for visiting and for being so observant!

    • Magicality LM profile image

      Magicality LM 

      4 years ago

      In your picture with the orange sea kayak, you are holding your paddle the wrong way, I hope you don't paddle it that way ;-)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Love kayaking, mostly on lakes and smooth rivers. Would love to try a sea kayak!

    • CampingmanNW profile image


      5 years ago

      Always love to hear from another kayaker. Thanks for a fun read and a nice lens. Congrats on the Purple Star award.

    • inspiration01 lm profile image

      inspiration01 lm 

      5 years ago

      I love kayaking and so enjoyed your lens! I kayak at lakes, only once at sea, I learned quite a bit from your lens. I especially enjoyed the video you shared about the whales approaching two kayakers, that's awesome!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Have never kayaked but would like to. Those orca were great!

    • junecampbell profile imageAUTHOR

      June Campbell 

      6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      @Country-Sunshine: Thank you. I would love to kayak in the Caribbean Maybe some day.

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Love to kayak, especially in the Caribbean! Amazing the things you can see while on the water! Nice article!


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