Kayaking may be a fun and relaxing sport, but you may find it quite challenging to get into the kayak the first few times you try it. There is a high chance that you could fall off the kayak or it could topple over. One way to avoid getting into such a terrible situation is to learn how to get in a kayak before trying it.
Before You Go Kayaking
The biggest challenge when you want to try kayaking is getting into it. It may seem relatively easy with no complicated techniques to execute, but it isn’t like getting into a canoe where all you need to do is step into it and you’re done. It is much trickier.
The kayak itself becomes part of one’s body, which is why it may be appropriate to say that you would put it on rather than get into it. It is very shaky and as a beginner, you will most likely fall into the water a couple of times before getting the hang of it.
Do kayaks flip over easily?
Kayaks are generally designed to keep the paddler safe, which means it was created in a way that decreases the chances of capsizing. However, there are still instances wherein it could happen, depending on the type of kayak that you have and the type of water you are journeying through.
If you are planning to kayak in calm waters, then you will not have to worry about tipping over while kayaking. But if you are adventurous and brave enough to paddle white waters, there is a greater risk for your boat to flip over.
Choosing a Kayak
There are many different kayaks and some are better for beginner kayaking.
Durability and Material
Some beginners are not the most careful with their boat. It could take some time before you get the hang of handling your kayak both in and out of the water. For beginners, it is best to find a kayak that can withstand rough treatment. Hard plastic kayaks are highly durable and able to withstand the usual bumps and drags.
Find a kayak that doesn’t rock as much. Shorter boats are more stable than the longer ones that professionals often use. The longer the kayak, the more challenging it is to keep your balance and control the movement.
Depth and Width
Wider kayaks are more stable. Also, the bigger space allows for easier boarding and getting out of the boat. The depth depends on what is more comfortable for you. The lower the cockpit, the more space there is for your legs and feet.
Getting into a Kayak
The most vital thing to remember every time you get into a kayak is to place your butt on the boat quickly to prevent it from tipping over. By doing this, your center of gravity is kept low, reducing the chances of the kayak toppling over.
There are various places where you can go kayaking, and at each of these, there are different methods of how to get into and out of the kayak.
From a Dock
If you want to go kayaking in a river or lake, the most convenient place to get into the boat is at the dock. The very first thing that you have to do is to place the paddle perpendicularly across the kayak. Make sure that it is also leaning towards the dock. Doing this will enable you to pull the boat towards you just in case it drifts away.
Once you’ve stabilized the position of the kayak, you can then try to approach it, while keeping your body as low as possible. Doing this keeps your center of gravity low and your body balanced. If done otherwise, you will most likely fall into the water due to the instability.
The first part of the body that goes into the kayak should be your feet. It will be quite challenging to keep your balance, but it will get better and better after some practice. Once you’ve found your balance, you can then slowly lower your body into the cockpit. When you are doing this particular step, make sure to keep your hands on the dock and support your body weight with it.
Again, it will take some time and practice before you can do it perfectly. Even seasoned kayakers fall from time to time.
From the Beach
Another common location for kayaking is at the beach. Getting into a kayak when you’re at the beach would be much easier if you have a partner with you. The person with you can assist you throughout the entire process.
There are different types of kayaks available. For the plastic kayak, you can simply let a portion of it rest on the sandy shore. These kayaks are much sturdier than other kinds, meaning it could withstand harsher treatment. Make sure to position it with the cockpit on the edge of the water and the bow floating entirely on water.
However, if your kayak is composed of fragile or delicate materials, such as fiberglass or carbon fiber, it would be best to keep it afloat. The sand present on the shore will surely leave scratches on the boat if you let the kayak rest on it while you board.
If you have someone with you, they can keep the kayak in place by holding on to the stern. Doing this will help you get into the boat much faster safely.
However, if you are on your own, the process becomes much more complicated. Due to the absence of extra helping hands, you will have to put extra effort into keeping your body balanced and stable. The good news is that you can also rest some part of the plastic kayak on the beach.
You can use the paddle to keep your body balanced and the kayak stable. Place it perpendicularly behind the cockpit with one end resting on the beach for plastic kayaks. For composites, you can rest one blade on a solid object right below the water surface.
When you’re trying to get in, you should squat down right beside the kayak to keep your center of gravity low. Remember never to stay upright when boarding the kayak since this could significantly decrease your stability. With one of your hands, you should grab the cockpit coaming and the paddle shaft.
Then, you can lean on that hand and place both of your feet in the kayak. Always put your weight above the paddle. Once your feet are inside the boat, you can then slowly lower your body and slide your legs into the cockpit.
When you are comfortable and have found a stable position, you can grab the paddle and bring it in front of you. To start on your journey, you can simply push your hands or paddle against the beach.
Installing a Spray Skirt
A spray skirt is what kayakers use in specific weather or environmental conditions. It acts as a covering for paddlers to protect themselves from getting wet. It is mostly used when the water is extremely choppy and the waves are aggressive. Other than protection, it prevents water from accumulating into the cockpit, which may destabilize the boat.
Another benefit of using a spray skirt is to keep your legs warm. When both the air and water are cold, it would be best to attach the accessory. Doing so will increase your comfort when you go kayaking. If you want to use a spray skirt, you need to install it after you get on your kayak.
A spray skirt has several parts, namely:
- tunnel – covers the paddler’s torso
- deck – skirt portion that covers the boat’s cockpit
- rand – the edge of the spray skirt that holds the deck taut, which fastens the entire item on the cockpit coaming
Selecting a Spray Skirt
When you are looking for a spray skirt, there are several factors to consider. Cockpits of kayaks come in different shapes and sizes, so spray skirts also come in different sizes and fit. Manufacturers have created detailed sizing charts for their kayaks. You won’t have to measure the cockpit yourself but remember your kayak’s model name and brand.
Another option is to get a custom-made skirt which is an option offered by some manufacturers. You may ask your local paddling shops or clubs for recommendations.
Aside from the cockpit fit, you also need to choose the correct circumference size of the torso portion. Although nylon tunnels are adjustable, other materials are not. Measure your midriff, the portion below your chest but above the waist, and use this to check if a spray skirt is right for you.
Spray skirts come in different materials. They are either made of neoprene, nylon, or a combination of both.
This material can provide warmth when the environment and water are frigid. Also, neoprene spray skirts have neoprene or rubber rands that firmly grip the cockpit coaming to help it withstand intense waves. The disadvantage of this type of skirt is that it cannot be easily removed in cases of accidents or capsizing due to its tight grip. It would be best to practice your skirt-removal techniques before going on your adventure.
This type of skirt works best in moderate conditions. It is entirely waterproof, yet breathable. It also has bungee cord rands that can provide a snug seal but do not keep water out during a capsize. Although it is easier to put on and remove than neoprene skirts, it does not provide a tight seal, which you will need in extremely rough waters.
This specific type combines the good points of both neoprene and nylon. It has a secure grip on the deck and still retains its breathable tunnel for increased comfort.
Attaching a Spray Skirt
Remember that this kayaking accessory is only placed after you are comfortable sitting and stable in your kayak. The first thing you need to do is to lean backward and calmly attach the spray skirt to the back of the cockpit coaming. Then, lean forward and run your fingers along the edge until it wraps the entire coaming.
Make sure that the grab loop of the spray skirt is in front of you and outside of the cockpit. Doing this will give you easy access to it when you need it.
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