Inflatable Kayaking Simplified: 11 Tips for Beginners
Your brand new inflatable kayak was delivered a day ago. Perfect timing. The weather is great and you can’t wait to head out to the water.
Kayaking is fun. It is a great exercise. It is chicken soup for your soul. Okay, we can keep harping about the perks of kayaking for hours.
But if you are reading this, then chances are that you are looking for some help that can make your newfound passion a little easier.
You will be thrilled to know that kayaking is as easy as cycling. With some help and some time on the water, you will be ready to row your way through thick, thin, eddies, rapids, wave trains, strainers, sweepers and whatnot.
Here are ten essential inflatable kayaking tips to make life easier for you.
#1 – Take Kayaking lessons
Yeah. That’s not the first tip that most beginners want to hear. Most people like to think they can inflate a kayak and hit the water with zero preparation.
Now that might work in extremely calm waters, especially if you have some prior experience with paddle boats.
But, taking kayaking lessons will prepare you for some of the unexpected scenarios that you might run into. For example, rowing head first into winds. Paddling the boat in such a situation can be challenging and even overwhelming for the newbie kayaker.
Kayaking lessons will help immensely. They are reasonably inexpensive and there’s probably a kayaking club close to your home. Check Facebook groups.
#2 – YouTube Tutorials
YouTube tutorials on Kayaking are the next best thing to one-on-one lessons. They will at least give you some insight into the basics of paddling and controlling your kayak.
In the water, this will translate into you spending more time on the boat than in the water. It will also help you from getting soaking wet, which is how inexperienced kayakers always finish their first trip.
#3 – Do the drills
Learn the various warm ups and drills that will help develop your stroke technique and give you better edge control. They are not too difficult and will greatly improve your paddling skills.
The most important ones are core rotation drills, like paddle in the mud drill, sweep stroke and Frankenstein which allow you to engage the torso when you paddle. Drawing power from the torso allows for more efficient and fewer strokes to move the kayak. It will be less tiring as compared to paddling with the arms and you will also reduce the risk of injury.
Learning edge control is crucial, especially if you intend to expand your kayaking repertoire to less than calm waters. It will allow you to steer, surf waves and catch eddies. The side crunch drill is the gold standard for edge control. So is the power circle drill.
Google to learn about these drills or use YouTube videos to learn them. Practice, practice and spend some more time practicing these drills. These are your fundamental, strength and muscle building exercises that will improve your balance, flexibility and paddling skills.
#4 – Read the manual
Now that we have the kayaking skills out of the way, time to learn about your kayak. Your inflatable kayak will ship with a set of instructions, a pressure gauge and a patching kit that can be a lifesaver when your boat springs a leak.
Spend some time reading the manual. The last thing you need is to discover that you don’t know how to patch the kayak midway through a fishing trip.
Do you know how many chambers the kayak has? Is it a self-bailing one? Familiarize yourself with the paddles and the rowing technique. Do you intend to use a trolling motor? Which one fits?
Know the kayak like the back of your hand. Create a checklist of the things that you need to carry and check everything before you get on the boat.
#5 – Take your partner with you
Kayaking solo is blissful. It is peaceful. But Kayaking with a partner is practical. Especially when you are new to it.
Despite all the preparation, you will make mistakes. That’s unavoidable and that’s how you learn and hone your skills.
But it’s always better to make mistakes when you have an extra pair of hands to help.
Go paddling with an experienced partner. It will soothe frayed nerves and give you some tested advice that can make a boatload of difference in your first trip.
And if you don’t know anybody with prior paddling experience, look for paddling clubs or local groups that focus on kayaking. There’s always a yak fanatic somewhere close to you.
Leave the escapism for a later time when you are skilled and experienced enough.
#6 – Dress for the water
A warm and sunny day on the lake is an invitation to wear your beachwear and go kayaking. But that’s a rookie mistake because the water might be freezing cold.
When you go inflatable kayaking, you are likely to splash around a lot. So, ensure that you dress for the water. A wetsuit will keep you from freezing to death in case you capsize, which is very likely in the first few trips.
Add a cagoule, a pair of waterproof gloves and large waterproof boots to the list. The boots are necessary when you shore the boat.
#7 – Never go kayaking without floatation devices
This one is obvious, isn’t it?
Yet, time and again, we find newbie kayakers without a buoyancy aid or a flotation device on them in the middle of nowhere.
You might be Michael Phelps but why risk it?
The water often appears to be calm until you fall into it. That’s when you realize that there are strong recirculating currents and forces that make it impossible to swim through. Low Head dams, for example, have accounted for thousands of deaths all over the United States.
Point is, invest in a good personal flotation device. There are specialized ones for kayaking. These usually fit snugly while allowing ample room to move your arms without chaffing.
#8 -The Dry sack
Many beginners head to the water with a towel. We mean, with only a towel!
That’s kayaking hara-kiri. Get yourself a dry sack. Pack it with things that you’d rather have and not need than the other way round. Duct tape, super glue, a multi-tool, first aid, some energy bars, drinking water, whistles, emergency blankets, your car keys, some cash, towels, your camera and any fire starting device. Whew!
That’s what we can think of at the moment.
#9 – Plan your route
If you are planning to navigate through a waterway, plan the route in advance. Know about the time it takes to cover the route for an inexperienced kayaker. Add some leeway time to it that you will spend taking breaks or soaking in the surroundings. Just be prepared.
Also, if you are going river paddling, ensure that you know about any potential hazards. Educate yourself about downstream Vs, strainers and rip tides. We highly recommend that you stick to calm waters until you gain some expertise.
#10 – Learn about hand signals
Paddling on the lake is serene. But paddling on a river is quite the opposite. It can get painstakingly loud and in case of an emergency, you might find that it is impossible to communicate even if you holler at the top of your voice.
Be aware of basic river signals. There are hand signals as well as paddle signals that most experienced kayakers understand.
If you find yourself stranded, freezing or debilitated, knowing these might save your life.
Oh, almost forgot. Take a whistle with you.
- Tell someone your plans
You only have high hopes from your first kayaking trip. But plenty of things can go wrong on the water. Not to demotivate you. But it always helps if someone else is aware of your kayaking trip, especially if you plan to go solo. Tell them about your planned route and the time that you intend to spend on the water. Once you are back, call them and inform them about it. It will take less than a minute anyway.
These 11 tips are invaluable and we learnt most of it on the water.
How we wish someone had collated this into a brief, juicy blog post and fed it to us on a platter.
Nevertheless, if you are starting off with your inflatable kayaking journey, consider these as foundational tips that will help you immensely.