How to Kayak: The Basics

Taking up kayak can be a great way to explore the outdoors, and it’s easier than you might think to get started. With some thoughtful preparation, you can get out on the water and enjoy the experience.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a kayak right away – although it’s certainly an option. You can also look into renting or borrowing a kayak as you get started. And when you’re ready to purchase your own boat, We can help with that.

  • Borrow a single or best tandem kayak from a friend. If you can find a friend who’s an expert paddler, that’s even better. They can take you out and teach you the basics.
  • Rent a kayak. The best way to try kayaking without any prior experience is to go to an on-the-water outfitter. This is a much more affordable option and you won’t have to worry about transporting the boat yourself. The outfitter will provide you with the bare minimum amount of gear and instruction, but it’s a great way to get started with the sport.
  • Sign up for a tour.  Recreational Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and explore. You can find kayaking trips through your local parks department or through companies.
  • Sign up for a class. Like a tour, everything is provided in an introductory kayaking class. You’ll get more in-depth instruction than you would on a tour, so it’s the better option if you’re serious about taking up kayaking.


Kayak Gear and Clothing

In this article, we’ll be discussing kayaks with cockpits and hatches for storing gear. If it’s warm weather and the water is calm, you might be put in a wide, stable boat without a cockpit.

Crucial kayaking gear: Anyone who provides a kayak should also give these items:

  • Coastguard-approved PFD that fits properly
  • Paddle 
  • Bilge pump
  • Spray skirt

Proper clothing: The following items will come in handy for a warm-weather, warm-water outing:

  • Swimwear or shorts
  • Short- or long-sleeve rashguard top
  • Neoprene footwear
  • Sun-shielding hat
  • Lightweight fleece jacket or vest 
  • Spray jacket or rain jacket and pants 

If the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need a wetsuit to stay warm (especially if you’ll be in the water).


Personal items: If you know your Essentials items, then you should already be familiar with many of them. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of them:

  • Plenty of water
  • Snacks for power, plus a lunch for longer tours
  • Sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses
  • Signaling whistle
  • Watch 
  • Headlamp 
  • Dry bags 

How to Adjust Your Kayak

Before you set out on your kayaking adventure, it’s important to make sure your kayak is well-adjusted! This will make for a more stable and comfortable experience. While the boat is dry on land, focus on three points of contact to make adjustments. Also, there are many different types of kayaks, so here are the steps to follow for adjustment. 

  • Snug your butt firmly against the seatback. If your boat has an adjustable seat or seatback, make sure you’re in a position that feels comfortable. However, for the best balance and power, you’ll want to sit more upright.
  • For proper balance while riding, place the balls of your feet on the footpegs and check to see if you have a slight bend in your knees. Most footpegs can be adjusted by tilting them and sliding them to different stopping points along a track. It may be easier to get out of the boat in order to slide the pegs into place.
  • With your knees bent, make sure each side of your body is firmly in contact with the cockpit. This helps you control the side-to-side motion of the boat as you paddle. Your fit should be snug but not so constricting that you can’t get out if you capsize.
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