6 Top (ish) Tips for Beginner Kayakers
After a rather tragic amount of internet browsing, I have realised that it is a somewhat confusing world in which first-time kayakers must find their feet.
This article combines the advice that I give to people getting into canoeing and kayaking, with a series of links to other more useful sources of information. So here we go, 6 top tips for the novice kayaker (because 5 is not enough and 10 is too cliché!)
Most of us are sociable creatures and are very keen to help other people get out and enjoy the water. There are a range of groups on Facebook where you can meet other people, post your questions and receive a range of annoying and contradictory advice. Here are just a few:
2. Try A Canoe Club
The canoe club scene is not for everyone that’s for sure (fewer wild animal types) but it can be a great way to get into the sport and to start your networking.
Canoe England has sponsored many clubs across the country to run Go Canoeing Starter Sessions throughout the summer. These are open to almost anybody and are a great way to turn up with no kit or experience, have a go, and get wet! Click Here to find a session near you.
3. Think About Why You Want to Paddle
This is not strictly necessary. It might just be my inner organised person trying to fight their way out again.
The organised me found this to be a great way of making sure that your love for the sport doesn’t fade. For example, if you started paddling so that you could spend more time with the family, a three month whitewater expedition to Nepal may not be the best option for you. If however, you started paddling for the adrenaline rush, Nepal is probably a better choice for you than an open-boat trip down the Wye Valley.
The organised me also feels that such considerations can come in very handy when making choices about kit, which brings me on to my fourth tip…
4. Don't Rush Out and Buy All the Gear
In spite of my reluctance, the question of what to buy and when is probably the one question that I get asked the most, so I will sacrifice my sanity and give you my advice.
Firstly, don’t be the person with ‘all the gear but no idea’. Paddlesports kit is very shiny and colourful so it can be tempting to rush out and spend as much money as possible but the reality is, your needs will quickly change. It’s worth waiting until you are sure of your preferred discipline and have had a chance to steal… I mean try out some other people’s kit before you get your own.
Many beginners wear a wetsuit when they first start out. They do make you look a bit like a lycra-clad cyclist but the embarrassment is probably worth it for the warmth. If you can’t borrow one from a friend, Tesco’s Winter Sports Range (who knew?!) have some that start at around £35, or you can get some really good second-hand deals on ebay.
Top tip alert! Wear a pair of old waterproofs on top of your wetsuit to keep the wind out and you will be pleasantly surprised (and slightly horrified) by the nasty warm fug that builds up inside. Also, dress for the weather when you get off the water when you are likely to be at your coldest.
5. Stay Safe
It seems pretty obvious that the best way to have a good time is to stay safe, so here’s how:
- Keep warm… done that.
- Fit your kit… It’s hilarious to watch someone’s flailing legs as they get their buoyancy aid pulled over their face when they are being scooped out of the water. Don’t be that person. Tighten your straps.
- Dream big by all means, but know your limits and listen to your gut… It takes bigger balls to walk away from something than to go ahead ignoring that feeling that something’s not right.
- If a swan seems angry, it’s not because he needs a hug.
6. Say Yes More
This is more of a tip for life than a tip for kayaking but I like to think of it as a transferrable skill. I keep it in mind every time an opportunity comes my way and it is the starting point of most of the amazing and random activities which feature in my other blog posts. Since I started consciously saying yes more, I am simply happier. You can’t really ask for more than that can you?
So get out there, have fun and remember… don’t hug swans…