The Golden Rules of Kayaking: Kayaking For Beginners

The Golden Rules of Kayaking are a set of rules that will make you paddle better and more safely.

That’s right. Better and more safely.

And everybody wants to paddle better and more safely. And so, let’s get right into it. So the first golden rule is to choose an appropriate paddling location. What is an appropriate paddling location? Well, that depends on a few things. That depends. Well, it depends on what type of kayak you’re using, but more so, it depends on your expertise. How much skill do you have and your knowledge?

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How much training do you need?

For example, you really have no choice if you’re a recreational paddler with no formal training whatsoever. You need to stay on bodies of water that are protected from strong wind in waves. If you’re paddling on Rivers, you need to stick to Rivers that have at most Class one moving water. And what does Class one mean? Well, Class one basically means fastmoving water, no significant waves. As soon as you get into class, too white water. And above all, you’re dealing with a paddling scenario that needs formal training because there are a variety of new factors that come into play, and that’s something that you want to do.

Then my recommendation would be to go take a two to five-day introductory Whitewater course. From that course, you’ll learn the skills and gain the knowledge you need to confidently safely paddle up to Class three white water. And it will absolutely open up a whole new world to you. Now, I’m sure there are some of you watching this thinking to yourself, I can’t learn white water paddling. I mean, some of you might be thinking I have no desire to learn white water paddling, and that’s totally cool.

For those of you who might be thinking, I’m too old, I’m too out of shape, I’m too whatever to take a white water kayaking course, you’re not. But just know that your limitation is Class one, fast-moving water. I taught kayaking white water kayaking for years and years and years and years, and I saw people of all shapes and sizes. I won’t say that everybody that took a course continued with white water kayaking. But I feel very confident that most people who took the course are really happy that they did that.

That experience has definitely been a highlight of their lives. Go for it. If you’re interested. For sea hikers and people who have been trained in open water and open water paddling and open water safety and open water rescue techniques, well, you have a lot more options when it comes to the appropriate paddling locations. That being said, it’s important to recognize that sometimes a little bit of information, a little bit of knowledge, can be one of the most dangerous things. Just because you took a two-day sea kayaking course and learned about many different safety concepts, it does not mean that you’re necessarily ready for anything and everything.

You have to take a conservative approach to all your decisions when you’re on the water, especially in open water situations and far from shore. The reason it’s so important to be conservative because paddling is, generally speaking, a very safe sport. But when you’re in those types of environments, when things do go wrong, things can go very, very, very wrong very quickly. And so the prudent thing to do is just be conservative with your decisions. This leads us into the second Golden Rule, which is to plan and prepare for a capsize.

So how do you plan and prepare for a capsize? Well, one thing you can do with sit on top of kayaks. One of the big selling features of sit-on-top kayaks is that they are easy to get back into if you fall out of the kayak and just crawl back onto them. They’re like floating docks. Well, when was the last time that you try to get back onto a dock from the water or a kayak? If you haven’t, then it may have been pretty easy when you were a kid and full of energy, but if you’re watching this, you probably aren’t a kid and full of energy.

You might be full of energy, but you may not be a kid. It can be surprisingly difficult to get back onto sitting on top kayak from the water, and you don’t want to have to figure that out when you flip for your first time in some uncomfortable situation on the water; take the time, practice beforehand. Learn how to do it before you go out and find yourself in that situation. And if you’re not willing to do that, then you really need to paddle in a location that’s close enough to shore to swim.

If you do end up capsizing now, how else do you plan and prepare for a capsize? Well, the other way to do that is to dress for immersion. And what that means is dress in a way that if I end up swimming and I’m immersed for a significant amount of time that I’m going to, I mean, absolutely, I’m going to survive. But be I’m not going to be miserable either. What does that mean? Well, it depends on the water temperature. It depends on the air temperature. So it really depends.

You need to dress in a way where hey, you’re comfortable when you’re paddling. But if you do go into the water unexpectedly, you’re also going to be comfortable enough to still have an enjoyable and safe time. This brings us to Golden Rule number three. So the third golden rule is to use torso rotation for all your strokes. What’s the torso? Well, torso rotation is the way you get your whole upper body, your core muscles involved with all the strokes you take so that you’re not just relying on your arms, which even if you’ve got big old Python arms, your arms are relatively weak compared to your core muscles.

I go into quite a bit of depth about using torso rotation in a previous video called The Three Essential Stroke. So let’s take a quick look at a segment from that.

When I reach for the stroke, I’m not just reaching with my arms. I’m reaching with my shoulder by turning at the waist. And when I do that.

I’ve effectively wound up my body.

And now I’m accessing something that’s called torso rotation.

This is how you get your core muscles, not just your arms, into every stroke you take.

It’s an absolutely key concept for any kayaking stroke.

To see more of that video, I’ll put a link in the description box below, and it goes into how you use torso rotation for the three Most Important strokes. Not just the one that brings us to number four. This isn’t a very original golden rule, but it’s probably the most important golden rule. Always wear your SPF whenever you’re on the water. It’s important. Even if the Coast Guard says you just need to have a PD in your boat, it’s really important to always wear the SPF.

Having a Ph.D. in your boat is kind of like saying, hey, have a seat belt available in your vehicle. Well, yeah, that doesn’t really help when you need it. Same with the SPF. You got to be wearing it, and you’re only going to want to wear a PFD if it’s comfortable, and B, it looks good. So for a probably the most important part is comfortable. That’s why you want to choose a paddling-specific SPF. It removes the bulk around your shoulders, around your arms, anywhere you need to move.

It keeps most of the flotation down around your tours, lower torso, and even the back of the PDS. They have the flotation in the right place. This particular one has flotation up in the upper back, so that I don’t have flotation. And here, between me and the seatback, makes it much more comfortable. The bottom line is whatever type of SPF you have, whether it’s a kayaking-specific PFD, which I’d highly recommend, or a general PFD, wear it. So there you have it. For me, those four things are the golden rules of kayaking.

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