Kayak Beginners Guide

Canoes and Kayaks

The Ultimate Kayak Beginner Guide

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and enjoy nature. But it can be really intimidating for those who have never tried it before, so we’ve compiled a kayak beginner guide with some tips that will help prepare you to make your first time more enjoyable.

kayak for a beginner guide
Not a beginner

Know which Kayak is for you

When you’re new to the sport of kayaking, it can be overwhelming trying to choose which kayak to use. Starting out with a highly specialized sea kayak for the first time will most likely cause you to struggle with the stability and manoeuvrability as they are designed for speed and long-distance. 

If you plan on kayaking for the first time, we don’t recommend you spend thousands of dollars on a kayak, especially when you don’t even know if you like it or not yet. Starting out with a sit-on-kayak for recreational kayaking is a great idea as these are the easiest to manoeuvre and are the most forgiving for beginners. It is a good idea to learn and familiarize yourself with kayaking in calm waters, away from winds and waves to make it as easy as possible.

Sit-on-kayaks are designed with scupper holes to drain water naturally out of the cockpit. This is important for beginners who are more likely to capsize compared to experienced kayakers. Whereas if you flip in a sit-in-kayak, you can find it much harder to flip back over and remove the water.

Another reason we recommend sit-on-kayaks for beginners is that they require less upper body and core strength as it it less technical to get in compared to sit-in-kayaks.

Ensuring you have all the right gear

When kayaking out on the water, it is essential that you have the appropriate kayaking safety equipment and that you have packed accordingly. But first-time kayakers don’t need to – and probably shouldn’t – buy the best, most expensive boats or paddles. Figure out your budget starting small with affordable gear that will get you on board.

The two most essential safety pieces is a helmet and life jacket, which is more needed for sea kayaking. If you fall out of your kayak and there are big waves, it can turn into a heavy, fast-moving object aimed directly at your head. So in this situation, you’d be glad you wore your helmet. It is also a good idea to carry a first aid kit and a flashlight with you out on the water. Some other items that you should bring include:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle
  • Proper footwear
  • Drybag
  • Compass

Understand your paddle

Kayaking paddles come in two distinct parts: the scoop and spine. The curve shapes of these pieces are important to know when out on an adventure with your kayak. The scoop is the side that caves inwards and the spine is the other side with a spine like ridge running along the surface. 

When going forward, hold the paddle evenly at a little wider than should-width, and have the scoop side facing you. Make sure you keep your arms out from your body for a better range of motion.

Kayak paddle techniques

Forward: Most used paddling technique which moves you forward. To do this you simply submerge the paddle end into the water near your feet and pull the stick back towards you. You will do this by pulling the arm closest to the water and pushing with the other, generating power from your core.

Reverse: To go backwards, it is the same motion as the forward stroke, only backwards. Make sure to flip your paddle around too.

Draw Stroke: To travel sideways, extend the paddle out a few feet right by your side, ensuring the scoop is facing you and pull in.

Sweep Stroke: Trying to turn while you have momentum can be simple. Just place the scoop in the water and do a forwards stroke.

kayak beginner guide

How to get in and out of a kayak

Learning to use a kayak comes with learning to get in and out of one, for obvious reasons, especially when solo kayaking.  It can be tricky at first, but with a little practice it’ll become effortless. Getting in and out can be done at shore, from a dock or in deep water. Here are some beginner tips to make this process as easy as it can be.

Entering from Shore:

This is typically the easiest way to get in a kayak, especially for new learners. Start off by moving your kayak as close to the shoreline as you can so that is it parallel, and step in. Using your arms to push yourself away into the water. You can also do this by walking your kayak out further into the water until it is floating and then climb in.

Entering from the Dock: 

This can be a little more difficult, however it is most convenient. Start by having your kayak parallel to the dock, making it much closer to climb in. Then place your paddle down so you are then able to grab it after you have sat down.

Sit on the edge of the dock, putting your feet into the kayak first and then angling yourself towards the front of the kayak to lower yourself in. This can be done easier at the lowest point of the dock.

Entering from Deep Water: 

For beginners, this may potentially be the most difficult method of getting in. Firstly, you will need to be side on with your kayak, grabbing the side closest to you with one hand, and the other side with your other hand.

Pull yourself up so your stomach is on top of the kayak, but feet still in the water. Then, twist yourself around so your stomach is facing up, with your feet still in the water. Next, make sure the kayak is stable and attempt to lift your legs around into the kayak.

If you’re wondering how to get out of a kayak, the answer is almost the same, just in reverse. When exiting kayaks, bring your legs out first until your are stable on the shore or dock, then step or slide out of your kayak.

sit on top kayak

Kayak Beginner Guide to Knowing your limits

Before hitting the water make sure you know your limits. Touch up on any weak spots. Work on your body and core strength. Be realistic with yourself at all times and do not push your limits. Understand that the further out you paddle, the further you need to paddle back.


You can’t go wrong with kayaking. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your days, then this is the perfect sport. We hope these insights have helped make getting out kayaking for the first time easier than ever before and encouraged anyone new to kayaking to give it a go.


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