Kayaking is an excellent way of spending your free time actively. It’s relatively simple to pick up, and it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours before you’ll be paddling happily. Whether you want to go kayaking in the spot that’s nearest to you, or you’re already planning some trips to some of the most picturesque kayaking spots, you will need to learn some basic skills and prepare before heading off.

For instance, if you’ve never been kayaking before, it might be better to get a lesson with a professional first, before you throw yourself into the deep end of the pool. Then, you need to remember that kayakers should always dress for the water temperature, not the weather. Also, you shouldn’t even think about getting in your kayak if you’re not familiar with how you can rescue yourself if something goes wrong.

The amount of knowledge you need to acquire might sound overwhelming, but don’t worry. Below, you will find the essential things you should know before your first kayaking trip.

Get a Lesson

If you haven’t been kayaking before, your first kayaking experience should be with a professional instructor. While it’s relatively easy, when you first get into the boat, you’ll likely find yourself paddling in circles. It’s not something that should worry you, but that’s exactly the reason why you should seriously consider getting a lesson or two.

With proper coaching, you won’t have to try to figure everything out on your own and, therefore, won’t waste time, energy, or nerves. You’ll learn how to paddle correctly, keep yourself afloat and recover from a capsize. Kayaking lessons aren’t expensive, so you should be able to find something you can afford, or even ask a more experienced friend. You can look for instructors online or check if there’s any professional kayaking center nearby where you could go and ask for details.

Dress for Water Temperature, Not Weather

Kayakers should always dress for the water temperature, not for the weather. Even though it might be hot outside, it could still be quite chilly in the water. For example, determining what to wear whilst kayaking in Norway will be a different process than packing for a kayaking trip in the south of France. In order to avoid muscle cramps and other problems caused by getting cold, it’s a good idea to wear a wetsuit, kayaking gloves, and a waterproof lightweight jacket with a hood.

You should also make sure that you wear appropriate shoes when paddling. A water bootie or water shoe is the ideal choice for kayaking – these will stay on your feet, protect you from rocks and pebbles, and help your feet stay warm. If you want to wear sneakers, look for ones with a lot of mesh material, as it’s better at letting water out. You don’t want to end up with sogged and heavy shoes. On top of that, it might be a good idea to wear head protection – it’s recommended to wear a kayak helmet.

Hold the Paddle the Right Way

Even if you’ve had several lessons or even been on a few kayaking trips, it’s likely that you forget yourself and stop paying attention to how you hold the paddle. Keep in mind that you should hold the paddle with both hands just over shoulder-distance apart. Be mindful of the position of your hands until you make a habit of it.

The concave part of the blade should be facing you, and when dipped in the water, it should sweep through it. Additionally, your knuckles should be in line with the blade. To hold the paddle, use a light grip – if your muscles get too tense, you can experience unpleasant cramps that will prevent you from paddling straight and increase the risk of capsizing.

Learn How to Rescue Yourself

The most important thing you need to remember is that kayaking is a water sport, which means that it isn’t only about being able to get from one place to another – there are numerous risks involved as well. As such, you need to be prepared for emergencies, including accidental capsizing. So even if you’ve had a lesson or two and you think you’re capable of handling yourself with the paddle, you should still know how to save yourself from drowning when needed.

If you capsize, it’s crucial that you always stay with your boat. Make sure you go through a basic capsize drill with your instructor and ask questions if there’s something you don’t know or don’t understand. Your instructor will teach you how to right the boat and get back in again in the most common capsize scenarios. You also need to remember basic safety rules. For instance, if you ever decide to paddle alone, you should make sure people know where you are going. Paddling alone is riskier, and even the most experienced paddlers can run into trouble.

Bring a Change of Clothes

If you’re thinking of going kayaking, you should bring a change of dry clothes with you. You might be very comfortable in your kayak, but it’s almost impossible to stay all dry while kayaking. Whether it’s supposed to be a short trip or one that will take you the whole day, it’s better to have something comfortable and dry on your hands so that you can get changed and avoid catching a cold, which is possible even if the weather is nice and sunny. You’ll thank yourself later.


Kayaking can be a lot of fun, but if you want to enjoy it to the fullest and protect yourself from any unexpected situations, make sure you learn all the basics you need to know beforehand. Therefore, master the essential skills and helpful research tips, especially if it’s your first time kayaking.

You might want to consider taking a kayaking lesson, be sure to bring a change of dry clothes, pack all the necessary safety equipment, and practice on your own first to be able to rescue yourself in case something happens. Follow these tips and have fun kayaking!