Looking for a new outdoor challenge? Kayaking can be the perfect sport if you enjoy a challenging workout out on the water. But kayaking on a calm lake is much different than paddling around out on the open ocean.
So what is sea kayaking? Kayaking is a sport that can be described as extreme or even relaxing. But kayaking in the ocean takes plenty of skill and experience and it’s definitely not something you want to try alone.
You’re looking at rougher water conditions, difficult recoveries after a capsize, and you need to know the type of strokes to use when you’re fighting strong waves and rough water conditions.
Here are some important tips for the newbie kayaker who’s interested in trying their hand at sea kayaking.
Lessons from the Pros
If you have zero experience with kayaking, then making the plunge can be a dangerous business. While practicing your kayaking techniques on a calm river or in a large pond can be very beneficial and even recommended, kayaking in the ocean is something different entirely. Before you head out to sea, it’s important that you pick up the necessary skills. If you don’t know much about maneuvering or paddling strokes and the appropriate ones to use in different types of water conditions, then you’re bound to run into trouble. You can easily find local kayaking instructors who offer both simple and intensive courses. These training programs can lead you down the path to kayaking like a pro.
Learning the Basics of Ocean Kayaking
While kayaking in the ocean can seem straightforward, there are a lot of basic techniques you need to learn before you dip your paddle in the big drink.
To start, the paddle must be held with a lighter grip, which will give you more control over the boat’s movements while minimizing your chances of straining muscles. This position also allows for a more flexible stance.
Deep, rhythmic, swift paddling can get your kayak flying. Sweep strokes are used as a corrective technique that helps you to expertly maneuver your kayak in rougher waters, and it’s a technique you’ll definitely need to learn before you hit the water.
Probably one of the most important things to remember when you’re at sea in your kayak is the importance of keeping your upper body at a balanced center of gravity. When you achieve this position, capsizing is nearly impossible, and steering will be so much easier.
Practice Makes Perfect
When it comes to sea kayaking, practice is everything. However, many pros don’t recommend practicing in water. Generally, instructors will start off lessons by having the newbie practice the proper strokes and techniques on the sand first, in order to help improve muscle memory. After practicing your moves on land, you’ll begin in calm, shallow waters to ensure you have your technique down. If you feel comfortable in the water and you have your kayak moving efficiently, you can step it up by practicing in more challenging water conditions. If you’re taking lessons, your instruction will decide whether or not you’re ready to advance by checking out your corrective strokes, sweep strokes, and forward strokes.
Learning about Capsizing Recovery
For every new kayaker, capsizing can be very scary and the fear of it can have you thinking twice about sea kayaking. Fortunately, capsizing recovery is part of every type of pro kayaking training program.
Typically, when you’re in your kayak and you do tip over, to correct this you must lean forward, use the paddle to push the bottom of the kayak, and release the protective spray skirt, ensuring it’s all the way off, then you can push out of the kayak.
But these steps can be difficult to remember when you’re panicking, which many beginners tend to do their first few times. Just keep in mind that gravity rules, so you’re likely to propel out of the kayak automatically and rise to the surface.
Preparing for a Trip to Sea
Before you head out on your trip, always check the weather and your route. You should be familiar with the area you plan on paddling in. For beginners, we recommend bays and other types of sheltered areas that have some type of protection against high winds. These are the safest options. They can also be the perfect places to help you practice and become more familiar with ocean kayaking in a slightly more relaxed environment.
To prepare for your trip, check out the local marine forecast so you’ll have a general idea of what you can expect in terms of water and weather conditions. If possible, avoid kayaking on foggy days because fog can significantly affect visibility out on the water and once you lose sight of land, that’s often when panic sets in.
Regardless of the forecast, you should always expect some wind and choppy water action, even on a clear day.
You can bring along your iPhone or tablet and rely on one of those devices to safely guide you through the waters, but you should always have a backup map in the event you drop your phone, it dies, or becomes damaged. A traditional map can be much harder to read than the GPS on your phone, so become familiar with nautical charts and learn how to use a compass as well.
Kayaking by yourself is never a good idea, even if you have experience. The ocean is powerful and huge, and often it’s unpredictable as well. The more friends you bring along on your next kayaking trip, the safer you’ll be. However, if you’re a beginner, you’ll definitely benefit from tagging along with a veteran group of kayakers.
Sea kayaking isn’t for everyone, and it can be difficult to learn how to paddle with waves and how to expertly maneuver your kayak in choppy water conditions, and for the beginner, it can even be dangerous. But with the right equipment, techniques, and of course, the best inflatable kayak, you can enjoy a peaceful day exploring the ocean, whether it’s for recreational purposes or some deep-sea fishing. With a kayak, the possibilities are endless.
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