If you like water, boats, and good fun, you probably will like kayaking. Similar to canoeing, kayaking is easy enough to master for a level of enjoyable proficiency, and is a sport the entire family can do together.
Some diehard kayakers take their toddlers aboard when they hit the water, but unless you are extremely skilled, your kids will do better waiting until they are nine or 10 and then taking lessons. At this point, they can paddle their own kayaks or ride in one with an adult.
If you want to try kayaking, rent some boats. Most kayaking schools and centers supply all you need, from life jackets and paddles to watertight sacks for carrying a camera and sunscreen.
More importantly, they will fit you for boats — the saying is that you “wear a kayak” — and make sure the paddles are the right length for you and your kids. Finally, they provide instruction. If possible, sign up for a guided trip. The instructor will be best able to teach as you paddle.
Basic Kayaking Terms
There are five different types of kayaks. Most novices prefer general recreation kayaks or light touring boats. Knowledgeable boaters might want expedition kayaks, surf kayaks or whitewater kayaks. General recreation kayaks are more stable but not as quick as the others; nor are they particularly easy to roll.
There is a difference between tipping a kayak and rolling one. Kayakers like to roll their boats, a maneuver where they stay in the kayak while it does a complete sideways roll under the water and up again. Beginners do not roll kayaks!
The cockpit is the hole in the center of the boat where the kayaker sits. Some kayaks are tandem boats, with two cockpits for two paddlers. These are popular with parents and children, with the child usually seated in the front.
Most kayaks are fitted with rudders, which are controlled by your feet and help turn the boat without impeding the forward motion.
Most kayakers wear spray skirts. This is a coated nylon cover that fits in the cockpit and keeps the kayaker relatively dry. It pops out easily should the kayak tip over.
Every kayaker should wear an approved life jacket. Not too many people fall out of kayaks but it’s always a good idea — and a safety measure you can’t ignore — to wear one.
The single paddle should be the right length and weight for the paddler. The kayaking center will help with this.
Where to Kayak
Where you kayak will depend on where you live or vacation. Sea kayaking is different from river or lake kayaking because of the possibility of waves. White water kayaking is suitable only for experienced kayakers.
A deep, calm river, lake, or ocean inlet are good places for beginners. A narrow, shallow river with lots of rocks and rapids — even small rapids — or a choppy ocean are not advisable for beginners.
Whether you find yourself on a lake or quiet patch of ocean, a river or tidal creek, peace and beauty will surround you as you slip quietly through the water — until your child spies a large water bird or school of fish and your enjoyment only heightens!