Useful Hints Tips and Safety Information

So you've decided to take up kayaking and can't decide whether to go out on your own or to join a club with instructors. We would never recommend that anyone, beginner or expert, go out on their own for safety reasons. Having instructors to hand makes the experience so much more enjoyable and safer. At our club the instructors are fairly informal, making your learning a more relaxed experience.

As with all water sports safety is of a high importance. We have produced a Health and Safety page to provide you with some information and links that may make your kayaking experience a safer one.

The rest of this page shall try to give a few hints and tips that we hope may be helpful to the newbie and may also enlighten some of the more experienced paddlers as well.


Make sure you know how to exit your kayak!

Before you put your kayak on the water it is advisable to put your kayak on dry ground and practice getting in and out of the cockpit. To get in to the cockpit you put backside on the back of the cockpit and put your hands under you and rest them on the top back edge of the cockpit. Slide your legs in straight to the cockpit and let your backside drop into the seat. To get out you do the same in reverse in this order.

This should be practiced several times on dry land until you can confidently get in and out of the kayak, so that in the event that you do capsize you should be able to get confidently out of the kayak whilst in the water upside down

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Entering your kayak!
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Holding the paddle!

The recommended distance to hold the paddle would be roughly the width of your elbows or a little less. This would vary depending on the type of paddling that you intend to do and you would typically widen your grip for more power and control and narrow your grip for long distance paddling to spread the workload amongst your muscle groups.

If you are right handed, your control grip will be with your right hand. If you are left handed your control grip will be with your left hand. When taking a kayaking stroke you would allow the paddle to rotate and reposition in your "loose hand" to make sure that each paddle always enters the water smoothly. The control grip does not change positions once it is on the paddle.

If you can see the whites of your knuckles, you are holding the paddle too tight.

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Forward paddling!

Paddling forward may seem like an easy thing to do and it is but with the right technique you could use less energy.

If you are holding your paddle as described above then you are one step closer to paddling in any direction efficiently. You should place the blade of the paddle into the water by your feet and close to the kayak. Keep your lower body straight and use your twisting motion of your upper body and arms to pull the paddle down the edge of the kayak through the water until the paddle is level with body. Pull the paddle out of the water and then place in the water on the other side in the same way as on the other side.

Try not to let the paddle blade in the water get to far away from the kayak as this will only use up more energy and make you turn more.


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Backward paddling!

Paddling backwards can seem daunting and you may feel off balance. The backwards stroke can be used to slow you down as well as move you in a backwards motion.

This paddling is similar to forward paddling in the fact that if you keep the paddle close to the kayak and the twisting motion of your upper body and arms in the same way, just the opposite direction.

If you hold the paddle as above and then place the blade in the water by your side and close to the kayak. Then push the blade in the water in a forward motion until it comes out of the water close to your feet. Then put the blade in the water on the other side and carry out the same action.

You should try to make sure that you look over one shoulder so that you can see where you are going and if you feel the stern of the kayak sinking, then lean forward to take some of the weight off of the stern.


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A good reference site for novices to learn how to kayak is at Kayakpaddling.net. We have not produced the linked site but think that it may be helpful to all.

The British Canoe Union (BCU) offer advice, information, membership and courses for all interested in kayaking and canoeing. We would also like to highlight their page on LEPTOSPIROSIS as this is one of the risks that can affect kayakers and you should be aware of any symptoms.

We offer the above guides only as guides and in using the information on this website the user releases the author, publisher and canoe club from any loss or injury allegedly caused by relying on information presented on this website.