Here are some tips for those going out paddling for the first time:
1. Conditions: Make sure to go out in ideal conditions: calm, smooth water with little wind or current and a gently sloping launch area and stay close to shore. Avoid rough water and offshore wind or currents.
The calm Anahulu River in Hale’iwa is ideal for beginners
2. Equipment: sit on top kayaks are easier to use for beginners, use a stable, comfortable, easy to use kayak. Make sure to protect your back when lifting equipment. Prepare for getting wet, don’t take anything that will sink if you capsize.
Protect your back when lifting up the kayak
3. Getting in and out: Don’t try to stand in the kayak, it’s very tippy! In shallow water, just stand with your back to the kayak and sit down into the kayak. To get out, put both feet on the ground next to the kayak and stand up.
Keep both feet on the ground and sit down into the kayak.
4. Paddling: Grip the paddle wide with hands more than shoulder width apart. The power face of the paddle should be curved towards you, use the whole blade. Use your core, the power should come more from torso rotation rather than just from your arms. Keep a loose grip on your paddle. In a tandem kayak the back person should follow the same stroke as the front person to avoid banging paddles together.
In a tandem kayak, the back person should match the stroke rate of the front person
5. Steering: If you paddle on the left, the kayak will turn right. Using a wider steering stroke will turn the kayak faster, or you can do a reverse steering stroke by putting the blade into the water behind you and pull it forward. This will help you slow down and turn more quickly. In a two person kayak you can turn by paddling backwards in the back and forward in the front on the opposite side. You can also use a draw stroke to pull yourself sideways. Use a reverse sweep stroke for a tighter turn and to slow down.
Pulling the paddle towards you to move sideways.
6. Balance: If you are struggling with balance, keep the paddle in the water and use it as a brace. Look forward, not down at the water, relax and just let your body do the balancing.
How to get back on your kayak if you tip over:
1. Don’t bring electronics that can’t get wet, glasses without tethers, or anything else that can sink.
2. If you lose your balance, use the paddle to brace and keep yourself from tipping over. If you do fall in, stay calm, hold onto the kayak, breathe, and relax.
Don’t panic If you fall in, try to stay calm and take your time.
3. If the kayak is upside down, flip it back over by using handles or from the front or back of kayak as shown in the video. If there is wind, make sure to flip it in the direction of the wind, not against the wind. Sit on top kayaks are easier as you don’t have to bail water or get your feet inside the kayak but the steps are the same for a sit inside kayak.
You can flip kayak over from the middle using the straps
Or from the tail or nose of the kayak
4. If there is a current or wind, secure the paddle so it won’t float away.
5. Get to center of the kayak, hold both sides of the kayak and most importantly: KICK YOUR FEET BEHIND YOU AND GET YOUR BODY CLOSE TO SURFACE if you kick down it will be almost impossible to pull yourself up and onto the kayak, you want to slide your chest onto the kayak from a horizontal position close to the water surface. If you are struggling to get back on the kayak you are most likely not kicking your feet behind you.
Most important point to remember: kick your feet behind you, not down.
6. While kicking feet behind you, with your whole body close to the water surface, push down with the closer hand and pull yourself onto the kayak with the far hand to get your center of gravity (by your belly button) over the center of the kayak. If you can’t do this in one smooth motion and your belly button is not over the kayak yet, keep kicking behind you and scoot yourself further onto the kayak.
With one hand on each side, slide onto the kayak
7. Get your center of gravity over the center of the kayak
8. Once your center of gravity is over the center of the kayak, you can relax, catch your breath, then rotate your body into a sitting position, keeping your legs dangling in the water for stability.
9. Once you have your paddle back in your hands and feel balanced, get your feet back into the kayak and start paddling.
10. Most importantly: Have Fun and Enjoy!