Judging by the large number of kayak manufacturers, kayak models, and kayak vendors in the market today, it is safe to say that recreational kayaking is a popular warm weather pursuit. However, although kayaking is generally a very safe sport that is appropriate for paddlers of all ages ranging from adolescents to elderly adults, it is a very physical sport and, it does present paddlers with a certain level of inherent danger. Therefore, there are three golden rules of recreational paddling that every paddler should follow every time that they venture out to paddle because doing so will not only make paddling adventures safer and more fun, it will also inspire more confidence which will, in turn, improve a paddler’s performance and increase their enjoyment of the sport.
Choose an Appropriate Paddling Location
Therefore, the first golden rule of recreational kayaking is to choose an appropriate paddling location. Thus, as a recreational kayaker, you will most likely be paddling a recreational kayak which, by definition, is specifically designed for novice paddlers.
Consequently, recreational kayaks are both relatively short and relatively wide and thus, they are relatively roomy, have a high degree of initial stability, and are highly maneuverable but, not very fast. Therefore, they are specifically designed for novice paddlers who want a means of getting out on the water but have no intention of paddling over long distances or of paddling for extended periods of time.
Thus, the ideal paddling environment for this type of kayak is small pond, lake, bay, or slow moving river that is well protected from wind and waves and which also has an easy access point combined with a minimum of motor boat traffic and plenty of places to go ashore.
The Power of Torso Rotation
Most novice and intermediate kayak paddlers are prone to use only their arms to paddle their kayaks. However, while this method of propelling and maneuvering a kayak certainly does work, it’s terribly inefficient because it fails to take advantage of the human body’s largest muscle groups.
Thus, a far more efficient means of maneuvering and propelling your kayak is to harness the power of your entire upper body by learning to rotate your upper torso as you move your paddle forward at the beginning of your paddle stroke and then draw it back along the gunwale to complete your stroke.
Thus, in order to accomplish this, instead of reaching forward with your arms to plant your paddle in the water at the beginning of your paddle stroke, you instead need to rotate your entire upper body by pivoting at your waist in order to move your paddle forward prior to planting it in the water. Then, once you plant your paddle, you will need to again rotate your entire upper body in the opposite direction in order to draw your paddle to the rear before lifting it from the water in order to start your paddle stroke again.
Furthermore, it is also very important to harness the power of your legs in addition to the power of your upper body when paddling in order gain the greatest efficiency from your body. Thus, when drawing your paddle toward the stearn during your paddle stroke, you should also press against the kayak’s footpeg with your opposite foot. By doing so, you will provide yourself with a solid brace while drawing your paddle toward the stern and thus, you will add the power of your leg to that of your upper body.
Have a Capsize Plan
Even though kayaking is an inherently wet sport, water is actually somewhat of a foreign element to a kayaker and thus, nothing is more disconcerting to a kayaker than to capsize in their kayak for whatever reason. Thus, for those kayakers who have not yet mastered the art of rolling their kayak back upright again, it is of paramount importance to have a simple, clear, plan that they can follow in the event that they do accidentally capsize.
So, the first step to developing a capsize plan is to determine whether or not you have the ability to reenter your kayak from the water if you capsize. If you are not physically capable of doing do or, if you lack the interest to try, then you will need to restrict your padding adventures to within swimming distance of shore so that, once you exit your kayak’s cockpit, you can allow your PFD to maintain your bouncy while you tow your kayak ashore.
On the other hand, if you are physically able to reenter your kayak from the water and are willing to put forth the effort, then you should take both an assisted and a self rescue class from a competent kayak instructor and/or learn to roll your kayak back upright because, by doing so, you can greatly extend your paddling range.
However, while rolling your kayak is autonomous, both assisted rescues and self rescues do require a bit of planning and a bit of practice thus, once you complete your classes, it is important that you develop a separate capsize plan for each type of kayak rescue.
Last, you should also keep in mind that sit-on-top kayaks are far easier to reenter from the water than a sit-inside kayak is and thus, sit-on-top kayaks are by far the most popular type of kayak among recreational kayakers.
So, by choosing an appropriate paddling location for the type of kayak you have and your present skill level, you will not only have a far safer paddling adventure, you will also have more fun while paddling because you will not be distracted by having to deal with issues like wind, waves, currents, or motor boat traffic.
Also, by harnessing the power of your entire upper body by rotating your upper torso while performing your paddle stroke and combining that with the power generated by pressing your opposite foot against the kayak’s foot peg, you will find that you can generate far more power while expending far less energy.
Last, by having a clear and simple plan with a small number of distinct steps to follow in the event that you accidently capsize, you will find that your confidence level will drastically increase as your anxiety levels drastically decrease which, in turn, will make paddling more fun.
Thus, it is imperative that you learn to follow the Golden Rules of Recreational Kayaking each and every time you venture out on the water in order to remain safe and have the maximum amount of fun.