Kayaking 101: Everything You Need To Know About Kayaks

Kayaking 101: Everything You Need To Know About Kayaks

Kayaking is one sport that everyone can enjoy.

It often starts as a hobby, but soon develops into a passion that is unmatched by any other hobby. This peaceful activity has managed to change the lives of many people!

The magic of the kayak gliding across the calm, glimmering lake combined with the delicate ripples on the surface of the water is unparalleled.

The soft cool breeze with the warm reflection of the sun on the water can be quite memorable. This beautiful experience has become an addiction for many people.

However, before you embark on this new adventure, there are some things that you should know. What sort of kayak should you get? What activities can you do with kayaks? Is there any other equipment you will need?

We have all the answers for you!

Here is a detailed kayaking guide that will get you ready for the coming adventure!

​What Exactly Is A Kayak?

​What Exactly Is A Kayak?

Kayaks are canoe-like boats that sit close to the water. They are different from canoes due to the position the paddler sits in and the number of blades on the paddle.

Usually, kayaks have closed off decks, but inflatable and sit-on-top kayaks are becoming popular too.

Kayaks have been around for thousands of years ago. Inuit people in the northern Arctic areas made kayaks with driftwood, skeletons of whales, or animal skin.

The word ‘kayak’ means ‘hunter’s boat’ as this type of boat was used for fishing and hunting back in the day. Since the boats are so quiet, they were used to sneak up on prey.

In the mid-1800s, kayaks started to become increasingly popular. Europeans started kayaking as a sport, especially the French and Germans.

In 1936, kayaking races were introduced Olympic Games. In the 1950s, fiberglass kayaks were designed, which completely changed the game.

Kayaking As a Sport

Kayaking As A Sport

Kayaking is a popular water sport that involves paddling. It is a versatile sport since kayaking can be done in any body of water.

Different kayaks are available to handle different conditions, which is why kayaking as a sport is so varied.

Some kayaking obstacle courses are designed on a whitewater course, while others are simple, and usually involve racing across the water surface.

Everyone from beginners to professionals can enjoy kayaking on surf zones, oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Kayaking in the Olympics

The first official kayaking event in the Olympics was in Berlin in 1936. The basis of the canoe sprint is simple; you have to get to the finish line as quickly as possible.

Overall, Europe is known to dominate the kayaking event since they win 90% of the medals. Today, the kayak flatwater and canoe program involves 12 events in total.

Different Types of Kayaks

Different Types Of Kayaks

As you continue to read this kayaking guide, you will realize that kayaking includes a huge range of activities that you can do.

From the calming serenity of fishing kayaking to the adrenaline rush of skirting across whitewater rapids, you will definitely have a fun time.

There is a specific kayak for every kind of activity. Depending on which one you want to do, there will be a specific kayak available for use.

Here is a kayaking guide based on material, size, and usage.

By Material

There are many different types of materials that are used to make kayaks. Here are the main ones:

  • Wooden kayaks are usually DIY solutions. Strip-builds have countless design options and are covered in fiberglass, varnish, and resin to protect them.
  • Glass/Composite is the most common type of kayak since these kayaks are durable and waterproof. Fiberglass kayaks are also swift and nimble.
  • Rotomolded kayaks are made with polythene (plastic) powder. They are affordable but heavy.
  • Thermoform kayaks are made with ABS sheets, which make them really durable.
  • Inflatable kayaks are usually meant for recreational kayaking, but some can be used for whitewater rafting. They are convenient, lightweight, and portable.

By Size

There are three main kayak size classes. They are listed below:

  • Recreational kayaks are usually bigger than 2 feet in width and 12 feet in length. They usually weigh less than 50lbs and are really stable.
  • Light-touring kayaks are usually between 12-16 feet in length, and the width is around 22-25 inches. These heavy kayaks are perfect for leisure and sport.
  • Touring kayaks are longer than 12 feet and usually 22 inches or less in width. The kayaks are better for advanced trips and extreme weather conditions.

By Usage

Kayaks are used for a huge variety of activities. This is why there are many different types of kayaks designed by usage.

  •  Sit-In or Sit-On
 Sit-In or Sit-On

Sit-on kayaks are when the paddler sits on a sealed hull while sit-on is when the lower body of the paddler is inside the hull.

Sit-in kayaks keep your legs dry and out of the wind, making them warmer. Hence, they are usually used for colder weather.

Sit-on kayaks are used for warmer temperatures where the cool spray of water is welcome. It is easier to get on and off the kayak.

  • ​Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are easy to maneuver and stable. They have a wide hull, a small storage area, and large cockpits. They are used on lakes, streams, and saltwater regions.

  • Crossover Kayaks

Crosswater kayaks are versatile vessels that can be used for whitewater or recreational activities.

You can take on different environments without having to change the kayak. They often come with different features like planning hulls or pole holders.

  • Day-touring Kayaks

Day-touring kayaks have a sleek and long design. They are efficient on the water and are used for longer tracking exertions. They are perfect for beginners who want to develop their skills.

  • Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks are robust and fast vessels, designed for long-distance efficiency.

They usually have internal bulkheads that are great for storage. They can also be fitted with a skeg or rudders to aid in steering in harsh weather.

  • Sea Kayaks

Sea kayaks have high rockers, which helps them crest into the oncoming waves. The v-shaped front profile and the narrow shape make them perfect for rough waves.

  • Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater kayaks are designed to move along rocky, fast-flowing courses without any worry of breaking apart. They are often made of durable rotomolded plastic and are 4-10 feet in length.

  • Playboats

Playboats are short whitewater kayaks that are known for their blunt stern and scooped bow. They are robust and have high maneuverability. They are used to perfect technical tricks in rapids, also known as rodeo boating.

  • Creek boats

Creek boats have more volume and are longer than playboats. They are used for low-volume, narrow waterways. They have high buoyancy and stability, making them a multi-purpose vessel.

  • Folding Kayaks
Folding Kayaks

Folding kayaks can be packed away in a tiny suitcase. They are full-length touring vessels that are portable and lightweight. This makes it easier to store and transport.

  • Fishing Kayaks

Fishing kayaks are a popular sport since kayaks are quiet, affordable, and convenient. They often come with pole holders, pontoon stabilizers, storage spaces, flat hulls for stability, and paddle rests. Tandem Kayaks

Tandem kayaks can fit in two or more people, which means that they’re a perfect way to share the experience with someone else.

They are also perfect for beginners who can practice their skills with someone more experienced.

  • Diving Kayaks

Diving kayaks have been used since the 1990s. These powered boats are used to get to diving hotspots. They have large storage spaces and wide beams.

  • Surf Kayaks

Surf kayaks are perfect for heavy surf zones. They have narrow fronts, which can help to cut through waves.

  • ​Sail Kayaks

Sail kayaks have been used for 150 years, but are still pretty uncommon. They have a kayak sail attachment that is used to enhance speed and reduce strain.

  • SUP Kayak Hybrid

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) kayaks sport a hybrid design. This type of kayak has a seat, but you can also stand on it. This gives the user a chance to rest or sit down during any rough situations.

Other Kayaking Equipment

Other Kayaking Equipment

To make sure that your kayaking trip is successful, you may have to get some other equipment as well.

Depending on how serious you are about kayaking, you will have to invest in clothing, safety, and paddles. It also depends on which activity you want to do.

The kayaking guide for equipment below will help you narrow down everything you will ever need for your next kayaking adventure.

Clothing

The first thing you have to consider for clothing is layering. If you’re planning on kayaking in cold temperatures, it is important to layer properly so that you don’t feel cold.

You may have to wear some of these layers during the summer, too (to prevent yourself from getting too wet).

Here are some possible layers that you need to consider carefully:

  • The base layer is the first layer that goes on top of the skin. This layer needs to be breathable, manage moisture, and wick sweat away. You can get clothing made from synthetic fibers like polypropylene, polyester, or nylon or natural fibers like merino wool or silk.
  • Thermal layers are better for extreme cold adventures. They are base layers.
  • A drysuit liner is a one-piece base layer worn under dry suits.
  • Insulating layers go between the base and outer layers. They keep you warm and are made of fleece or wool.
  • Neoprene layer come in varying thickness that traps water between the skin and fabric. This keeps you warm.
  • Kayaking socks block water from entering and allow sweat to exit. This keeps the skin dry and warm. 

The second thing you should consider while kayaking is outwear clothing. Outwear clothing is the last layer that you will wear. They are the first defense against the environment, so they are definitely important.

Here is a simple kayaking guide for outwear clothing:

  • Paddling jackets are waterproof and protect paddlers from sun exposure, wind, and water splashes. They are ergonomically-designed and breathable.
  • Paddling pants are breathable, waterproof clothing that ensures all excess moisture and heat. They protect the paddler from the environment and prevent water entry from the ankles.
  • Paddling shorts are loose-fitting swim trunks or board shorts. They are made with a blend of nylon and spandex. They can fit snuggly on the skin to prevent them from coming in the way.
  • Paddling dry suits provide coverage from the neck to the toes. These drysuits are made with breathable and durable fabric that prevents water entry. They keep the skin dry when you are swimming or diving into the water.
  • Paddling dry tops have neck gaskets and latex wrists. A dry top keeps the upper body dry. They are perfect for sit-in kayaks where the lower body is safely dry in the cockpit.
  • Paddling dry pants are designed for the lower body. Any splashing water will not touch the skin, keeping you dry.
  • Kayaking wetsuits come in knee-length, short-sleeves, sleeveless, and full-lengths. They are available in varying neoprene thickness.
  • Kayaking booties are thick to thin-soled. They are made from neoprene and protect your feet from the water. They also retain heat.
  • Kayaking gloves are designed to keep your hands warm. Your hands will even be fine in cold water. They are usually made from neoprene materials.
  • Kayak hoods retain heat even while swimming in cold water so that you don’t lose function. They are made from neoprene.

Safety

There is plenty of equipment that you can get for your next kayaking adventure. It depends on which kind of kayaking activity you are taking part in.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

PFDs are used to provide buoyancy in case you capsize in the water.

They can also come in handy while rolling, rescuing, and bracing since they add upward force to the upper body. They also provide a layer of insulation in cold regions.

The United States Coast Guard has made it mandatory for every boater to carry an approved PFD.

Flotation Bags

Flotation bags can help reduce the amount of water that splashes and collects in the kayak.

This can prevent them from sinking in case they capsize. Flotation bags are mainly used for whitewater kayaking.

Sponsons

Sponsons are flotation devices that can be inflated upon need. They are usually attached to the outside of the kayak to prevent too much water from collecting in the kayak. They are often used in pairs on each side of the boat.

Spray Skirts

Spray skirts are the best waterproof defense against spray, rain, or waves from getting into the kayak.

They also cover the area between the cockpit’s rim and the paddler’s waist. Spray skirts are important in all conditions, except the warmest and calmest environments.

The water that enters the boat can ruin your lunch, damage your valuables, and soak your clothing. It may even make the kayak unstable.

Spray Covers

Spray covers are attached to the edges of the kayak and stretch across the hull. They are waterproof barriers to make sure the water stays out of the boat in rainy conditions.

They keep the paddler and their equipment dry as well as ensure that the boat continues to float higher on the water’s surface.

They come in a variety of styles, so you can get one that suits your needs.

They are the most basic safety equipment that you can get on adventurous trips through wet weather and rough conditions.

Helmets

Helmets are the most essential safety equipment for paddlers going for surf kayaking or whitewater kayaking.

They can be suddenly thrown out of the kayak into rocky or shallow areas, where such gear is important.

Helmets need to fasten securely on the head and fit comfortably. Some styles even include face protection.

First-Aid Kits

First-aid kits are definitely essential for every paddling adventure.

You can get specific kits made for paddling, but homemade kits with proper medical aid can also be used.

Mark the kit and store it in a waterproof bag or box in the boat. Do make sure that the kit is easy to access.

Paddle Floats

Paddle floats are essential rescue gear that can help in case the boat capsizes. It is the best chance for the paddler to get back into the kayak, even if they don’t have assistance on hand.

The paddle float is usually attached to the paddle’s blade, which can help to stabilize the paddler in case they fall out.

The swimmer can easily inflate the float and use it to help themselves back into the boat.

There are two types of paddle floats that kayakers can get for their journey.

Foam paddle floats are made with closed-cell foam and then enclosed nylon. The paddle blade can be put into the outer sleeve so that it is easy to access.

Inflatable paddle floats are made with nylon coated with urethane. The paddler will have to blow up with the float through a one-way valve.

They are suitable for larger paddlers but require more time in the water to set up.

Some kayakers may also attach a stirrup to the kayak so that it is easier to climb back into the boat. A stirrup is some webbing tied and fastened to the cockpit.

Bilge Pumps

BILGE PUMPS

Bilge pumps are used to empty the water from the kayak once the paddle reenters the boat.

Collected water can be dangerous since it can make it hard to keep the kayak stable with the water sloshing around.

Hand pumps are inexpensive options that can be used for this task. The short tube comes with a pump handle that helps to suck the water up and throw it overboard.

This doesn’t require a lot of effort. Another benefit is that it will not sink if you drop it overboard since it has a foam collar.

You can also get foot-operated or electric bilge pumps. However, they are more expensive than hand pumps.

Another popular bailer is the simple sponge; they are cheap, can be stored anywhere, and easy to use.

They can even get to small pools of water that more expensive bailing devices may not be able to collect.

Tow Lines

Tow lines are used for any paddler who has been injured or is too tired to row.

One end of the tow line is attached to the rim of the cockpit or the waist of the paddler in front; the other end is attached to the kayak that is being towed.

Two lines can come with inflated bags that can be thrown to rescue a paddler that has fallen into the water.

Throw Bags

Throw bags are used for moving water or white water conditions. Even sea kayakers are known to use them.

They are used by those in other kayaks or people on the shore to throw to a capsized paddler. The bag is connected to a coil or rope that can be used to pull the swimmer to safety.

Paddle Leashes

Paddle leashes are used to make sure that the paddle doesn’t float away from the boat.

This can be really important in case your kayak capsizes. Leashes are made of elastic cords that are attached to the cockpit at the front of the boat.

Sea kayaks have paddler leashes that are long enough to be used as an outrigger along with a paddle float. 

Knives

Knives can be essential for cutting through straps or lines. They are vital in situations where the paddler is caught up in debris or roots due to the current’s force.

Do make sure that the knife you pick out is stainless-steel and corrosion-resistant. Getting blunt-tipped knives is better on inflatable kayaks to prevent punctures or prying.

You can even keep knives in their sheaths of the PFD you’re wearing so that they are easily accessible.

Paddles

You may also need to invest in paddles for your kayaking activities. Even short tours on the kayak will require you to paddle thousands of times.

While many kayaks come equipped with paddles, you may want to get ones that suit your activities.

Since a proper kayak paddle can make a huge difference, you need to know what to consider when you’re buying paddles for your kayak. Let’s have a look at these factors. They are:

Length: The height of the paddler and the width of the boat will impact the paddle that you should get. The taller you are, the longer the paddle should be.

Materials and price: Lightweight paddles are better for performance but more expensive.

Blade choice: The size and shape of the paddle blade will affect the efficiency of the blade in the water.

Shaft choice: Different blade shaft designs will determine how effective the paddle is in the water.

7 Activities Involving Kayaks

7 Activities Involving Kayaks

There are many activities that you can do with kayaks. This kayaking guide on kayaking activities will show you how versatile the vessel is!

Diving

Kayak diving is a popular recreational activity where divers go to diving hotspots in the kayak. They can carry all their gear on the kayak.

Diving sites that are a few kilometers away from the shore can be accessed via the kayak.

It is cheaper than hiring a powered boat and combines the wonderful experience of kayaking at sea. It also gives the diver considerable independence.

Fishing

Kayak fishing is getting more and more popular as time passes. Kayaks are quiet, which allows fishers to approach without spooking the fish. It is also an affordable means of transport out into the water.

Kayaking also happens to be an eco-friendly option that many fishing enthusiasts prefer.

They give better access to the water since you can even go into shallow water with the kayak. They are also fairly easy to get in and out of.

Ecotourism

Ecotourism via kayaking trips is also gaining popularity. Kayaking guides take tourists through the local ecosystem on a kayak. This is perfect for warm-water regions in shallow waters.

Whitewater

Whitewater kayaking is a hobby for many people. Kayakers go across a series of rapids from Class I to Class VI. It can be a quite fun activity, and many people love the adrenaline rush they get from it.

Kayak Surfing

Surf kayaking is a fun evolution from whitewater kayaking. It combines the use of smaller whitewater boats that are more agile with surfboards that can cut through waves.

The kayak has a traditional seating arrangement and double-ended paddles. The surf kayak is highly maneuverable and stable, making it better than surfboards.

You will be able to do a wide variety of tricks with the kayak as well as navigate through rough turfs.

Kayak Sailing

Kayak sailing is when rounded plastic sails are attached to the kayak’s bow. This helps to take advantage of the wind so that people can travel long distances without paddling too much.

This type of kayaking is popular among expedition and sea kayakers.

Camping

Kayak camping is a great way to explore a region. You don’t have to go through the nuisance of hiking for miles in the hot weather when you can simply kayak on the water in the cool breeze.

You will also be able to carry your essentials without putting a strain on your back.

Conclusion

Kayaking is a popular activity that more and more people are becoming passionate about.

It is a versatile vessel that can be used for all sorts of adventures.

We hope this kayaking guide has helped introduce you to the magical world of kayaks. Have fun!

Last updated on:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *