5 Things I've Learned as a Beginner Kayaker
Before quarantine began, I always joked around with my sister saying, "You're not really an Austinite unless you have a kayak." I've rented kayaks along Lady Bird Lake a handful of times and enjoyed it. As I'm sure we've all experienced, quarantine got a little crazy and being within my apartment got tough some days. To improve my well-being, I motivated myself to go outdoors and explore. This resulted in me buying a Pelican Mustang 100X kayak, so I could finally began my kayaking journey. But this process was not smooth and involved a lot of learning. If you're looking into getting a kayak, here are some things to keep in mind beforehand that I wish I knew.
01. Choose a Kayak You Can Manage
There are three types of kayaks you can choose from – Sit-on-tops, sit-ins, and inflatable kayaks. You can find them at your local kayaking shops or larger sporting goods stores. I went with a recreational sit-in kayak because, based on some research I did, it was the best fit for me. My kayak has a good amount of storage space and two fishing pole holders, so think about what you would want included with your kayak. If you're conflicted about which kayak would be the best for you, check out this guide.
02. Invest in the Proper Kayaking Gear
Before purchasing my kayak, I looked up all of the safety tools I would need and other accessories I could use that would make my time on the water more enjoyable. When you're kayaking, unexpected events can occur, so be as prepared as you can be by purchasing these items (I've provided links to some of the things that I have bought that I love):
Bilge Pump or Sponge
Waterproof Phone Pouch
Some other accessories I have that you don't have to purchase but can be helpful are:
03. Find Paddling Launch Points in Your Area
If you're unsure of all of the places you'll be able to take your kayak, do a quick Google search for "kayak launch points in [your town].” This is important to know so you can see how long you will have to drive to get to your kayaking spots. I created a Google map list to mark every single launch point around my city for a quick reference.
A helpful website you'll want to bookmark is Paddling.com! They have an interactive Paddling Locations Map that you can use to find launch points as well. Also, state park websites should have ramps listed for rivers, lakes, etc. so you can find your way into the water.
04. Learn How to Carry Your Kayak Properly
After I purchased my 10ft kayak, I was very intimidated by the size and 40Ib weight. I didn't think I would be able to carry it solo without the help of another person. Keep in mind that I live in an apartment and take it down 1 flight of stairs. After watching videos for different methods of lifting it, I came across one of a woman kayaker showing her process (which was super inspiring)! Now, I do not lift my kayak any other way.
You should practice picking up your kayak the right way to avoid any lower back strain. I was rushing one day, and I pulled my lower back, which kept me away from the water for two weeks. Be safe, take your time, and find your preferred lifting method.
You can also purchase shoulder straps to hold your kayak at your side, but I found that this was difficult for me. I'm 5' 4'', so when I used it, my kayak sat way too low at my hip and put me off balance.You can also invest in a kayak cart that will make it 100x better to transport your kayak to the water, which will save you energy. Since I take a short walk to the boat ramp I use right now, I haven't had the chance to use mine, but I tested it out in my apartment and it was so easy to roll around.
05. Practice What You Learn
I have watched endless videos and read so many blogs about kayaking, but to truly get better at it, you need to get out there and practice! Don't worry if you have trouble your first couple of times; just keep going and take a buddy with you – if you can!
I hope you learned some valuable tips and got more of an idea of what to expect as a first-time kayaker. I'm still very new to it but I thought I'd share what I wish I knew when I first started. Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions or have any other tips!