ToKayak.com

Everything there is to know about Kayaking.


Learn to Paddle


Getting started as a paddler doesn't require an extensive commitment on your behalf. You can get started with just a few lessons. Once you're comfortable with the basics, try to improve your skills by paddling as frequently as you can, and never miss an opportunity to paddle with experienced paddlers. I have found that the paddling community is remarkably generous with their time and their skills (and frequently, with their equipment!). 

One way to learn the basics is to sign up for a short kayak trip with a local outfitter. Most of them will spend a little time with you in shallow water making sure you know how to go forward, how to stop, and how to get out of the kayak if you tip over. Three-hour paddling excursions usually cost in the area of US$40-75, and are a good way to learn of some new paddling spots.

Some of these excurisions may be of special interest; for instance, in the Washington, D.C. area, Atlantic Canoe and Kayak offers trips that are accompanied by a local historian who will describe the history of the bridges as you pass silently beneath them. Other outfitters offer special interest excursions that focus on the local ecology, or on birdwatching. You can even find night paddles with a supernatural theme. Less exotic, and less expensive, excursions can sometimes be found through your county recreation department.

A less structured and also less expensive approach is to find a local paddling club and join them. Paddling clubs are common in most parts of the country, and many of them have websites. Depending on the particular club, you are likely to find willing teachers, free trips, and a great source of information on used boats and gear, paddling put-ins, and other topics fascinating to paddlers. Plus, you may make a few friends.

Clinics are offered through local paddling outfitters. These are usually 4-8 hour sessions covering the basics in shallow water. Sometimes a brief excursion will be included. Costs for these run between US$40-100 dollars. Generally, these types of clinics are not sorted according to ability. The outfitters assume that you are a novice; if you have basic skills already, call ahead to make sure that the instructor can accomodate your skill level.

Don't forget to read. It's amazing how much you can learn from the cozy warmth of your armchair. There are a number of good books and several magazines offered for sea kayakers. While no amount of reading will make an expert paddler out of you, having an intellectual understanding of the various strokes will definitely produce results on the water. Sometimes when you're in your kayak and someone is trying to show you a stroke, it's hard to determine exactly where your tutor is applying pressure, or how he's twisting the blade beneath the water. If you know the basic strokes, it will be easier to understand what you're seeing, and easier to produce results yourself.