How to Enjoy Kayaking (13 Practical Tips)

how to enjoy kayaking tips

Have you ever watched a group of people kayaking at the lake and wondered if you’d enjoy paddling around on the water?

Maybe, you’ve been kayaking for years and have lost some of your excitement for going on adventures.

In either case, there are simple things that you can do to make sure that you enjoy every one of your trips.

There are even a few tips here that you can use to enhance your kayaking trips as you advance your skills.

With these ideas in your pocket, you’ll never grow bored of your favorite watersport.

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1. Find Your Preferred Kayak Type

Kayaks come in many different types that all have specific features to make your trip better. The most obvious difference between kayaks is whether you sit on top of them or inside of a cockpit.

Many beginners find that sit-on-top kayaks are easier to get in and out of. These are also ideal for people who might feel claustrophobic in a cockpit with their legs covered up.

Sit-in kayaks also have a few benefits of their own. If you’ve been kayaking before and disliked getting wet, then you can add spray skirts to the cockpit that keep you dry.

Kayaks are also designed for certain purposes. Touring kayaks are longer and sleeker than other types. These can help you achieve higher speeds for long-distance kayaking.

The kayak types can also be broken down into ones that are suited for specialized styles of kayaking.

Whitewater kayaks come in four main types that you can choose from depending upon whether you prefer to perform tricks, maneuver better over waterfalls or go extra fast.

Figuring out which kayak works best for you makes it easier to enjoy your trips with less frustration and strain on your body.

2. Bring the Right Gear

There is nothing that will ruin a kayak trip faster than realizing that you don’t have the supplies you need to stay safe out there on the water.

Create a checklist of items that you know you’ll always need to take. This list should include at least these basic necessities:

You’ll also want a quality dry bag to store any essential gear that you don’t want to get wet.

Then, consider picking up a storage container for kayaking to keep at home. Putting all of your gear away in the same place as soon as you get back makes it less likely for you to forget things on your next trip.

3. Pick Appropriate Clothing

As with any sport, the right clothing makes a huge difference in how you feel during your kayaking trips. You’ll want to pick clothing that fits well while giving you the ability to freely move your arms as you paddle.

The right clothing for kayaking depends upon several factors such as the temperature of the water and the length of your trip.

For short trips, you might be able to wear shorts and a lightweight top. Look for synthetic fabrics that are not likely to get weighed down if you do get wet.

Wet and dry suits are ideal if you plan to kayak for long distances or in situations where you expect to be exposed to heavy amounts of water.

When you try on a wet suit, make sure that you can lift your arms without too much resistance. This will protect you from early muscle fatigue and chafing that can ruin your trip.

Dressing in layers is also a smart choice with any style of kayaking. The weather conditions and water temperatures can rapidly change when you are outdoors.

Having a light windbreaker to throw on as the heat of the day wanes can help you continue to enjoy your adventure for longer.

As you pick out your clothing, don’t forget to choose a life jacket that fits. A good PFD should have large armholes that don’t interfere with paddling.

Some even have skinner straps compared to other vests so that you avoid too much friction in your shoulder area.

4. Remember to Use Multiple Forms of Sun Protection

Sunburns can leave you with a lasting bad memory of a kayaking adventure that was actually great otherwise. Sunscreen is a definite must-have item.

Sunglasses will protect your eyes from the harsh glare of the sun while making it easier to see where you are going.

Hats are also great for shading your skin and eyes. Use retainer cords for your glasses and hats to keep them from flying off in the wind.

5. Learn to Paddle Correctly

When you pick out a kayak, you’ll also want to choose a paddle that is the right length for you.

Learning to paddle your boat correctly can be started on dry land. Familiarize yourself with the proper way to hold your paddle, and practice it until it feels natural.

You can also watch videos on how to paddle before you go on your trip to help keep the right technique fresh in your mind.

Use proper posture as you sit in the boat, and remember to involve your core muscles to prevent overtiring of your upper back and shoulder muscles.

6. Start Out Easy

Beginning kayakers often get so excited about their adventure that they push themselves too hard.

Realizing that you are too far out to paddle back is frightening, and getting seasick is not the best way to enjoy your trip.

Keep trips short until you know how your body responds to kayaking. For most people, this means limiting your trips to less than an hour. Always be thinking about the return trip.

If you plan to kayak for about an hour, then this means that you need to be heading towards the shore around the half-hour mark.

Choosing calm bodies of water also helps you to avoid first-time kayaking stress. Lakes with heavy traffic from powerboats tend to have choppier waves that are harder for beginners to navigate.

Look for smaller lakes or areas along the shoreline where you will encounter fewer boats.

7. Learn Common Hand and Paddle Signals

Whitewater conditions often generate too much noise for kayakers to hear each other.

The same problem can also occur when you are kayaking with long distances between you and your traveling partners’ boats.

Hand and paddle signals are commonly recognized by kayakers and other boaters. You can use them to warn others of a potential obstacle in their path.

You can also signal whether or not you are okay after a capsize. Being able to signal for help gives you more confidence on the water.

Using signals also generates a sense of camaraderie that makes you feel more like you are a part of the boating community.

8. Add an Interesting Hobby to Your Trips

Many people find that paddling through the water is enough to keep their mind occupied, but there are some kayakers who get bored easily.

You may also be ready to change things up if you’ve been kayaking for a while.

Fishing is one of the most common activities that you’ll see people do from a kayak.

Giving this hobby a try not only lets you possibly catch your dinner, but you’ll find learning the different techniques for catching and landing the fish keeps you challenged.

Photography is another awesome hobby that goes great with kayaking. You can get up close to many different types of plants and wildlife with your kayak, and you can’t beat the views that you get on the open water.

Make sure to look for a waterproof camera, and experiment with different techniques until you hone your photography skills.

9. Choose Your Kayaking Buddies Strategically

Kayaking with your family and friends helps you to stay safe out there. Yet, the people that you take with you can make or break your entire trip.

If you’re taking a young child or beginner on a trip, then keep their abilities in mind. A shorter adventure for your first time kayaking together lets you get a feel of their reaction.

Children can help you see kayaking through a fresh perspective, but you want to avoid having your return trip being filled with whines if they get overly tired.

Similar things can also happen if you plan an adventure with someone who takes more risks than you are comfortable with.

Feeling pressured to kayak in areas that don’t fit your skill level is dangerous and stressful.

Eventually, most people find a group of people that they can kayak with on a regular basis. Keep this group interesting by welcoming newcomers who can introduce new ideas for your future adventures.

10. Plan a Secondary Excursion

Kayaking doesn’t have to be all about spending hours in your boat. You can plan secondary excursions that give you a chance to dive deeper into the experience.

Many river trips lead to places where you can pull your boat on shore to enjoy a cookout.

Coves often provide perfect places for swimming and cooling off.

Camping at a new location also gives you longer to explore the area along with other activities to do when you are not kayaking.

11. Take a Kayaking Tour

There are tours designed for people within a wide range of experience levels.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced kayaker, going out with a group of people gives you the chance to learn new techniques.

Going on an advanced tour is also an option for kayakers who may not be able to find anyone else in their social circle who enjoys whitewater or sea kayaking.

Connecting with other people always brings more enjoyment to the time that you spend on the water.

An experienced instructor is the ideal person to show you how to avoid pitfalls such as shoulder and back pain. They’ll also teach you how to manage rolls and recover from capsizes.

Discovering ways to maneuver through more challenging bodies of water keeps you excited about going out for a new adventure.

12. Try a Different Kayaking Style

Change is an effective way to break through times when you feel bored or unmotivated for going kayaking.

Have you always gone on long, slow touring style trips? Then, try whitewater kayaking.

Tandem kayaking is another fun option that is easy to try. Learning to synchronize your paddling with a partner stretches your current skills.

Kayak racing engages your competitive streak, and practicing for upcoming races gives you something to work toward.

Winning isn’t everything, but coming in top place, or just finishing a hard race, gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment.

13. Explore New Locations

Everyone has their preferred place to kayak, and there is something to be said for being able to show up to your favorite kayaking spot and know what to expect.

There are times, however, when you need to go somewhere different.

In most places, you can always find a new lake or river to explore. You can also plan a complete vacation around kayaking.

Here are a few of the most popular kayaking spots to consider. Each one offers different benefits for inspiring more enjoyment from kayaking:

Colorado River

This river runs through seven different states, which means that you may already be living close to it.

The different climates that it runs through also mean that you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy seeing many different types of wildlife along the way.

Tampa Bay

Mangroves filled with lots of critters makes this Florida kayaking trip feel extra adventurous.

If you head along the downtown waterways, then you might even spot a manatee or dolphin.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Traveling through the lovely islands in this area feels like you’ve truly gone to paradise.

You can also enjoy paddling to caves and local fishing villages where you’ll see why this is one of the most popular destinations for kayaking tourists.

Puerto Rico

This destination is best known for being one of the greatest places in the world to go bioluminescent kayaking.

With three main bays, you don’t have to worry about overcrowded conditions so that you can really enjoy the experience.


Pre-trip planning helps you make sure that all of your basic needs are covered so that you don’t start to get uncomfortable from preventable problems such as chafing and sunburns.

Once you’ve gained some kayaking miles, your next step is to mix things up. Trying out new kayaking techniques and visiting different places turns every trip into an amazing experience.

Now, all you have to do is figure out the destination for your next trip. With the right friends and location, you’ll enjoy every second of kayaking.

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