The only equipment you need to kayak is a boat, a paddle, and a life jacket. Additional equipment you may want includes kayak booties, gloves, and a wet suit or paddle jacket depending on air and water temperatures.
Types of Kayaks: Sit-On-Top Versus Sit-In Styles
There are two distinct types of kayaks: sit-on-top kayaks and kayaks with sit-in seating you slide into. Within those broad categories kayaks are then divided into sub-categories suited to their specific use. For example, recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and fishing kayaks. Recreational kayaks, available in sit-on-top and sit-in styles, fit most people’s needs. Usually when people picture a kayak they picture sit-in style kayaks although because of their ease of use most rental kayaks are sit-on-tops.
Sit-on-top kayaks are usually fairly short and wide making them very stable. They’re often best for beginners because they are easier to get into and out of than sit-in styles. These characteristics make sit-on top kayaks the kayak of choice for fishing, kayak surfing (i.e., riding waves near shore like a surfer), and general kayak activities. For many people these advantages are enough to make sit-on-top kayaks their boat of choice forever, however, a lot depends on how a person prefers to use a kayak.
Sit-in kayaks are generally longer and narrower making them less stable (i.e., they have a more “tippy” feeling) and not as simple to enter and exit. Nonetheless, they tend to be more comfortable to sit in, keep the kayaker dry when used with a spray skirt, have space for dry storage, and are more streamlined so they can be paddled faster and/or with less effort. These characteristics make sit-in kayaks the kayak of choice for trips lasting a day or more, cold water, and whitewater.
How to Kayak
It’s best to take a lesson if you’ve never kayaked before, but if you want to try kayaking on your own there are really very few things you need to know to get started. Here are some suggestions for making the most out of your beginning kayak experiences:
- Choose a sit-on-top style.
- Only go out in calm, flat water.
- Always wear a life jacket.
- Don’t plan on kayaking all day. Take it slow at first.
- Practice getting in and out of the kayak in open water before you get tired so you won’t panic in case you tip over or fall off.
- Practice the basic strokes of paddling forward, backward, turning, and stopping until you feel comfortable with them.
- Have fun!
If you’re unfamiliar with basic paddling techniques, the following video is a good introduction.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin