Kayaking is a fun and exciting activity that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age or skill level. However, kayaking also comes with some potential risks and challenges that can ruin your experience or even put you in danger. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned kayaker, you should be aware of the common kayaking mistakes that many people make and how to avoid them.
In this article, I will share with you 11 kayaking mistakes and how to prevent them, so you can kayak safely. I will also try to save you the trouble of making those mistakes so you don’t end up soaked or looking foolish.
By the way, if you’re looking to save money on a high-quality kayak paddle, we have great recommendations for you.
What Are the Common Kayaking Mistakes for Beginners?
1. Not Wearing a PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
A PFD, also known as a life jacket, is the most essential safety equipment for any water activity, including kayaking.
A PFD can save your life in case of an accident, such as capsizing, falling overboard, or getting injured.
Even if you are a good swimmer, you should always wear a PFD while kayaking, because you never know when you might encounter rough water, strong currents, or bad weather.
According to the US Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics in 2018, 77% of the deaths were related to drowning and 80% of them were not wearing the PFD.
To prevent this mistake, you should always wear a PFD before entering your kayak and make sure it fits you properly.
A PFD that is too big or too small can be ineffective or uncomfortable. You should also attach a whistle to your PFD, not around your neck, so you can use it to signal for help if needed.
2. Paddling Too Far Away from Shore
Another common kayaking mistake is paddling too far away from shore, especially for beginners who are eager to explore new places.
While this may be a great way to discover new scenery and wildlife, it can also be dangerous if you lose sight of the shore or the dock.
You might get lost, run out of energy, encounter bad weather, or face other hazards that can make it difficult or impossible to return safely.
To prevent this mistake, you should always plan your route ahead and stick to it. You should also check the weather forecast and the water conditions before you go kayaking and avoid going out in unfavourable situations.
You should also stay within sight of the shore or the dock and keep an eye on your surroundings at all times. If you are kayaking with others, you should stay close to them and communicate regularly.
3. Entering or Exiting the Kayak Incorrectly
Entering or exiting the kayak incorrectly is another mistake that can cause accidents or injuries. Many beginners struggle with getting in and out of the kayak smoothly and end up tipping over, falling into the water, or hurting themselves. This can be embarrassing and frustrating, but also dangerous if you are not prepared for it.
To prevent this mistake, you should learn the proper technique for entering and exiting the kayak and practice it until you feel confident.
You should also choose a stable and shallow spot to launch or land your kayak and avoid doing it on slippery or rocky surfaces. You should also have someone assist you if possible or use a paddle as support.
4. Improper Clothing
Wearing improper clothing is another mistake that can affect your comfort and safety while kayaking.
Many beginners underestimate the importance of dressing appropriately for kayaking and end up wearing clothes that are too hot, too cold, too tight, or too loose. This can cause hyperthermia, hypothermia, chafing, or entanglement.
To prevent this mistake, you should wear clothing that is suitable for the weather and the water temperature. You should also wear clothing that is made of synthetic or wool materials that dry quickly and wick moisture away from your skin.
Avoid wearing cotton or denim that absorb water and stay wet for a long time. You should also wear clothing that is comfortable and flexible enough to allow you to move freely and breathe easily.
5. Non-Straight Line Paddling
Non-straight-line paddling is another kayaking mistake that can affect your efficiency and speed.
Many beginners have trouble keeping their kayak in a straight line and end up zigzagging or spinning around. This can waste your energy, slow you down, or make you lose control of your kayak.
To prevent this mistake, you should learn how to paddle correctly and use both sides of your paddle equally.
You should also keep your paddle close to your kayak and avoid lifting it too high or too low. Use your torso and hips to rotate your body as you paddle and not just your arms.
You should also keep your eyes on where you want to go and not on your paddle.
6. Using Your Paddle Backwards
Using your paddle backwards is another mistake that can affect your performance and enjoyment while kayaking.
Many beginners mistakenly believe that they should paddle like they row, pushing the water forward with the paddle blade.
However, the correct technique is to pull the blade back towards you to generate forward momentum. Using the paddle backwards not only slows you down but can also cause you to lose balance and control of the kayak.
To prevent this mistake, you should make sure that you are holding your paddle correctly and that the blades are facing the right direction.
You should also pay attention to the shape and design of your paddle and use the side that has a concave or spoon-like curve as the power face. You should also practice proper paddle strokes and avoid using too much force or speed.
7. Incorrectly Using Drop Rings
Drop rings are devices that are attached to the sides of your kayak and allow you to adjust the angle of your paddle blades.
They can help you optimize your paddling efficiency and comfort by changing the amount of wind resistance and water resistance that your blades encounter.
However, many beginners do not know how to use drop rings correctly or when to use them at all. This can lead to poor paddling performance or unnecessary complications.
To prevent this mistake, you should learn how to use drop rings properly and only use them when necessary. You should also consider the following factors when using drop rings:
- The type of kayak you are using: Drop rings are more useful for longer and narrower kayaks that are designed for speed and tracking than for shorter and wider kayaks that are designed for maneuverability and stability.
- The type of water you are paddling on: Drop rings are more useful for calm and flat water than for rough and choppy water.
- The type of paddle stroke you are using: Drop rings are more useful for forward and backward strokes than for turning and bracing strokes.
- The wind direction and speed: Drop rings can help you reduce wind resistance by angling your blades parallel to the wind direction. However, if the wind is too strong or too variable, drop rings can make it harder to control your kayak.
8. Starting Out on a Busy Waterway
Starting out on a busy waterway is another mistake that people kayaking often make. It is important to avoid high-traffic areas and stay close to the shore for safety reasons.
Being aware of the surroundings and paddling in a straight line helps to prevent accidents from occurring.
In addition, choosing the right time of day and day of the week to go kayaking can also make a big difference in avoiding crowded waterways.
To prevent this mistake, you should always do some research before choosing a kayaking location and look for places that are suitable for your skill level and preferences.
Remember to also check the local regulations and rules regarding kayaking and respect other water users, such as boaters, swimmers, or fishermen. You should also follow the basic etiquette of kayaking, such as:
- Keeping to the right side of the waterway.
- Yielding to faster or larger vessels.
- Passing oncoming vessels on their left side.
- Signaling your intentions with your paddle or voice.
- Avoiding crossing in front of other vessels
9. Choosing Big Water for Your First Trip
Choosing big water for your first trip is another mistake that beginner kayakers should avoid.
Big water refers to large bodies of water, such as oceans, seas, lakes, or rivers, that have more challenging conditions, such as waves, currents, tides, or winds.
Kayaking on big water requires more skills, experience, and equipment than kayaking on small water, such as ponds, creeks, or canals.
To prevent this mistake, you should start with small water for your first trip and gradually progress to bigger water as you gain more confidence and competence.
You should also take some lessons or join a guided tour if you want to learn how to kayak on big water safely and effectively.
Always prepare yourself physically and mentally for kayaking on big water and bring the necessary gear and supplies, such as:
- A sea kayak or a touring kayak that is designed for big water.
- A spray skirt that covers the cockpit of your kayak and prevents water from entering.
- A bilge pump or a sponge to remove water from your kayak if it gets flooded.
- A paddle float or a stirrup to help you re-enter your kayak if you capsize.
- A compass or a GPS device that can help you navigate on big water.
- A VHF radio or a cell phone or communication with others in case of emergency.
- A dry bag or a waterproof container that can protect your valuables from getting wet.
- A first aid kit that can treat minor injuries or illnesses.
- A whistle or a flare that can attract attention if you need help.
- A knife or a multi-tool that can cut ropes or wires if you get entangled.
- A flashlight or a headlamp to illuminate your surroundings in the dark.
10. Not Being Prepared for the Flip
The flip, or capsizing, is when your kayak overturns and you end up in the water. This can happen for various reasons, such as losing balance, hitting an obstacle, or encountering a wave.
While flipping is not a common occurrence, it is still a possibility that you should be prepared for. Many beginners panic when they flip and do not know how to react or recover.
What To Do If a Kayak Flips
To prevent this mistake, you should learn how to get back on a kayak, before you go kayaking. You should also practice some skills, such as:
- Wet exit: This is when you exit your kayak after flipping. You should learn how to release your spray skirt, if you have one, and push yourself out of the cockpit. You should also hold on to your paddle and your kayak and keep your head above water.
- Self-rescue: This is when you re-enter your kayak after flipping. You should learn how to use a paddle float or a stirrup to stabilize your kayak and lift yourself back into the cockpit. You should also use a bilge pump or a sponge to remove any water from your kayak.
- Assisted rescue: This is when you get help from another kayaker after flipping. You should learn how to signal for help with your whistle or voice and how to position your kayak parallel to the rescuer’s kayak. You should also learn how to use their paddle or boat as a support to re-enter your kayak.
11. Don’t Wear Flip Flops
Wearing flip-flops while kayaking is a big mistake. Flip flops are not suitable for the environment and the activity that kayaking involves.
You might have to deal with rough or slippery terrain, carry your kayak, or walk in the water. Flip flops can easily fall off, get damaged, or cause injuries to your feet.
To prevent this mistake, you should wear proper footwear that is designed for kayaking and water sports.
Look for shoes or booties that are comfortable, durable, and water-resistant. They should also fit well in your kayak and not interfere with your paddling.
There are many options to choose from, depending on your budget and preference. Even a cheap pair of water shoes is better than flip-flops.
Is it OK to kayak barefoot?
Kayaking barefoot is not recommended, as it can expose your feet to potential hazards and injuries. You might encounter sharp rocks, glass, metal, or other debris that can cut or puncture your feet.
You might also slip or trip on wet or uneven surfaces and hurt your ankles or toes. You might also get cold or numb feet if the water temperature is low. Therefore, it is better to wear proper footwear that can protect your feet and provide traction and comfort while kayaking.
You should look for shoes or booties that are water-resistant, durable, flexible and fit well in your kayak.
12. Not Practicing Self-Rescue
Another mistake that kayakers should avoid is not practising self-rescue before they go kayaking.
Self-rescue is the ability to get back into your kayak after capsizing or falling out of it. This is a vital skill that can save your life in case of an emergency. You don’t want to find out that you can’t do it when you are in the middle of a lake or a river.
To prevent this mistake, you should learn how to do self-rescue and practice it regularly. You should also have the necessary equipment and tools to help you with self-rescue, such as a paddle float, a bilge pump, or a stirrup.
You should also take some safety courses or lessons to learn more about self-rescue and other safety aspects of kayaking.
What Should You Not Do While Kayaking?
Now that you know the common mistakes that one can make while kayaking, let’s talk about a number of things you should not do while kayaking.
Here are a number of things you shouldn’t do while kayaking:
- Neglecting to wear a personal flotation device (PFD): Always wear a properly fitted PFD to ensure your safety in case of an accident or capsizing.
- Overloading the kayak: Avoid exceeding the weight capacity of your kayak, as it can compromise its stability and increase the risk of capsizing.
- Ignoring weather conditions: Check weather forecasts before heading out and avoid kayaking in severe weather conditions such as strong winds, thunderstorms, or fog that may hinder visibility or create dangerous currents.
- Neglecting proper kayaking technique: Learn and practice proper paddling techniques to maximize efficiency and prevent unnecessary strain or injury.
- Venturing into unfamiliar or challenging waters: Avoid paddling in unfamiliar or advanced water conditions beyond your skill level. Stick to areas appropriate for your experience and abilities.
- Separating from your kayak: Always stay connected to your kayak and avoid separating from it while on the water. If you need to leave the kayak, ensure it is secured properly.
- Distractions and not paying attention: Stay focused on your surroundings and the water. Avoid distractions like using electronic devices, listening to music at high volumes, or engaging in activities that may divert your attention from potential hazards.
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs: Avoid consuming alcohol or using drugs that can impair your judgment, coordination, and reaction time while kayaking.
- Disturbing wildlife or damaging the environment: Respect the natural environment and wildlife. Avoid approaching or disturbing animals and avoid damaging fragile ecosystems or nesting areas.
- Neglecting to inform someone of your plans: Always let someone know about your kayaking plans, including your intended route and estimated return time. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can take action if needed.
What Are the Most Common Injuries in Kayaking?
Some of the most common injuries in kayaking are:
- Shoulder injuries: The shoulder joint is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body when kayaking, as it is constantly exposed to stress and strain from paddling. Shoulder injuries can range from mild sprains and strains to severe dislocations and tears. To prevent shoulder injuries, you should warm up properly before kayaking, use good paddling techniques, avoid overexertion, and wear a PFD that fits well and does not restrict your movement.
- Wrist injuries: The wrist is another joint that can suffer from repetitive stress and strain from paddling. Wrist injuries can include tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fractures. To prevent wrist injuries, you should use a paddle that is the right size and shape for you, grip the paddle lightly and not too tightly, and take breaks to stretch your wrists and fingers.
- Back injuries: The back is also prone to injury from kayaking, especially if you have poor posture or core strength. Back injuries can include muscle spasms, herniated discs, and sciatica. To prevent back injuries, you should maintain a good posture while kayaking, engage your core muscles to support your spine, use your torso to rotate rather than your back to twist, and adjust your seat and footrests to fit your body.
- Hypothermia: Hypothermia is a condition where your body temperature drops below normal due to exposure to cold water or air. Hypothermia can cause shivering, confusion, drowsiness, and even death. To prevent hypothermia, you should dress appropriately for the weather and water temperature, wear a dry suit or a wetsuit if necessary, avoid getting wet or staying wet for too long, and carry emergency supplies such as a whistle, a fire starter, and a blanket.
- Cuts and bruises: Cuts and bruises are minor injuries that can happen from kayaking due to contact with rocks, branches, or other objects in the water or on the shore. Cuts and bruises can cause bleeding, pain, swelling, and infection. To prevent cuts and bruises, you should wear protective clothing such as gloves, shoes, and a helmet if needed, avoid sharp or rough surfaces in the water or on the shore, and carry a first aid kit with bandages and antiseptic.
Common Kayaking Mistakes in a Nutshell
Kayaking is a wonderful activity that can bring you many benefits, such as exercise, relaxation, and exploration. However, kayaking also requires some knowledge, skills, and precautions to ensure your safety and enjoyment.
By avoiding the common kayaking mistakes that we have discussed in this article, you can have a smooth and successful kayaking experience. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to try new things and learn from your mistakes.
Q&A: Answers to Your Common Kayaking Questions
In this section, we will answer some of the frequently asked questions about kayaking and the common kayaking mistakes. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and we will try to answer them as soon as possible.
Is kayaking hard for beginners?
Kayaking is not hard for beginners, but it does require some basic skills and knowledge to do it safely and effectively. As a beginner, you should start with easy and calm water, such as ponds, lakes, or canals, and avoid big water, such as oceans, seas, rivers, or rapids. You should also learn how to paddle correctly, how to enter and exit your kayak, how to prevent and handle a flip, and how to use your equipment properly. You should also wear appropriate clothing and a PFD at all times. With some practice and guidance, you will soon be able to enjoy kayaking and improve your skills.
How far should a beginner kayak?
The distance that a beginner should kayak depends on several factors, such as your fitness level, your experience level, your paddling speed, your kayak type, and the water conditions. There is no definitive answer to this question, but a general rule of thumb is that a beginner should kayak no more than 10 miles per day or 2 hours per session. This will allow you to enjoy kayaking without exhausting yourself or risking injury. You can gradually increase your distance and duration as you gain more confidence and competence.
How long does it take to get good at kayaking?
The time that it takes to get good at kayaking varies from person to person, depending on your goals, your motivation, your learning style, and your practice frequency. Some people might get good at kayaking in a few weeks or months, while others might take years or never. However, the most important thing is not how long it takes, but how much you enjoy it. Kayaking is a lifelong learning process that can always be improved and refined. The more you kayak, the more you will learn and the better you will get.
Is kayaking a good exercise?
Kayaking is a great exercise that can provide many physical and mental benefits. Kayaking can help you burn calories, strengthen your muscles, improve your cardiovascular health, enhance your flexibility, reduce stress, boost your mood