By Hansel Lucas

Kayaking adventurers can wear many hats. You can glide down calm lakes, plow through rapids, fight saltwater waves, or seeks adventures to far-off destinations that are otherwise inaccessible.

Kayaking is whatever you make it.  Kayaking continues to grow in popularity across America.  To help encourage people to get out and enjoy this fantastic sport, I’ve put together Kayaking 101.  

Safety

Kayaking safety is something to be taken very seriously.

Like most water-sports, you should always wear a PFD (personal flotation device).

You should know your kayak inside and out and what your kayak is capable of.  Knowing how your kayak reacts in emergency situations, like if you capsize and need to self-rescue or if you will need to assist other kayakers, can help to make an emergency-situation a more controllable environment.

Last, but not least, keep a dry bag in your kayak with dry clothes, foil blanket, lighter, flashlight, and waterproof case for your phone, snacks, and drinks.

Setting Up

Now that you’re secured for a safe voyage, it’s time to pack your boat. This should be done on dry land before you enter the water.

Adjust your back brace so it is both loose and supported. Sit in the kayak and adjust your foot pegs as well. The position of your foot pegs should allow for your knees to be slightly bent. You’ll be using the pegs for leverage as you paddle.

Pack your gear in the remaining empty space of the kayak. Remember to stretch before you begin, especially your neck and shoulders.

Boarding

For beginners, merely getting in and out of a kayak can be a challenge.

Dip your paddle in the shallow water and press it up against the kayak for support. Sit on the edge of the kayak dangling your feet over the side. Keep your weight centered and low. Swing your legs one by one toward the cockpit and slip inside. Avoid any sudden movements.  

What happens when you want to get out? Follow the above steps in the reverse and you’ll be just fine.

Technique

Your technique will be the difference between fun and frustration. By using the kayak efficiently, you will cover more ground, use the right muscles, and increase your enjoyment of the natural surroundings.  

The goal is to maintain balance and leverage. Use your legs and torso to generate force in a continuous motion. The common mistake of letting your arms do all the work will result in a short-lived day on the water. Instead, keep them relaxed like you would when riding a bike. Alternate upstroke and down stroke paddling movement.  

To make turns, paddle on the side opposite to the direction you wish to go. Once you reach your desired alignment, resume paddling forward as before. Of course, kayaks with rudders make turning much more effective.  

When pulling back on the paddle, make sure you maintain straight propulsion. Eliminating redundant and counter-productive actions will give you speed and save you energy. Your paddle should be stationary in the water around your kayak as you move forward.

When you find your paddle “pushing water,” you are wasting energy. The ideal process should be silent with continuous tension on the water.

Most of all have fun, enjoy the beauty and don’t forget the camera! Who knows what you will see on the waterways in PA Great Outdoors. Find more information to plan your trip to the PA Great Outdoors region online at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197.

About the Author

Hansel Lucas is a 3-time National Champion kayak racer and owner of Performance-Kayak, Inc. in Brookville & West Newton.  Visit them online at www.Performance-Kayak.com or 55 W Bellport Road Brookville, PA 15825 (814-221-1884).

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