Ocean kayaking has been described as anywhere from serene to extreme. Whether calming or adventurous in nature, your experience becomes even bigger when paddling in ocean water. Keep reading to learn about tips to help you succeed at sea kayaking.
1. Take a Lesson.
You have to start somewhere. With sea kayaking, it's best to pick up fundamental skills before taking the plunge.
2. Know the Basics.
Though it seems pretty straightforward, stick your paddle in the water and pull, there are a lot of sea kayaking "basics" that first-timers should know beforehand. Here's a quick cheat sheet of standard techniques so you can get it right the first time:
• Hold the paddle with a light grip. This allows you to control your kayak's movements while staying flexible and cutting down on your chances of straining a muscle.
• Swift, rhythmic and deep forward paddling will really make your boat go.
• Sweep strokes are corrective and can help you maneuver, these should be wider than your forward strokes and reversed, depending on the turn you’d like to make.
• Do what works for you: sticking to your own style (range, pace, etc.) of paddling is encouraged if you feel comfortable doing so, and will allow you to move more naturally on the water.
• Most importantly, keep your upper body at a balanced center of gravity (hint: keep your nose aligned with the center of the boat and pointing forward). When balanced, tipping is nearly impossible and steering becomes much easier. Rocking your hips while staying centered will demonstrate how much movement the kayak will allow you to have (which is quite a bit).
3. Practice the Basics.
Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to sea kayaking. You actually don’t want to start in the water, though. It’s a good idea to practice proper techniques on the beach first, for muscle memory. After repeating strokes on land, take to shallow, calm water to make sure you’ve got everything down. If the boat is moving efficiently and you feel comfortable and confident in your paddling, step it up by heading to more open waters with your group. If you have good forward strokes, good sweep strokes and good corrective strokes, you can get yourself out of any situation that arises.
4. Pick Your Route and Check the Weather.
Try picking an area you are familiar with for where you’d like to paddle, keeping in mind that bays and other sheltered areas, protected from the stronger winds and choppier waters of the open sea, are best for beginners. Check a marine forecast to get a general idea of what the weather might do on the water, but always expect some wind and waves, even on a beautiful, blue sky day. Avoid fog as much as possible because visibility can be lost within five to 10 minutes and you could completely lose sight of your land, and that’s a scary thing.
5. Bring a Map.
Your GPS and iPhone or Android are great tools to bring paddling, but they're only as good as their battery life or, as is often a problem on the ocean, their reception signal. Bringing a map eliminates the problem of no signal; just make sure you know how to read it.
6. Bring a Friend (or Four).
Kayaking alone is never a good idea, and it's even worse when you're a newbie. Understand now that the ocean is big, powerfull, and pretty darn unpredictable, but it doesn't have to be scary. The more companions you bring paddling, the safer (and probably more fun) your voyage will be. Try going with a veteran group. If you can experience the wide variety of conditions that'll affect your kayak with a veteran group of guides the first time around, you’ll gain invaluable experience from it.
GeoSeekers guides their trips with experienced kayakers, providing a great learning experience for beginner kayakers. They guide trips along the coast of Georgia and are always excited to teach new and experienced kayakers.