Thursday, July 2, 2015

Paddling Tips For Beginners

By Mike Mainhart, ACA Level 1 Kayak Instructor and Vice President of Outdoor Writers of Ohio.

Paddlesports, in particular kayaking, is one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor industry. In Ohio alone there are 107,671 registered kayaks and canoes. That’s a 112 percent increase over the last ten years.

What used to be a sport for the young and fit can now be enjoyed by just about anyone at any age. The design of today’s recreational kayaks allows the novice paddler the stability and freedom to enjoy the water. Not only is kayaking great fun, it’s a good way to keep active.

Before purchasing a kayak, consider a few options. There are two main types of recreational kayaks to choose from. Sit-on-top kayaks are very stable and roomy, making them great for beginners. Sit-on-tops are the more costly of the two types. 

Sit-on-top kayaks.
The other type is a sit-in. This type of kayak is usually priced for the entry level market. They are stable, but first-time paddlers can expect a bit of a learning curve with a sit-in kayak. It takes some time to get the hang of balancing and maneuvering these boats.

Sit-in tandem kayak.
With the excitement of a newly purchased kayak, all too often, users find themselves in trouble because proper safety techniques were overlooked. Safe paddling is not a matter of stuffing a life jacket behind the seat and heading out on the water. Bad things can happen even to the most experienced paddler. Preparedness is key.

There are several safety issues that should be addressed before launching a kayak in the water. A little common sense will go a long way to ensuring a safe and enjoyable day on the water.

Whether you’re an avid kayaker or a beginner, consider taking a safety course. ACA instructors offer courses all around the country, and it's easy to find one near you by searching the ACA website or using the free Paddle Ready app.

By far, the most important piece of safety equipment is a Coast Guard approved life jacket or PFD. Keep in mind, a life jacket can only save your life if you wear it. Always wear your PFD, and encourage your friends and family to wear theirs as well.

Be mindful of the weather. Wind and wave conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly, especially on a large body of water. When kayaking on rivers or tributaries, rain can turn a relaxing float trip into a deadly situation. Check on the weather and stream conditions before entering the water. 

Wear appropriate clothing. What you wear can add to a safer trip. Bright colors are recommended to increase visibility to others. Another benefit to bright clothing is in the event of a capsize, it’s much easier for others to spot you in the water. Dress in layers and keep a change of clothes in a dry bag.

Before leaving home, file a float plan; this can be as simple as letting someone (spouse, friend, neighbor) know where you will be paddling and when to expect you back. The Paddle Ready app has a nice feature to file float plans as well. Stick to the plan. If you change locations, let someone know. In the event of an emergency, a float plan can help save valuable time by giving authorities a good point to start looking for you. 

Another item that can aid in safety is a cell phone. Your phone can only be helpful if it’s kept dry and accessible. Simply keep your phone in a zip lock bag and put it in a secure pocket or dry bag.

Here's a summary of simple, inexpensive tips for a safe, enjoyable trip for beginners:

· Boater safety course

· Proper registration and safety equipment

· Float plan

· Be aware of weather and boating conditions

· Wear your life jacket

· Begin in shallow water

· Don’t paddle alone

· Wear bright clothes

· Have whistle, light, and phone

Get more safe paddling tips at

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