How many people who kayak have actually had a real lesson? Not many, certainly not enough in my opinion. We’re going to fix that, right here right now. This will be the first installment of our how to kayak series. I think we’ll start with how to get back in if you fall off. Seems like a good thing to know before you set out.
We’ll be using sit on top kayaks for our lesson today. Mostly because it’s what we use for rentals and tours at Paddles. Sit on tops seem to be what we see in our area most often, especially for beginner kayakers. They’re very versatile, stable, and user friendly. Perfect for beginner paddlers.
It’s a really good idea to practice this before you find yourself in the water wondering what to do. You’ll be a much more confident paddler, and if you do find yourself in the water, you’ll be much more likely to not panic. That brings us to our first step.
• Don’t Panic. I know it’s easier said than done, but you have to relax and stay calm. Use your head. Freaking out isn’t going to help.
• This side up. If your kayak is capsized (upside down), flip it back over. Couple options on this depending on your kayak and size. While treading water, lift the rail of the kayak closest to you with enough force to flip it over. Most kayaks are light enough for this to work. If not, the other option is to place your hands across to the far side, place your feet on the side closest to you and lean back. You’ll be surprised how easy your kayak will flip back over. This can be used by the smallest person with great effect.
• Gather your things. Now is a good time to gather any items that may have fallen from the kayak. Most important is Mr. Paddle. You’ll want to keep him close. It’s also a good idea to secure him to the kayak. The bungees or deck lines are useful, or event the seat straps work too.
• Moving on up. Time to get on board. While holding the top rail or handle closest to you, get your feet to the surface behind you. Similar to swimming or floating. It’s natural to try to get in like you’re getting out of a pool and pulling straight up. Problem is this is likely to flip the kayak again, might even introduce your face to the other side of the kayak. Once your feet are behind you, give a strong scissor kick while pulling with your arms, until your belly in the center. You can take a moment to center yourself once you’re far enough up. Remember to relax and take your time.
• Spin move. This is a tricky maneuver, take your time. You’re going to need to spin so you’re not laying down on the job. Carefully place your hands firmly on the kayak and lift yourself up so you can spin and plant yourself in the seat.
• Settle in. You’re in! Take a moment to get comfortable in the seat, gather your paddle and make sure you have all your gear. If any is still floating please pick it up.
That’s it, crisis averted. It’s a lot easier than it might sound, especially with a sit on top. The other side of that is the sit in kayaks, the rails is so much higher and that makes it much harder. Plus, you’ll then have a kayak that’s full of water. This isn’t insurmountable, but it does require additional equipment to bail that water. Either way, if you’re paddling in Florida you’re probably the happiest paddler in the group now. You’ve had a chance to cool off!