How to Kayak: Ultimate Beginners Guide

Kayaking lets you explore the outdoors and waterside landscapes in a fun new way. Discover the joy of kayaking with our expert guide! Learn how to kayak in simple steps, from techniques to safety tips for a thrilling adventure.

Gliding across a tranquil lake or river in your small boat can be a beautiful experience. If you’re interested in trying kayaking, there are a few easy ways to get started paddling.

How to Kayak

You don’t need to rush out and buy a kayak right away. Consider renting a kayak first to test it out. Many outdoor outfitters and parks offer hourly or daily kayak rentals. This lets you try different boat types without a big investment.

Also, look for kayaking classes or guided group trips for beginners. Having an instructor teach you paddling skills and safety is very helpful when you’re new to kayaking. Start slow and find ways to get on the water before committing to buying gear. Kayaking is a rewarding hobby, and with some smart steps at the start, it’s easy to get into it and enjoy gliding across the water.

Ask a friend to let you use their kayak. It’s even better if your friend knows how to kayak well and can show you some things.

Rent a kayak. Go to a place that has kayaks on the water so you don’t have to carry the kayak. You will get a little bit of gear and help, but it’s a cheap way to try kayaking. Join a tour. You get everything you need: kayak, gear and basics. You can choose from different places to How to Kayak, like your local lake or a faraway place with REI Adventures.

Take a class. Like a tour, you get everything you need. A class teaches you more than a tour, so it’s better if you want to learn kayaking.

How to Kayak – What Beginners Need to Know

The Ultimate Guide to Kayaking for Beginners

Kayaking is a fantastic water activity that lets you have a great time with friends and family while discovering nature from a different angle. At EZ Dock, we’re a group of water lovers who adore the adventure that kayaking brings.

Kayaking for Beginners

If you’re seeking an enjoyable and thrilling way to experience open water, kayaking could be the ideal new hobby for you. How to Kayak To help you begin, we’ve gathered some useful tips and tricks that every beginner kayaker should know.


If you want to know what kind of kayak is best for your adventure, we have a guide that can help you decide. Here is a summary of the different kinds:

Sit-on-top kayaks: These are common kayaks for fun. They have open seats, so you can get in and out easily. They are good for beginners because they are wide and stable.

 Touring kayaks: These kayaks are long and have small seats. They are narrow and long, so they are better for experienced people on long trips. 

Recreational kayaks: These kayaks are good for peaceful and smooth kayaking. They are short and have big seats for more room and comfort. 

Whitewater kayaks: These kayaks are good for exciting and challenging kayaking. They are used for activities that need more skill and power. There are four kinds of whitewater kayaks — longboats, river runners, creek boats, and playboats — and each one has its benefits depending on what you want to do.

 Inflatable kayaks: These kayaks are good for relaxing and easy kayaking. You can blow them up, carry them, and use them easily, like sit-on-top kayaks. Child-sized kayaks: These kayaks are small for kids or teens. They have different sizes that fit their height and ability.

 Single kayaks: These kayaks are good for kayaking alone. They are light and fast on the water. They have different sizes and shapes for different adventures, like fishing, touring, working out, or having fun. They are easy to move because they are small.

 Double or tandem kayaks: These kayaks have two seats and need both paddlers to work together to move in the water. They have more room and are good for people who need help steering.

Kayak Gear and Clothing

This article assumes you’re using a typical kayak with a seating area and a hatch or two for storing your things. Sometimes, in warm weather and calm water, your friend or guide might choose a wider and more stable boat for you to use that doesn’t have a seating area.

Kayak Gear and Clothing

Things for the boat: The person who gives you the boat should also give you these things:

A life jacket that fits you well A paddle that is not too big or small for you A pump to get water out of the boat A cover to keep water out of the boat (you can skip this if it is warm and calm)

Things to wear: Wear these things if it is warm and the water is warm:

Something to swim in or shorts (not cotton and not tight) A shirt that protects you from the sun (not cotton) Shoes that can get wet A hat that blocks the sun A light jacket or vest if it is cold (not cotton) A rain jacket and pants if it rains (not cotton) If it is cold or the water is cold, you also need a wetsuit. You can read more about what to wear in What to Wear Kayaking.

Things to bring:

A lot of water Food for when you are hungry, and more food if you stay long Sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses (with something to hold them) A kit for first aid A whistle to make noise A watch to check the time A light for the dark Bags that keep things dry

How to Adjust Your Kayak

Push your back hard against the seat. If you can change the seat or seatback, do what feels good. But sit up straight for more balance and power. Put your feet on the footpegs and see if your knees are a little bent. 

How to Adjust Your Kayak

You can move the footpegs by turning them and sliding them on a track. It is better to get out of the boat to do this. Press your knees hard against the sides of the boat. This helps you steer the boat as you paddle. You should be tight but not stuck in the boat. You need to get out if the boat flips over.

How to Launch Your Kayak

  • Carry your kayak to shallow water with a friend’s help. Place it perpendicular to the shore, with the front end pointed out and the back end near the shore.
  • Put one end of your paddle under the front deck line, sticking out like a training wheel.
  • Standing over the cockpit, lower your butt onto the seat.
  • Slide both legs into the cockpit and put your feet on the foot pegs.
  • Scoot back into a comfortable seated position.
  • Use your paddle to push off from shore and get clear of waves.

To get out, paddle back to shore and reverse the process – paddle outrigger first, then straddle the cockpit before standing up.

Check our website for more tips on launching from shore or docks. The key is taking it slow and steady.

How to Hold Your Kayak Paddle

  • Start with hands shoulder-width apart, elbows bent 90 degrees, and paddle centered on your head.
  • Be sure the paddle blades are lined up, not offset or “feathered”. Adjust if needed.
  • Check that the long edges of the blades are on top for smooth strokes.
  • Make sure the scooped sides of the blades face toward you.
  • Place your large knuckles inline with the tops of the blades.
  • Relax your grip – make an “O” with your thumb and finger. Avoid squeezing tight.

How to Kayak is Proper hand placement and a loose grip will let your paddle move easily through the water. Take a moment to check paddle orientation before starting. With practice, the correct hold will become natural.



You may think that kayaks are easy to flip, but they are not. They are made to be very stable on the water in different situations. Sometimes, you may want to flip a kayak on purpose. How to Kayak Many skilled paddlers say that learning how to flip a kayak is good because it makes you more confident on the water, especially when it is hard, like in the open sea.

The best way to learn how to flip an upright kayak is to get help from a teacher. You will probably learn two kinds of rolls. One is the sweep, or screw, roll, and the other is the vertical, or C to C, roll. 

The Basic Kayaking Strokes

Learning How to Kayak involves many important skills. Two crucial ones are mastering different paddle strokes and understanding how to navigate while on the water.

The Forward Stroke

This stroke is the one you’ll use the most while kayaking, so having good technique is helpful:

  • Start by twisting your body and putting the paddle fully into the water on one side of the kayak near your feet.
  • As you move the paddle behind you, twist your torso. Keep your eyes on the part of the paddle that’s in the water, and your body will follow. Also, focus on pushing against the paddle with your upper hand as you do this.
  • When your hand reaches just behind your hip, smoothly take the paddle out of the water.
  • To repeat the stroke on the other side, just place the paddle in the water near your feet again. Your body will already be in the correct position from the previous stroke.

Technique tip: To keep the paddle at a comfortable angle as you paddle, imagine you’re checking the time on a watch on your upper wrist. This helps maintain a good paddle angle for each stroke.

The Reverse Stroke

This is the stop or backstroke.

This is the stop or backstroke. You do it when your kayak is not moving or you want to go back. It is the same as the going stroke but backward: How to Kayak You put the paddle in the water near your hip; you push with your bottom hand; and you pull the paddle out of the water when it is close to your feet.

You do it when your kayak is not moving or you want to go back. It is the same as the going stroke but backward: You put the paddle in the water near your hip; you push with your bottom hand; and you pull the paddle out of the water when it is close to your feet.

The Sweep Stroke

The sweep stroke helps turn your kayak. It’s like making a big, wide-forward stroke on one side of the boat.

For example, sweeping on the right side moves your paddle in a wide arc on that side. This pushes the back end of the kayak around to the left.

So sweeping on your right turns the boat left. Sweeping on your left turns the boat right.

It simply exaggerates the turning effect of forward paddling on one side. The wider you sweep, the sharper your kayak will turn.

Practice wide sweeping strokes to get a feel for turning your kayak. It’s a versatile maneuver once you get the hang of it.

Tips for Your First Time Kayaking

How to Kayak If you want to go out by yourself for the first time, follow these tips. Pick a quiet and small place to paddle. Look for lakes or ponds that don’t have many boats. Launch from a beach that is sandy and flat. It will be harder to start from a shore that is rocky, muddy, or steep. 

Choose a day that is sunny and not windy. This will make your trip easier and more enjoyable. If there is some wind, paddle against it at first. How to Kayak It will be too hard to paddle into the wind when you are coming back. 

Paddling with the wind is much easier. Don’t go too far or too long. To have more fun and less tiredness, paddle for less than two hours.

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