How to Use a Kayak

How to Use a Kayak
There are three important elements of boat control involved in kayaking. First, you must understand how to enter and exit the kayak. Second, you must understand how to propel and direct the kayak. Third, you must understand how to take control of a potentially dangerous situation, such as capsizing.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak Paddle Spray skirt Helmet
  • Kayak
  • Paddle
  • Spray skirt
  • Helmet
Step 1
Enter your kayak by holding it steady with a hand of each side of the cockpit in shallow water. Board one leg at a time, keeping your center of gravity as low as possible and using your paddle for added balance. Secure your spray skirt (the neoprene skirt that creates a waterproof seal between your body and your boat), starting at the back and working around to the front.
Step 2
Perform a dry exit by executing the above steps in reverse order. Beach your kayak and pull your spray skirt away from your cockpit starting at the front and working toward the back. Stay low to the water and ease yourself up backward out of your kayak, using your hands to balance your boat.
Step 3
Prepare for the possibility of a wet exit. If you are caught upside-down and can't roll your kayak, feel with your fingers for the outside edge of your cockpit and reach both hands forward along the cockpit until you feel the loop of fabric on your spray skirt. This is called the pull tab. Pull hard and roll out of and away from your kayak. Ensure your own safety, then attempt to recover your gear.
Step 4
Paddle your kayak using a stroke from one of four categories: the power stroke, the sweep, the draw or the brace. Power strokes propel your boat forward or backward, sweep strokes turn your boat, draw strokes move your boat laterally, and brace strokes are used for balance. Practice all four categories in calm, standing water before attempting open water kayaking.
Step 5
Recover from a capsize using the five step C to C roll. From capsized position lean toward the water's surface, making a C with your torso. Reach your paddle up toward the water's surface parallel to your boat. Extend your arms as far toward the surface as you can. Turn your paddle perpendicular to your boat. Execute a strong, downward draw stroke and an exaggerated hip snap simultaneously. The hip snap will extend your torso into a C curve on the other side of your boat. The shape of your body gives this roll it's nickname.

Tips & Warnings

 
Understand the three primary things that influence your balance in a kayak: your paddle, your hips, and the water conditions. Use the aspects you control (your paddle and your hips) to offset the aspects you don't control. Keep your head down and close to your boat when rolling your kayak. It strengthens your center of gravity.
 
Understand the three primary things that influence your balance in a kayak: your paddle, your hips, and the water conditions. Use the aspects you control (your paddle and your hips) to offset the aspects you don't control.
 
Keep your head down and close to your boat when rolling your kayak. It strengthens your center of gravity.
 
Always wear a helmet when kayaking If you are caught upside-down in your kayak, always lean forward so the top of your helmet (and not your face) is turned toward oncoming obstacles.
 
Always wear a helmet when kayaking
 
If you are caught upside-down in your kayak, always lean forward so the top of your helmet (and not your face) is turned toward oncoming obstacles.

Article Written By Caroline Schley

Based in New York City, Caroline Schley has been writing articles on fitness, social interaction and politics since 2008. Her articles have appeared in "The Tahoe Weekly," "Second Line News" and websites, including Eatthestate.org. Schley graduated from CU Boulder in 2005 with a degree in environmental science.

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