With summer officially here, Southern Californians are heading out into the ocean, in search of adventure. Kayaking is a great way to stay cool in the summer, get a fantastic workout and, in many cases, catch a glimpse of the local sea life.
Hold your paddle correctly. It’s important to hold the paddle correctly, with hands shoulder-width apart (or wider), with an overhand grip. Keep arms fully extended away from the body and don’t T-Rex! There are two sides to the paddle–scoop and spine. When paddling forward, keep the scoop side of the paddle facing towards you. When paddling backwards, have the spine facing towards you.
Don’t just pull the paddle or you will quickly tire out your shoulders. When pulling the paddle side in the water towards you, focus also on pushing the paddle side out of the water away from your body. This will help ensure you are using multiple muscle groups instead of making your shoulders do all the work. When paddling, remember to twist your torso into the movement. This will help maintain your center of gravity, produce more efficient strokes and utilize more of your body.
Getting in and out of the kayak once you’re in the water. This is much easier than you may think! The best way to get back in is to reach across to the far side of the kayak, pulling your body across the kayak until your stomach is over the middle. Remember to scissor kick with your legs, while you are pulling yourself in. Once your stomach is over the middle, simply rollover. Now your rump is in the kayak and you can easily swivel your legs in. When you’re out in the water and you want to get out of your kayak, I recommend backflips.
Staying Upright. A common mistake made by first-time kayakers is leaning forward while paddling, in an effort to go faster or get more power out of their stroke. This is actually counter-productive. If you stay upright, you’ll be able to get more torque from your stroke by twisting your torso, rather than leaning forward and pulling back. Proper technique is key to gaining a consistently efficient stroke as well as getting the most benefit in working your core.
Going in Reverse. Back paddling is easy. It’s really just the reverse of forward paddling and is essential in many situations. To throw your kayak in reverse, start paddling from your hip and push to your toe. It is easy to T-Rex when first learning how to back paddle, so remember to keep your arms straight! To get the most out of your back paddle, switch the direction the scoop is facing. When forward paddling, the scoop should always be facing towards you; to back paddle with the most efficient stroke, the scoop should be facing away from you.
Tight Turns. Turning your kayak without going forward is another important maneuver. This move can help you (along with back paddling) avoid collisions and steer clear of dangerous areas. To turn left, without moving forward, forward paddle first on your right side (remember that paddling is the law of opposites–you push on the right, you go left) and then immediately back paddle on your left side. Continue forward paddling on your right and back paddling on your left and, in a few paddle rotations, you will quickly turn 90 degrees, 180 degrees and finally 360 degrees left. To go right, you guessed it: forward paddle on the left, followed by a back paddle on the right.
What to bring. Always wear a PFD (personal floatation device), such as a lifejacket. Also, remember—if it’s not waterproof, don’t bring it! Small snacks and bottles of water are great as long as you don’t lose them in the water. Keep our waters clean by keeping track of your trash. Waterproof cameras are amazing and what’s better than an underwater selfie?
Have fun! Don’t worry about your skill level or others around you. Kayaking is one of those great activities that nearly everyone can enjoy, regardless of how much experience they have. So remember to enjoy the moment and have fun with it.
Everyday California, a La Jolla-based lifestyle company, specializing in ocean adventures and apparel, has compiled the above tips for beginners. The company offers guided kayak and snorkel tours in La Jolla’s Ecological Reserve and Sea Caves, and paddleboard, surfboard and other equipment rentals. More info on their signature kayak tours here: www.adventure.everydaycalifornia.com/tours-rentals/kayak-tours
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