23 Kayaking Tips for Beginners – Fun, Safe, and Basic Boating Skills

Kayaking is a sport that requires skill, patience, and time. It takes a lot of practice to get good at kayaking, but it’s worth the effort.

There are many places to try out kayaking for the first time: rivers with gentle currents, calm lakes, or ponds near your home or campground.

But before you can even think about getting in kayaks, you need to know some basics. That’s where this post comes in.

An amateur kayaker in a yellow kayak on a glacier

Getting into a kayak

Put on a life jacket

Make sure you wear a lifejacket before kayaking and make it tight. A loose strap could let the life jacket come off, leading to severe injury or death in the water.

Find a calm place to enter the water

If you’re taking the kayak out from a beach or shoreline, look for a smooth area where there’s a gradual slope into the water. Avoid places where you see rocks or debris sticking out of the water.

Drag to the shore

Before you get on the water, tell your partner what kind of paddling power each of you has. Decide who is going to do what.

Do not paddle in the opposite direction of your partner. It will hurt them. Load up your boat with gear and then drag it as close to shore as possible before you step in.

Look for straps on the right side of your body. Grab them both firmly but gently with both hands. Lift high and keep walking until you are standing ankle-deep in water.

Let the kayak down

An excellent way to prepare for your first time kayaking is typically small rivers or marshes. When you are finally ready, one crucial step in preparing for a water journey is setting up the kayak, so it leans on the side of the shore.

If you want, you can use your paddle as a walking stick. But if the water is calm, it’s easier to drag the boat with one hand and use the other arm as a paddle if necessary.

Scoot into the cockpit

Start by sitting on the edge of your kayak and place both feet in front of you. Slowly scoot back into the kayak as far as you can while bending your knees.

Extend your legs out in front of you, and they should be resting on the boat. They should not be dangling over the edges.

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The right hand takes hold of the paddle with fingers wrapped around it. The left hand goes on top near eye level and slides down until it is comfortable.

Push yourself out

Holding the paddle firmly in your hands, push yourself into the water. The blade should be perpendicular to the ground, and on the side of your body, you will journey from land to water.

Digging a hole with the paddle frees up both hands for propulsion as you get farther out. That will bring more surface area in contact with waves/currents, allowing for greater speeds and looser control of direction.

Do not have straight feet because you might fall over. You can have your knees bent and point your legs down at an angle. It is until you get better at balancing on the back deck.

When going offshore, use your paddles and feet to push off the water using a lot of energy.

An early morning on the sunrise, a beginner sits on a yellow kayak for fishing

Holding the paddle

Hold it with both hands

There are many kayaking tips for beginners. They can help make the sport easier to understand.

First, grab your paddle with both hands. It will be hard to balance and control the watercraft if you don’t. Grab it with one hand under four fingers on each hand if you are more comfortable that way.

You should think about what kind of paddle you want—some people like short paddles, and others like long paddles. You might want to buy a wetsuit too, just in case it gets warm in the summer even after you go into cold water.

It would be best if you stretched out hands

To be comfortable on the water, you should hold your paddle near your waist. You need to have enough space between each side of the blade so that you can adjust it as needed.

The smooth and concave side should face you

Turn the paddle in your hands so that the smooth and concave side faces you. The fins on either end of the kayak paddle are called blades. These blades are not identical on both sides, so inspect them to see which side is smooth and concave.

The horizontal edge should be on top

It is essential to make sure the paddle’s blades are contacting the water right. The edges should always be upright and facing down during use.

Whether your blade has an angle on one side or the other, it always points away from you when in use and towards you when not. That means that the sharper edge should be against your leg or body while paddling forward.

Paddling forward

Maintain a firm grip

Stay upright in your kayak and keep a firm grip when paddling. If you have to lean forward, do so only moderately – this can move the center of gravity too far from the base of support and make it difficult to control your boat.

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Raise the paddle up

Raise the paddle, shift your weight, and twist your torso.

First, raise your paddle to a good height and keep your elbows below your shoulders. Twist your chest in whichever direction feels comfortable – such as turning sideways towards an object of interest or person calling out their names.

Move one foot back on the water and plant the other on the sand next to you. Then move forward from this stable position so that you can propel yourself in any direction that is needed – left if you turn left or right if you turn right.

An unexperienced kayaker paddles in front of a beautiful sunset

Angle the paddle

To start a stroke, you need to angle the paddle forward. That means that it will be on top of the water and pointing towards an observer. Lower your arm slowly so that you are now in position for your stroke.

Now push with your paddle back down and then move forward again with a more horizontal stroke.

Dig the blade

Line the blade up with the front center of your kayak, and dig it into the water. You want to twist your torso back while engaging one arm in an upward motion. The movement for both arms is a side-to-side motion where you’re pushing forward as much as possible before retracting back.

Repeat on the opposite side

Repeat the previous action on the opposite side to propel yourself forward as you drag the paddle underwater. Curl your torso towards it, so your shoulder is always pointing at the underwater blade.

Then start lifting the blade out of the water while lowering the blade on the opposite side, tip-first to prevent unsteadiness.

Find your rhythm

Finding a rhythm is one of the most important aspects of kayaking. It does not matter what kind of stroke you are using; it is all about finding a pattern that keeps your boat moving in the desired direction. Part four will cover turning and slowing down or straightening out.

Turning and slowing down

Use sweep strokes

To turn a kayak, always use sweep strokes. Always sweep your arm to the left and extend it out in front of you. Then lower your paddle into the water and twist your torso to the left. Drag your paddle backward in a semicircular motion while coiling up with your upper body.

Paddle in the opposite

Paddling in the opposite direction than you are to slow down or turn around. To go backward, paddle with your blade forward and above water. Slide your blade under the water on the side of where you want to turn and drag it back towards yourself out.

Now do that process on the other side of where you just turned and repeat until you turn around or reach your destination.

Hold the paddle vertically

Hold the paddle vertically and angle it from side to side when you’re trying to move closer to shore or when you’re paddling with other people.

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Getting out

Paddle towards a dock

At the end of your kayaking trip, return to a dock using paddle strokes to get parallel. Slow down gradually as you get closer and before stopping, bring your kayak perpendicular to the shore.

Use forward strokes

When you’re going to land on the shore, use a forward stroke and paddle towards the coast. That will make it easier for you to land and stay upright. Keep paddling until you are in front of your kayak on solid ground.

Lift yourself out

Get out at a dock and lift yourself onto it to make a shore landing. Use the sides of your kayak’s cockpit to push up and step into the water. With one hand, hold on to the paddle in front of you, and with the other hand, grab the strap on top of the boat and drag the boat ashore.

Secure the kayak

To avoid boat theft, tie the kayak up with either a line or strap. For a beach landing, grab the front of the kayak and carry it onshore until water is at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from where your boat is.

For docking stations, use a rope to secure the boats to the cleat to get stolen.

Beautiful nature and ocean, with a couple of kayakers who are just getting started

Quick list of beginner kayak tips

  • Beginner kayakers can take advantage of recreational kayaks.
  • Whitewater kayaking is an excellent activity for beginner paddlers.
  • Begin by choosing a safe river or lake.
  • If you are looking for a life-changing adventure, consider kayak or canoe trips with an instructor.
  • It is also a good idea to have someone experienced with kayaking to teach you.
  • Don’t forget to get a wet suit and other essential equipment for the most immersive experience.
  • Try sit-on-top kayaks for a beginner. They are more stable and provide good legroom.
  • Start with paddling on flat water to practice your technique before you go out into rougher waters.
  • Hull design, weather, and the person’s weight all affect how a kayak will behave on water.
  • Suited kayakers have a broader range of motion and are less likely to get cramped up.
  • Invest in paddling gear from a kayak shop.
  • Spend some time around your home or another resting place to let any muscle pains recover.


You can have a lot of fun kayaking if you know some skills. Look at these 23 tips for beginners to learn about being safe when kayaking and still enjoy yourself.

If you want to try kayaking, but are nervous about it because you think it will be hard, don’t worry. Kayaking is easy if you follow these steps. If you keep your balance and stay calm, then you can enjoy yourself without fear of falling or being tossed into cold water.

It would be best to start your new hobby, kayaking, because there is no better time.

Which tip did you find most helpful?

Last updated on June 19, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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