How to Kayak – What Beginners Need to Know


We know that once you have found the right kayak for you, you could not wait any longer to test it in the water. While we understand the excitement, we also need to stress the importance of knowing how to properly kayak before you head out. Kayaking is a very popular water sport and for good reason. It is very easy to learn and can surely provide you with unforgettable experiences.

Knowing how to paddle properly, how to launch your kayak, as well as get back into the shore and the steps to do in case the kayak capsizes are all very crucial for every kayak enthusiast to know. In this post, we will be talking about how to kayak, especially what beginners like you need to know. Hopefully, this article would be of great help when you set out to kayak.

Entering and Exiting Your Kayak

  • Ensure that your kayak is already in water with its nose facing out.
  • Place your paddle away but make sure that you can reach it once you get in the kayak.
  • Place only one foot into the kayak.
  • Using your hands, grab both side of the kayak for balance.
  • Once you have lowered yourself into the kayak, bring the other leg inside.

How to Hold the Kayak Paddle

  • You may start by holding the paddle using both your hands while centering the shaft on top of your head. Make sure that your elbows are bent at 90°.
  • Ensure that the blades are in line with one another. Take a second to further adjust the blades if they appear offset from each other.
  • Notice if the longer edge of each blade sits on top. This is the most accurate position, allowing you to move the paddle efficiently and smoothly through the water.
  • In addition, make sure that the scooped sides of the kayak paddle blades are facing towards you. You may have to look very closely, as the curves are subtle.
  • You may now place your large knuckles on the paddle shaft. This will make sure that they are in line with the top blades.
  • Make the ‘O’ shape using your index finger and thumb while you lay your remaining fingers onto the shaft. You may also have to be a bit more relaxed, as gripping may only tire your hands a lot quicker.

Basic Kayaking Strokes

Forward Stroke

  • Wind your torso and fully immerse the paddle blade on one side of the kayak.
  • Rotate your torso while the paddle blade moves behind you. You may have to follow the in-water blade using your eyes and your torso should follow naturally.
  • Once your hand reaches behind your hip, ‘slice’ the paddle blade out of the water.

Reverse Stroke

  • As you may already know, the reverse stroke is a basic braking stroke. Interestingly, it can move you backward, even when your kayak is already stopped.
  • The reverse stroke is the total opposite of the forward stroke, wherein you immerse the blade right next to your hip.
  • The reverse stroke is the total opposite of the forward stroke, wherein you immerse the blade right next to your hip.
  • Slice the blade out of the water once it comes near your feet.

Sweep Stroke

  • The sweep stroke is the basic turning stroke.
  • You will notice that your kayak begins to turn the other way if you perform repeated forward strokes, especially on the same side of the boat.
  • It is very similar to the forward stroke, except that you effectively alter the path, making it carve a wider arc on the kayak’s side.
  • Sweep strokes, when done on the right side of the kayak, will turn your boat left while sweep strokes on the left side will turn your boat right.

Learn How to Roll

Whether you are a beginner or experienced kayaker, it would be inevitable that you will accidentally flip your boat. With this, you should know how to be prepared in case your kayak flips, so you would not inflict harm or panic to yourself. Here’s what you should do:

How to Roll


  • Tuck closely to your boat – Once you find yourself capsized, instantly tuck your body close to your kayak. In case there are rocks, they will only heat your helmet instead of your face.
  • Reach for the sky – When you have successfully tucked, you would want to reach up both of your arms. This is an effective signal to your kayak partner that you need to be rescued.
  • Looking and waving – When you have your arms up and out of the water, begin to wave them, as if feeling for your mate’s kayak. In addition, you might want to keep looking towards the surface and see if the kayak is approaching.
  • Grab the kayak – The kayak loop would be a great place to start grabbing the kayak. Do this step when you notice that your partner is close.
  • Roll yourself up – Using your hips, flip the kayak back around.
  • Find your paddle – Your paddle may get lost in the water but most of the time, it should be near you. In case you are unable to retrieve your kayak paddle, ask your partner to get it for you. You have to use your hands to paddle alongside your partner until you successfully retrieved your paddle.

Wet Release

  • Knowing how to do the wet release is vital, especially if you are kayaking alone. This is also essential in case you flip your kayak over and have the need to exit the boat quickly.
  • Lean forward and push your kayak’s bottom using your paddle.
  • Gently release the spray skirt, which is the one that keeps you tied to your boat.
  • Once you have successfully made sure that the spray skirt is off, you may now try to exit the kayak and swim back to the surface.


Kayaking is such a relaxing and fun activity. However, make sure that you stick to calm waters first, especially if you are a beginner. Doing so will give you time to master paddling techniques, as well as making sure that you become more familiar with your boat and how to steer it. With this post, hopefully, we get to help you make your first kayaking experiences worthwhile. It is also very important to note that as a beginner, you never should over-exhaust yourself or you might just find yourself paddling back to the shore.

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