If you are looking into the sport of inflatable kayaking there are a few things to consider when choosing the right kayak and accompanying accessories. Choosing the right size inflatable kayak to suit your needs will be a major consideration. You will want to buy the right paddles and learn the proper techniques for varying conditions and environments.
Inflatable kayaks are generally good for beginners because they are surprisingly more stable than their hard-shelled counterparts. They tend to be wider at the bottom, making tipping difficult. The nature of inflatable kayaks allows for them to keep their solid shape while still bending with waves on rougher waters.
Choosing the Right Paddle
When choosing the right paddle for your inflatable kayak adventures you will need to consider three main things. What is your paddling style? How tall are you? What is the width of your kayak? If you tend to use a more relaxed cadence as recommended for longer trips, purchase a low angle paddle with slim blades. For a more aggressive style, when paddling in fast moving waters you will need a high angle paddle. High angle paddles require more work for those fitness conscious folks and also allow for superior maneuverability.
Generally speaking, your kayak paddle should be light, strong, and feel comfortable in your hands. If there is any way for you to try before you buy (rent or borrow), that is your best assurance that you’ll be purchasing the right paddle for you.
Learning to Paddle
You will want to grasp your paddle with your hands about shoulder-width apart. This is important because if you go to wide, you will tire quickly. If you go too narrow, you will have no strength in your pull. Keep your hands relaxed and loosely gripped. Your knuckles should point up with one blade vertical or both blades parallel to the water.
When beginning a forward stroke, try to bring your power from your core region to save your arms and shoulders from fatigue. Sit up straight and be sure to have your feet against the footrests. Keep your grip relaxed. Think of yourself as catching the water with your blade and gliding past it.
You will also need to know how to execute a reverse paddle. For this stroke, the paddle will enter the water near your hips instead of at your feet. Keep your elbows bent and move the paddle forward, towards your knees where you will then pull the blade out of the water.
Turning the kayak is a crucial skill needed to avoid crashes. The best way to turn your kayak is by using a deep reverse paddle. This will allow you to keep your forward momentum while turning. If you need to turn quickly, just drop your blade into either side of the water and your kayak will turn to that side, though you will slow considerably using this technique. You can also turn the kayak by reaching forward and dipping the paddle in near your feet and sweeping in a wide arc towards the rear.
If you are rowing with a partner in a tandem kayak, be sure to have the stronger person in back and this person also must follow the pattern of strokes of their front riding partner. Synchronicity is everything when paddling with a partner. When turning the kayak, the person in front should swing the paddle in a forward motion while the person in back sweeps the paddle in the reverse direction.
Understanding Maximum Weight Capacity
The last important bit of information that is important to consider when looking into your first inflatable kayak is understanding weight capacity. One might think that if the kayak has a weight capacity of 350 lbs. that a 350 lb. person can ride, right? Wrong. This weight limit is how much the kayak can hold and still stay afloat including water, gear, paddles, shoes, camera, and anything else that will add weight to the kayak.
Most experienced paddlers recommend subtracting 25-50% of the recommended weight capacity to be completely safe. Honestly, closer to 50% is best from a performance standpoint. For example, a person weighing 150 lbs. should look for a weight capacity of 350 lbs. leaving room for 25 lbs. of gear. This is an extremely important factor when choosing your inflatable kayak because an overloaded kayak is a safety hazard.
Kayaking for Beginners Conclusion
Inflatable kayaks are truly an awesome way to begin this sport that is a great workout for your mind and body, allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors and get a workout. Priced significantly lower than most hard-shelled kayaks, they are a practical investment for those who aren’t sure if they’ll commit for the long term. Take your time, consider all of your options, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Good luck and have fun!