Whether you’re 8 or 38, anyone jumping into a kayak for the first time make the same mistakes. It seems that the feeling of invincibility is ingrained in our blood no matter how old you are. As a guide since I was 12 years old, I’ve watch many people make many mistakes because they refused to listen to a kid. Shows what they know.
Listen to Your Guide
I understand the feeling of hopping into the kayaking, securing your skirt, and wanting to paddle as fast as you can to feel the wind in your hair. This, of course, isn’t always the best option. You more than likely don’t know the body of water that you are paddling and you don’t understand the dangers that lay beneath the rippling surface. Wait for your guide to give you instructions! Injuries and accidents happen when people don’t listen. Your guide may seem like an incompetent kid, but they most likely know more than you do about kayaking in that moment.
Beginning paddlers tend to lock their shoulders and torso to feel in control, and then paddle with their elbows bent and closer towards the body. This “paddle hugging” always leads to sore muscles and sometimes more extensive injuries. Be sure to conquer your “paddler’s box” by sitting up straight in your boat and reach your arms out in front of you. Your paddle should be as far away from your chest as possible. By maintaining your “paddler’s box”, you will maintain power, have more endurance, and prevent injury.
It isn’t hard to figure out that you will get thirsty at some point during your paddling excursion, but what you don’t realize is how fast you will become dehydrated. Whether you have a Camelback, Nalgene, Platypus, or even just a regular bottle of water, be sure to drink and keep your body hydrated throughout your day. With the sun beating down on you and being reflected onto you from the water, your body will be begging for gallons of water by the end of your trip.
Of course, your clothes will protect you from the sun, but there’s only so far a rash guard will go. Be sure to slather on the SPF and pay very close attention to your face. Bring the tube with you and reapply any time you stop. Remember to wear a hat to protect your scalp, and a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes from the brightness coming at you from seemingly every direction. Be sure to apply sunscreen even on overcast days. The sun may not be out, but the UV rays are still coming down on you. Another sunscreen tip — don’t rub it too close to your eyes. Your sweat will make it leak into your eyes leaving you squinting for the latter portion of your trip.
Dress the Part
Now, you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe just for one paddle trip, but it would be smart to invest in a couple things especially if you intend to paddle more. Just like any other action sport, a helmet will keep you from passing out, except that while kayaking, your helmet will keep you from passing out in the water. Cotton takes forever to dry so lean towards the synthetic, silkier materials that wick away sweat. Athletic shorts, board shorts, and swim suit bottoms are great examples that nearly everyone can find in their dresser drawers. You can just wear a tank top, or bathing suit top under your life preserver, but a rash guard is a great item that you will be wanting after 10 minutes of paddling. It guards against rashes due to the rubbing of your arm against the preserver and a must on a long paddle trip.
One of the most important things about paddling is to stay calm. Whether it is being freaked out by a choppy part of the river, an eddy, or you accidentally flip over just remember to stay calm. If it is one of your first times, you are most likely not on a body of water that poses imminent dangers. Slip out of your boat and hold onto it. Wait for your guide to paddle over and give you instructions on how to proceed. If you stay calm, then this keeps you and your guide in a safer position.