8 kayaking tips for beginners

See nature from another perspective – hit the water in a kayak. These tips will have you paddling in no time.

Kayaking is a fun and unique way to explore nature. Unlike walking or hiking, you get to give your legs and rest but give your arms a bit of a work out.

So grab your kayak and paddle and enjoy the great outdoors with these handy tips:

1. ‘Sit on top’ versus ‘sit in’ kayaks

Having the right equipment is key. If you’re just starting out, opt for a ‘sit on top’ kayak rather than a ‘sit in’ kayak. These kayaks are easier to paddle, and because they have an open top you can get in and out of them easily. They’re usually wider, more stable, and much more comfortable to sit in as the seat is made of moulded plastic.

‘Sit in’ kayaks require more advanced paddling techniques. If you have one of these and would like to hone your technique, it’s best to gain more experience under the guidance of a qualified kayak instructor.

2. Row, row, row your boat

Not sure how to paddle? Both of your hands should be approximately shoulder-width apart. Dip one end of the paddle in the water and pull this lower hand backwards while pushing forwards with the upper hand, before rotating the paddle to the other side of the kayak and repeating the same movement. When the paddle enters the water, it should be at 90 degrees to the boat.

3. Safety first

It’s important to remember that lifejackets, also known as personal flotation devices, are a legal requirement when using a kayak, so paddlers must wear one at all times. Not only is it in your best interest to wear one, but you could also cop a $270 fine if you’re caught without it. 

4. Weather conditions

Don’t forget to consider wind and tide conditions before you head out with your kayak. There are plenty of free weather apps you can download to help you plan ahead. Some areas become very shallow when the tide is low, so you could get stranded if you don’t time it right.

Remember to apply sunscreen and regardless of the weather, pack a spare change of clothes in case you go overboard or get wet. And always bring plenty of drinking water and wear sunglasses and a hat.

5. Partnering up

It’s more fun paddling with others and it’s also safer in case of an emergency. Having a kayaking buddy is also advised if you’re using a covered sit-in kayak because if you capsize, one kayak can be used to prop up the other kayak in order to tip water out.

6. Paddling at night

Paddling between sunset and sunrise can be great fun, especially if you have the water to yourself, but you need to take extra precautions. Carry a buoyant, waterproof torch in your safety kit to use if you see other vessels – that way you can avoid collisions. Also, don’t forget to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return, especially if you are kayaking alone.

7. Share the water

If you see a boat with a motor coming towards you, turn your kayak so that you meet the wake head on. This will make capsizing less likely.

If you’re out on a river and you encounter other paddlers, the etiquette is to pass them on the right, just as you would if you were operating a boat or jet ski.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for fishing lines. Getting tangled up in one isn’t fun for anyone, so watch where you’re going. If you’re paddling along the river try and paddle as far away from the bank as you can.

8. Be responsible

The same rules apply to operating a kayak as any other vehicle. If you plan to crack a tinny, do so in moderation and be sure to stay under the limit.

Top spots for kayaking in South Australia

South Australia’s River Murray is an obvious place to give kayaking a go, but some of our national parks are a great option too – there’s even a couple you can try near Adelaide’s CBD:

Onkaparinga River Recreation Park has a new kayak launch which includes steps and a ramp to enable you to safely slide your kayak down to the water.

You might also like to try kayaking through the mangroves of Garden Island, which is located in the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary and Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.

If you're looking for other activities to do on the water, why not consider throwing in a line at one of these top fishing spots?

This post was put together with the help of the experts at Easy Kayaks.

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