3 Tips for Kayaking Beginners
These people exist – and they’re having a blast – but don’t let their passion give you the impression that kayaking is just for the extremely fit, obsessed, and wealthy. Kayaking is a sport that is truly approachable for a wide variety of people, and the required investment of time and money is probably less than you think.
Here are some tips Sam had to offer for people wanting to kayak for the first time:
1: A Good Kayak Instructor Will Be Able to Start from Square One
There’s no need to fear embarrassment if you need to start with the basics. Sam shared that in his first year of instruction in Little Rock, he was teaching a client how to maneuver the kayak. When Sam said “paddle towards me, paddle forward”, the client said, “what do you mean paddle?”. No matter how little you know about the mechanics of kayaking, an instructor will be able to get you through it.
Sam says that a good instructor of a kayaking class should teach you how to get in and out of the boat, how to assist another kayaker in trouble, and how to get back in the kayak if you roll over. In advanced classes, Sam will even have clients roll over intentionally so that they are prepared in the event that they roll over unintentionally. This helps make the entire experience less scary for beginners and helps build confidence.
2: It’s Best to Start Where the Waters are Calm
Sam suggests that beginners should stick to slow moving or non-moving bodies of water. A lot of times, your instructor or guide can suggest local bodies of water that would be safe and enjoyable at your experience level. For example, if you have done the Arkansas River, Sam might encourage you to go with a group on the Big Piney River or the Buffalo as a next step. Taking on challenges is something that should be done incrementally when you are kayaking, but becoming familiar and comfortable with your local rivers and lakes is a great deal of the fun.
3: When You Decide to Buy, Don’t Go too Cheap and Do Your Research
Sam offers one warning to those buying their first kayak: avoid the department store. He once bought one to try it out, and reports that the material of department store kayaks is more fit for molding into a plastic easter egg than water recreation. Buying a cheap kayak really leaves you with an expensive pool toy. It will not last, and it may not keep up well with kayaks of better quality.
Buying a kayak is an investment. It’s important to do your research to get the most out of it. Find what kind of boat is best for the types of trips and bodies of water you want to paddle. According to Sam, the easiest way to overpay for a kayak is to pay for more bells and whistles than you need. You probably don’t need a flat-bottom bass boat-sized kayak with cup holders and storage if you think you’ll make a few brief excursions on lakes or slow rivers.
Rock Town River Outfitters is Little Rock’s first Arkansas River outfitter. They offer kayak tours, kayak rentals, bicycle tours and rentals, and will soon offer a wooden boat workshop. The wooden boat workshop will teach you the skills you need to build and walk away with your own hand-built wooden canoe. The workshop is one week long and will start the week of January 9-13. Check out their website here. They also have a great Facebook and Instagram.