Is Kayaking Difficult for Beginners?

If you're asking this question, no doubt you're interested in entering the world of kayaking. Kayaking is a fantastic hobby that gets you out into nature exploring, keeps your body fit, and your mind healthy. 

To answer the question in short, kayaking is not difficult for beginners. However, the type of kayaking you do, the vessel you choose, and how you learn will affect how quickly you'll get to grips with the hobby.

In this article, we'll be looking at how easy and how difficult it may be for a beginner to start kayaking confidently. We'll be going through which type of kayak is best for beginners, which styles of kayaking are easier for beginners, and how you can start your journey into the kayaking world starting from today. Enjoy! 

What’s the Best Type of Kayak for Beginners?

There are two main types of kayak available — the sit-on kayak and the sit-in kayak.

These two kayaks have their pros, their cons, and each is suitable for different styles of kayaking. But, which type is easier for the beginner to learn with?

The Sit-on Kayak (Open-Top Kayak)

The sit-on kayak, otherwise known as the open-top kayak, is unlike the more traditional kayak in that you sit on top of the vessel with your lower body exposed. 

This makes it far easier to mount and dismount the kayak. It's also far less scary to recover from a capsize with a sit-on kayak.

Open-top kayaks are definitely easier for beginners to get used to as they're far easier to get on and off of. For Beginners, mounting and dismounting is usually the most difficult part of the hobby to get the hang off. Once you are on or in a kayak, it's pretty straightforward to find your balance and start paddling around. 

There is a "however" to this statement though…

When you're kayaking with a sit-on kayak you have a far higher centre of gravity. This can make it less stable in the water. This can become an issue for the beginner if they encounter unstable water. 

Overall, the sit-on kayak is easier for beginners to learn with but they must stick to relatively calm waters. A sit-on kayak is also more restricted in terms of the types of waters you can use it on.

The Sit-in Kayak (Traditional Kayak)

The sit-in kayak of the more traditional style vessel that has a small cockpit that you sit inside of with your legs extended inside a hard shell. You're less exposed in this style of kayak and you can tackle a range of waters from small calm lakes to raging rapids.

The sit-in kayak is definitely far harder for beginners to get to grips with. This is not because they're hard to control, balance, or paddle in but more because they are difficult to get in and out of. 

It definitely takes a bit more learning for the beginner until they can mount and dismount a traditional sit-in kayak. However, once they've mastered this, paddling in a sit-in is really easy. You have a low centre of gravity and your closer to the water which makes it easier to deal with rougher conditions, even for the complete newbie. 

These kayaks are definitely more versatile compared to the sit-on. They can tackle a range of waterways both inland and on the coast.

What’s the Best Paddle Type for Beginners?

If you're a beginner, you may think all kayak paddles are pretty much the same. However, this really isn't the case and some paddles are harder to learn with than others. 

We won't go massively into detail about all the differnt kayak paddles and who they're suited for, but to give you an idea, here's a list of some of the main ones:

  • Dihedral Paddle Shape
  • Flat Paddle Shape
  • Spoon Paddle Shape
  • Wing Paddle Shape

So what's the best kayak paddle for the beginner?

The Flat Paddle is the best kayak paddle for the beginner to use. It's easy to get the hang of and the stroke will come naturally to you.

What Style of Kayaking is Easiest?

There are several types of kayaking you can perform:

  • Whitewater kayaking
  • Ocean kayaking
  • Kayak touring
  • Kayak camping
  • Kayak fishing
  • Recreational kayaking

Which style of kayaking you decide to do will ultimately depend on what your ambitions are and what you want to achieve from kayaking. 

Of course, whitewater and ocean kayaking are much more difficult for beginners. You'll need training before you get to grips with these sports, especially whitewater kayaking.

The easiest style of kayaking for beginners is recreational kayaking on stillwater lakes. This is the safest and easiest way to gain confidence on the water. From here, it's easy to advance to more complex forms of the sport as your confidence and skill set grows. 

Learning to Kayak: A Few Things to Consider as a Beginner

When you first start kayaking there are a few things you should consider. Below are four points to think about as a beginner. Making sure you're ready to start kayaking is essential for your safety, so read through these points carefully:

1. Do You Need to Be Fit to Go Kayaking?

Consider your fitness level. Do you work out weekly? Do you struggle with cardio?

These are questions to ask yourself.

Kayaking is a fantastic way to improve your health, fitness, and mindset but it's important to start with some level of fitness before you get on a kayak and start paddling around. 

Your fitness level will also affect how far you can paddle safely. As a beginner, it's important not to set your goals too high. You should start by going out for 30 minutes to an hour at a time and increase distance as your grow in confidence and strength. 

You don't want to become stranded without enough energy to paddle back to shore, so make sure you consider your fitness level and increase your distances gradually.  

2. Do You Need Lessons to Learn How to Kayak?

If you're not confident being on the water and have never practised watersports before you may want to consider taking a couple of kayaking lessons. 

Lessons should be available from your local canoe and kayak club. They will teach you the most efficient and effective paddling techniques and how to stay safe on the water 

If you don't want to take lessons or perhaps don't have the time or funds for them, a kayaking friend or partner may be able to teach you the basics. You shouldn't need much training before you're able to head out on the water and control your kayak confidently. 

3. Make Sure You Choose Your Water Wisely

When you first start kayaking, it's important that you choose your venue wisely. It's a good idea to start somewhere with good access to the banks with calm and relatively shallow water. 

It's better for a beginner to learn on a small stillwater rather than a river, so paddling techniques and control can be learnt without the interference of flowing water or a current.

4. Make Sure You Know How to Recover From a Capsize

One of the most important things to ensure before you start heading out kayaking is that you know how to recover from a capsize. 

Capsizing can be extremely dangerous if you don't know how to deal with it and recover. You should learn how to capsize and recover by doing it in a controlled environment with an instructor or experienced friend. 

Don't head out on the water alone until you know how to recover yourself. It doesn't matter how calm the water you're paddling on, anything can happen so you should always prepare yourself for the worst possible situation.

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