• Home
  • Learn
  • 5 Mistakes Every New Kayaker Makes and How To Avoid Them

5 Mistakes Every New Kayaker Makes and How To Avoid Them

Dan of Headwaters Kayak shares the 5 most common mistakes new paddlers make, and how to fix them to make your time better on the water.

1. Not having the right gear

Paddles and PFDs often become an afterthought for new paddlers, but having the right gear makes a big difference in how much you’ll enjoy your time on the water.

  • Make sure you have the right type of boat for the paddling you are doing.
  • Having a PFD specific to paddling makes a big difference in comfort and movement. Shop Paddling specific PFDs here>
  • A quality paddle is going to have less flex, more power, and overall it's going to be significantly lighter. Headwaters Kayak recommends the Bending Branches Whisper as an affordable high quality paddle.

2. Not adjusting gear properly

We need to make sure that we're well adjusted in the kayak and our gear is well adjusted to us.

  • Adjust the feather angle of your paddle. It is important to note that there is a right hand feather and left hand feather. If you are right handed, your knuckles are lined up at the top of the right blade, and your left paddle will be rotated forward.
  • Tighten up the straps of your life jacket to ensure it is snug on your body, so it won’t go over your head if you fall into the water.
  • Take the time to adjust your boat - foot pedals, back rest, thigh supports - properly so that you are sitting in a supported upright position.
  • Ensure that you are holding your paddle correctly with enough distance between your hands. Your arms should create 90 degree angles when you hold your paddle above your head.

3. Failure to launch

Getting into a kayak can be challenging and feel unstable. A technique you can use that will feel more stable is positioning the boat parallel to the shore, and using your paddle for support as you step into the boat and lower yourself into the cockpit. If you are launching from a dock, you can use your paddle for support by putting the paddle behind the seat, pressing down on the paddle and the top of the kayak. You can then lower both feet into the cockpit and keep your other hand on the dock and drop yourself down into the kayak.

4. Bad form

A common mistake new paddlers make is holding the paddle incorrectly or just paddling incorrectly.

  • Make sure you are holding the paddle correctly with the scoop of the blade facing you and the long end of the paddle at the top.
  • Ensure a nice wide paddling position with your arms 90 degrees, your paddles out in front of you, and paddle face facing you. This gives you a good position to reach forward, catch the water up by your toes and pull yourself through the water.
  • Learn the basic kayak strokes to get you moving on the water.

5. Beached whale exit

A common mistake new paddlers make is ramming their boat on shore and flipping out of their kayak as they try to exit. What you can do instead is reverse sweep to get your boat sideways or parallel to shore. Swing your feet out to the side. Put your paddle in the water so you can use this for support, and lean forward towards where you want to get out. Push yourself up using your paddle for support to stand. This way you are not beating up your kayak. If you do not have much flexibility in your knees, you can float your kayak a little further from the shore, so your knees are underneath you as opposed to up high, and exit from there.

Other tips for new paddlers:

  • If you are bringing valuables or electronics with you, put it in a dry bag to protect your items.
  • Dress for immersion and sun protection.
  • Transport your kayak using the right gear to keep your boat, yourself, and everyone around you safe.

Subscribe to Headwaters Kayak on Youtube for more kayaking videos!

Related Articles

Wondering what to wear when going paddling? Answer 4 quick questions and instantly learn what you need…

Getting back on your sit-on-top kayak isn't that hard - if you know how. That's why it's a great idea to…