Water activities are a great option to keep moving and engage in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safe social distancing rules urge everyone to keep six feet apart. Many people are simply staying at home. However, there are many outdoor water activities like kayaking and paddle boarding that are safe, fun and get you moving. Here are some tips to get you started.
How to Try Out Kayaking & Paddle Boarding
Whether you explore a lake, river, pond, or even an ocean, kayaking and paddle boarding are suitable for any body of water. There are a range of kayak and paddle board products on the market. Prices can be expensive, even for lower-end versions. However, instead of purchasing your own, you can rent or borrow from friends or family members.
Renting a kayak or paddle board is a great option if you don’t own one or are going on vacation. This provides the convenience of trying out the sport before you invest and also not having to pack your kayak or paddle board. Call a few rental places ahead of time for the best rates and to make a reservation. Ask if the rental business can transport the kayak or paddle board to the water for you.
Try A Friends
Not having to rent or buy saves you money. And just like renting, it also allows you to try it first. But remember proper borrowing etiquette: Take proper care of the kayak or paddle board, be sure to return all the life preservers and paddles. If you damage or lose something, you’ll need to purchase a replacement. Always return everything rinsed and clean.
Consider purchasing your own kayak or paddle board if you plan on using it frequently. Below, we’ll explore the range of kayaks and paddle boards available in different designs, styles, sizes, and overall features. Kayaks are for fishing, ocean kayaking, and other recreational activities. Paddle boards are for both beginners and more advanced users. Make sure to do your research before you buy. Know where you will store your kayak or paddle board safely and have a way to transport it.
Essentials For Water Activities
Personal Flotation Device
PFD, or personal flotation device, is a life jacket that comes in a variety of different designs, sizes, pockets, straps, and other features. Its buoyancy helps you float if you fall into the water or capsize. Paddle boarding, for example, requires balance and coordination that comes with practice, so most beginners end up in the water. PFD should always be worn for an extra measure of safety, even if you believe the water you are going out on is calm and/or shallow.
A whistle is an effective safety and communicative device that allows you to signal others around you. Whistles deliver high-frequency sounds louder than your voice. Use your whistle to let other kayakers or paddle boarders know you are close by. Most importantly, use it to gain the attention of others, if you fall into the water and/or need assistance. Your whistle should attach to your PFD, be bright colored and able to float; so it is easily accessible even if you fall into the water.
Go With A Buddy & Let Your Plans Be Known
Make sure at least a few people know where and when you’re going. Also, when you expect to be back. This is especially important if you’re going somewhere remote to enjoy your water activities. There are also apps available to allow up to five trusted friends and family members to track your whereabouts. Go with a buddy, or small group, but be sure to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
Choosing Your Watercraft
Besides your level of experience, the locations where you’ll do the water activities will dictate the type and style of watercraft needed.
Recreational, touring, and inflatable kayaks, as well as those with pedals, are the best types for calm bodies of water. Ocean, or higher-end hard shell kayaks, are best for rougher waters with strong currents; they withstand waves and still maintain direction and control.
As for style options, sit-on-top kayaks are best for calm waters and fishing. They are easier to get into and have more cargo space. On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks are great for any body of water. They tend to stay drier and protect you from outside debris, which make them better for longer excursions. They also usually have tracking systems which allow for better control.
Longer, touring kayaks travel quickly through water but are more difficult to control when making turns, they weigh more and are difficult to transport. Shorter kayaks are easier to maneuver through rougher waters, but do not travel as fast.
Depending on size, kayaks weigh between 30 and 70 pounds; some are even heavier. Most recreational kayaks are made with either a high-quality polypropylene or polyethylene material which withstands wear and tear. They should also have UV protection.
The width of your kayak, along with your height, determines the length of paddle needed. Blade size and construction materials also influence overall performance. Wider blades have more resistance, more water is pushed back which makes for faster travel. The shaft should be lightweight and strong; aluminum, carbon, and fiberglass are most effective.
Other accessories to keep on hand are a pump (to drain any water that leaks into the kayak) and also a patch/ repair kit. A spare paddle is also a good idea.
Although paddle boarding is similar to kayaking because a paddle is used to guide you through the water – paddle boarding involves standing, lying down, or kneeling on a flat board.
Most paddle boards measure between 10 and 15 feet long and are 30 to 35 inches wide. The wider and thicker the base, the more stability you have. The longer the board, the faster you travel. Wider boards are for rough waters with strong currents. Lengthier, narrower boards are for calmer waters. Most paddle boards are around five inches thick, but more advanced paddler boarders use thinner boards.
Necessary accessories include an ankle leash made with non-abrasive padding. The ankle leash prevents the paddle board from flying off into another direction if you lose your balance and fall into the water. Fins can be attached to a paddle board to increase tracking and control. Higher-end paddle boards have fins already built-in. Air pumps are needed for inflatable paddle boards.
The Basic Techniques
Once you have the right kind of watercraft for your experience level and preferred location, it is time to work on your skills. If you are new to water activities, start off practicing in calm bodies of water. Remember to be respectful to other kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers, anyone fishing, etc.
Learning To Kayak
- Know where you are going to dock.
- Practice getting in and out of the kayak without capsizing.
- Learn the different paddling techniques.
- There are guides to follow. Kayaking classes are also available for beginners.
- Plan your route ahead of time. Review a map of the overall layout of the water so you’ll always know where you are.
- Small lakes are a good location to learn how to kayak.
Learning To Paddle Board
- Know how to properly get on and off of the paddle board.
- Learn how to hold the paddle and the different strokes to use.
- Stand up and remain balanced: From knee-deep level water, hold the edges of the board and lift yourself onto it, into a kneeling position. Then stand up, one foot at a time. Position your feet parallel from each other and hip-distance apart, your toes pointing forward. Your body should face the direction you are going, eyes forward.
- It is easier to focus on developing your skills when practicing in shallow waters with soft ground surfaces, such as the beach.
- Take a class and or learn from an experienced paddle boarder.
Water activities may appear to be a surefire example of social distancing, however be mindful and keep at least six feet between you and others even on the water.
Wherever you go to take part in water activities, always adhere to the rules of the area as well as follow all CDC recommendations. Whether on a beach or lakeside, at a dock, a bait shop or some other store, always wear a mask and social distance to protect yourself and others.
Whether you own a kayak or paddle board, or you are renting or borrowing someone else’s, you can have fun on hot days instead of staying inside. Kayaking and paddle boarding are fun water activities that you can do with a buddy or with a small group of people while keeping distance. Just take the time to do your research and safely engage in these water activities with the skills, equipment and accessories needed for a successful experience.
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Derek Lenze, Guest Collaborator
Derek Lenze is a paddle boarding and kayaking enthusiast who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. When he is not exploring his surroundings, Derek works on his blog Floating Authority. He also enjoys tennis, hockey, and racing.