How to kayak with beginner tips
I’ve always wanted to kayak.
Along the west coast of BC, we have loads of blueways that always looked so serene with water as clear as a mirror. Plus, who doesn’t love to be around water out in nature?!
2 years ago, I decided to take a paddle board lesson at Cultus Lake HERE. I loved it! But I found it rather hard to get back on the board. So kayaking was on my radar because staying IN the kayak (so we hope!) seemed to be a more attractive option!
And boy it pays to talk about your dreams with others… because you never know who will help make them happen!
In this case, it was my own brother, Les.
Les and his wife Dar love to venture out on their kayaks to local rivers, lakes and blueways. So when I was having a phone conversation with Les, kayaking came up. And when he noted my interest, he asked if I wanted to learn!
I couldn’t say YESSSSSS fast enough. So we booked a date and made it happen.
So here’s how my very first kayaking experience went… loaded with Les’ own tips!
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How to kayak with beginner tips
Even though Les is a really good, highly detailed teacher himself, he recommends taking some pro kayak lessons, because you will learn SO much more. Plus gain some actual experience on how to flip the kayak and get back in. Not for the faint of heart, huh?
However fully knowing it was my first time, he ran me through all the kayak basics based on his own experience, and picked a nearby very calm lake.
But I didn’t get off easy! Les wanted me to get the full experience so I’d know what was all entailed if I wanted to go kayaking myself with my own gear.
So we started at very beginning… and that was unwrapping the kayaks from storage.
Les stores his kayaks under covers in a darkened outdoor space so their vibrant red colours stay intact. Vibrant kayaks are easier to spot in the water if they keep their deep original hues. Smart, as red can oxidize quickly!
So we took each kayak down, unwrapped them, loaded each one up with all our equipment, then lifted them up onto the kayak rack on the truck.
Kayaks can be transported on racks, trailers or in the back of truck boxes. However Les built a kayak transporting rack over the top of his truck box so they could easily be strapped on.
So smart, since all the truck gear can remain underneath!
The kayaks were heavier than I realized. So it would be quite the challenge to load a kayak on your own if up high. Something to keep in mind for sure. We already reasoned I could load a kayak in the back of my truck myself. I guess I have another reason to hang onto my truck…
There are also kayak trolleys you can use to wheel a kayak right to the water’s edge. We ended up carrying them since there were two of us.
About Mill Lake
We chose to kayak in Mill Lake, located in Mill Lake Park, also connected to Centennial Park at:
2310 Emerson Street, Mill Lake, Abbotsford, BC V2T 3N8
It’s a lovely, quiet, very still lake that doesn’t allow any motor-run boats making it perfect for a first time kayak adventure.
There’s also a walking / biking trail circling around the entire lake that is approximately 1.2 miles long. Very cool!
Other park amenities:
- Trail around the lake is pavement and boardwalk
- Dogs allowed
- Trail lighting
- Beach water / access
- Shelter areas
Kayaking supplies to bring
- Wear a good-fitting kayak vest.
- Pack sunscreen and a water bottle.
- Wear shorts and some kind of water shoes.
- Store any cameras and ID in waterproof bags.
- Tie a kayak paddle float with a towing rope to the front of your kayak.
- Bring a small bilge pump (kayak water pump)
I’m sure there are other things that I haven’t remembered, but this is a good start!
A good beginner kayak
This Wilderness kayak I used had a very wide opening and was apparently a better choice for a beginner as it stays a little more stable in the water. The wider sitting area also allows for easy gear storage, bringing a small pet along and is also easier to get out of should you flip the kayak.
I was thrilled with this kayak and didn’t find it tipsy at all! Plus I didn’t know any different, so there’s that.
But I did figure it was a good quality kayak, and after a little research, I that to be right. I do think quality equipment ultimately gives you a better experience.
Check out various kayaks on Amazon HERE
Or visit a local quality water sports store to shop for a high quality kayak.
How to get into a kayak / what to wear
When Les instructed me on what to wear, I had no idea why. So here’s where the water shoes and shorts come into play! It’s all about getting into the kayak.
- Place the kayak in shallow water, clearing the shore.
- Stand over the kayak seating area with a leg on each side. Then slowly get in.
- Gently push the kayak away from shore with a paddle.
I borrowed some kayak water shoes that were waterproof and breathable, made out of wetsuit material. My feet didn’t even get wet and stayed nice and dry and warm the entire time. Amazing!
Les wore open toed good walking sandals. Basically put, a good water shoe allows your feet and shoes to dry after they get wet and stay on your feet if you take a spill.
Mill Lake is incredibly gorgeous! The perimeter of the lake is surrounded by parkland, and some fortunate residential homes with a view of the city of Abbotsford just beyond.
It reminded me of THIS TRIP to Central Park in New York!
Les showed me a few different ways to paddle which you will learn if you take full-throttle lessons. Different paddles do different things too.
But slow and easy was my personal preference for what I had in mind… meandering and picture taking!
Pretty bridge sighting
So we rowed around the edge of the lake taking in the lily pads, wildlife and just the beauty of the area. It was so quiet! Just the sound of a paddle dipping into the water and the sounds of nature… beautiful.
This old bridge over Mill Lake made for one stunning view!
How to use a kayak paddle float
One of the most asked questions I received when I shared this kayak adventure on social media was ‘What’s on your kayak?’
Most don’t seem to use kayak paddle floats. But after Les explained how to use one to get back into your kayak should it tip over, I’d personally never be without one!
- Insert a paddle end into the netting flap of a kayak paddle float.
- Place other end of the paddle under a bungee cord on the kayak deck.
The extended paddle will help stabilize the kayak while you crawl back in!
Les learned this valuable tip during his pro kayak lessons.
So while this post may share how to kayak with beginner tips, please take real kayak lessons if this adventure intrigues you.
Les, you’re lookin’ good out there among the lily pads in that vibrant red kayak you can spot a mile away! See why he likes to keep them covered up now?
Fun tip: While you’re paddling away, you’ll feel like a movie star because people tend to take pictures of boats or kayaks. So make sure you wear your best smile!
And of course, a beginner kayak trip would not be complete without stopping to take loads of pictures myself! Good thing my brother wasn’t in any kinda rush…
It really was such a perfect day. The skies were slightly overcast, yet warm with no wind. You couldn’t have asked for more perfect kayak weather.
Time to call it a day
We made about 2.5 laps around the lake, when I was starting to ‘feel it.’ I obviously hadn’t developed paddling arms quite yet!
So we decided to call it a day.
Sitting for long lengths of time in a kayak can be a little hard on you too, so it’s good to start slowly and work your endurance up over time.
Mill Lake is positively filled with all kinds of wildlife, with predominantly ducks and Canada Geese. It was entertaining to sit on the shore and just watch them do their thing. Lucky ducks I say!
Click above to watch a short video on our kayak adventure!
All in all, I had a wonderful first experience kayaking and can’t wait to do it again!
But best of all, I got a leisurely, fun afternoon with my brother.
And it doesn’t get much better than that…
Did this post ‘How to kayak with beginner tips’ entice you to also try kayaking too? What other water sport would you like to try?
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