Kayaking – A Beginner’s Guide From a Sixty-Something

Even as pandemic restrictions ease, the great outdoors continues to beckon the young and old alike. People who have found hiking, biking, and sports activities to be fulfilling in the last year will likely continue to pursue healthy activities and perhaps, engage in some new ones.

You may be surprised that there are adventures awaiting right in your backyard. That’s exactly what I discovered when I decided to take up kayaking. At age 64, I wanted to enjoy a new sport and hobby, but not be overly challenged. A lot of research went into my kayaking opportunities, and it’s a pleasure to share findings with Woman Around Town readers.

Give it a try. Do a few trial runs to make sure it’s for you before purchasing a kayak and gear. Find a place to rent a kayak and look for group trips that are led by someone who can help you learn about kayaking and instruct you in safety procedures. It’s also an opportunity to chat with others who have experience.

Life vests are a must on all waterways.  Pick a well fitting one that allows freedom of movement. Try on a few.  Spending a little more time and money on a life vest ensures that you will be comfortable when boating. Because I do not swim well, my life vest gives me a sense of confidence whenever I am paddling.

Make an educated choice. There are many kinds of kayaks. Styles include sit on top and sit in ones with different lengths and weights. Each has its advantages and it is important to get the right type for places you wish to paddle, such as calm waters or challenging ones with a current. Talk to someone who is knowledgeable about boating and select a kayak that is right for your body type and your destinations. Purchase a suitable paddle when you buy your kayak. If you’re interested in kayaking as a family, look into the selections of youth kayaks available and life vests that are designed especially for children.

Transporting your kayak. Many people use roof racks.  I have a relatively light, short boat that fits into my car when the seats are folded down, so I can load and unload it by myself. Be prepared to wipe down your boat after your excursion. I also put a clear mattress bag over my kayak to keep the car interior clean.

Calls may not wait. If you can’t unplug when you are boating, purchase a protective, waterproof case for your phone. Select one that allows you to take photos while out on the water.  

The launch sites. There are differing regulations as to where you can or cannot launch a kayak so check the rules.  In New Jersey, I paddle in a county with multiple waterways. I paid a small one-time fee to register my boat with the county’s parks department. New Jersey has no registration or charge for paddling at their state parks. 

Getting in and out. This has been the trickiest part of my journeys, especially when I am alone. Kayaks are quite stable when they are in the water, but when embarking and disembarking, you may need a hand or someone to balance the boat when you are getting in and out. It’s also helpful to have someone to push you off, and pull you back onto the shore if you are beaching your boat. When you are alone, it is wise to have the boat at least partially submerged and wear boat shoes to get started.There is also a procedure for getting into a kayak from a dock that is different than when you are beached. Learn the safest ways to use kayaks.

The workout – According to Harvard Health Publishing, kayaking for ½ of an hour burns the following calories:

125 pound person – 150 calories

155 pound person – 180 calories

185 pound person – 210 calories  

I have also found that when sitting and paddling a kayak, the core and upper body muscles are strengthened.

Our readers will like that kayaking can be done solo, with a few friends, or in groups. It is an activity that can be enjoyed in many seasons of the year. Even though I am a novice, I have found it to be one of my favorite things to do. See you on the water!

Stay tuned to Woman Around Town later this summer when we will be talking about kayaking for the more experienced paddlers.

Top photo: Bigstock

About Marina P. Kennedy (45 Articles)
Marina Kennedy currently writes for Broadwayworld.com, JerseyBites.com and the Hemlock News in Pennsylvania. She likes to do articles and blog about the culinary scene, theatre, and travel. Marina and her husband Chuck enjoy the rich cultural experiences of the metropolitan area. She is absolutely delighted to contribute to Woman About Town.