For a quiet, serene water sport that lets you get close to wildlife, nothing beats sea kayaking. In calm waters, sea kayaking is easy enough for any beginner. Waves and swells, on the other hand, provide plenty of thrills and excitement, making this a perfect family activity. Sea kayaking is great exercise and a fantastic way to reach secluded inlets, coves, and islands.
If youíre trying sea kayaking for the first time, check with a local guide who can help you plot a good route. Youíll want to consider things like: the timing of the tides on the day of your outing, local currents, the weather, and unexpected factors like ferry crossings and sailboat races that might get in your way. Once youíve chosen your course, you can collect your equipment. Youíll need a paddle (kayakers use one, long, double-bladed paddle), a life jacket, a kayak, and a spray skirt if youíre likely to be in waves or surf. Most people paddle their own kayak, but double kayaks are also available if youíd rather share with a friend.
The most challenging part of sea kayaking is getting in and out of the boat. Youíll want to wear wading shoes (shoes that can get wet) because youíll enter your kayak from shallow or knee-deep water. Ask a friend to help hold your kayak steady while you climb in. As you would in any boat, take care to step onto the centerline of the kayak, keeping your weight low. It can also help to rest your kayak paddle across the cockpit for stability.
Once youíre in, get comfortable in your seat, placing your feet on the footrests that are on either side of your kayakís interior. The footrests give you leverage as you paddle. Take a few strokes to get yourself used to paddling, bracing your feet against the footrests. Itís surprisingly easy to pick upómost people get the hang of it within ten minutes and are ready for a dayís adventure.
People can often kayak farther than they expect, assuming the water is calm and the wind is low. If the day turns out to be windy, you might consider changing your route to a more secluded location or shortening your planned distance. Wind will scoot you along when itís at your back and fight you when itís coming toward youófor staminaís sake, tackle the upwind leg of your journey first, so youíll have the wind at your back coming home. Take care to keep the waves and wind coming at your bow or sternóthe pointy ends of the kayakóat all times. High winds and waves can roll a kayak over if they strike it broadsides. If youíre worried about wind or waves, ask your guide or kayak rental facility for advice.
Watching For Wildlife
As you set out on your route, youíll quickly notice the beauty of the kayaking experience. Sitting so low in the water, you feel like part of the waves. Kayaks are silent, and because theyíre self-propelled, you can go just as fast or as slow as you want. Itís the perfect way to watch wildlife, allowing you to glide forward in perfect silence. If you donít feel comfortable taking binoculars out in your kayak, consider a disposable camera that will let you capture the wonders you see.Because itís such a great fit with wildlife viewing, youíll find a number of special trips for kayakers in different parts of the world. There are whale watching kayak trips in Baja Mexico and Vancouver Canada, blue whale trips in the Sea of Cortez, and orca-watching trips in British Columbia. You might also spot sea otters, seals, bald eagles, hawks, ospreys, cormorants, and whole host of water birds.
YIn areas where the waters are calm and clear, you can look down into a wonderland of colorful starfish, sea anemones, crabs, and bright sea cucumbers. Because kayaks draw very little (displace very little water), you can glide over reefs that are just a few feet under the waterís surface.
Traveling with Kayaks
If youíve ever been on an overnight backpacking trip, you know what a slog it can be to carry your tent, clothes, sleeping bag, water, and food on your back. You can avoid all thatóand still get as far away from it allóby kayaking on your next overnight outing. Many touring kayaks have plenty of stowage room for all your gear. And because kayaks are lightweight, theyíre easy to store and move once you reach your campsite. Visit your local rangerís station and ask about kayaking routes that include state park campsites and public beaches where camping is allowed