Guide to Kayaking


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What is a Kayak?

A kayak is a boat powered by a person whereby the person sits with their legs in front of them under a covered deck, and powers the boat using two paddles. Kayaking is the sport of using a kayak to propel oneself in water. Kayaking is different from canoeing, although the regulatory bodies of the two are usually the same, in that the kayaker sits with legs in front and uses two paddles while the canoeist sits with knees bent and uses a single paddle. Canoes are typically open decked whereas kayaks are mostly covered decks.

Kayaking History

The Kayaking Journal: contains a rich chronological page documenting the history of kayaking. The site also contains information on building a kayaking tour, types of kayaks, and kayak reviews.

Kayaking Tours: This website's history section focuses on how kayaks were made and perfected over time for the people of the Arctic. The site also contains information on tours around the world.

Types of Kayaks

Kayaks are classified according to their intended use and according to the materials they are made of. Intended use typically covers the following types: white water kayaks, sea kayaks, ocean kayaks, polo kayaks, slalom kayaks, touring kayaks, racing kayaks and recreational kayaks. When classified according to raw material, kayaks can be made of metal, fibreglass, wood, plastic, PVC and rubber.

Kayaks and Paddles: This site is great for pictorial identification of the different types of kayaks and their intended uses. For example, it helps explains that a recreational kayak is great for beginners and families and also gives recommendations on which brands to buy and why.

Kayaking Guides: The perfect resource for choosing between the form and function of different types of kayaks; from sprint kayaks, to foldable kayaks to inflatable kayaks, the site attempts to give a fair explanation of how and when to use these types of kayaks and their advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Kayaks: The NY Department of Environmental Conservation has a 3-minute video showing the specifications and raw materials of different types of kayaks. The video also provides information about which kayak is suitable for which activity.

Best Kayak: A website that provides comprehensive information about a wide range of kayaking topics. It also has handy sections on the best kind of kayak in each category, for example, best fishing kayak, or best sea kayak, etc.

Kayaking Destinations & Tours

Kayaking tours are offered all around the world from the Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic Ocean, and from Asia's top kayaking destinations to the Pacific's British Columbia. Find out which are the best tours and destinations in the links below.

Kayaking.org: A free online directory with a wealth of information about the basics, tours, destinations, equipment needed, accessories, videos and multimedia, and general tips.

NPS on Kayaking: The National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior offers ranger-guided kayaking tours in the summer months from June to September. Their website contains some general safety guidelines while kayaking.

Go Play Outdoors: Offers advice on adventure travel vacations. They list 21 top destinations as the premiere kayaking vacations around the world. For each destination, they provide a tour map, tour activities and information on how to sign up for the tour.

Kayaking Vacations: As its name suggests this resource is the ultimate destination for a kayaking adventure, be it in the US, Canada, Asia, Caribbean, Antarctica, Central America, Europe, South America or Oceania. For each destination it provides city information, tour packages, rates, time frames, and a route map.

Adventure Finder: Adventure Finder's motto is don't just have a vacation; have an adventure, and with that in mind, the site provides various paddling adventures and includes tour packages for each. You can then visit the individual tour operator's website or view the trip details which include dates, times, duration, prices, interest level and ability level.

Real Adventures Canoeing and Kayaking: Offers canoeing and kayaking trips around the world. It includes information about rates and reservations, a photo gallery and an interactive map to help plan your trip around your favourite adventure.

Kayaking Gear and Where to Buy a Kayak

Some essential equipment that most kayakers need to start with is: a kayak (bought or rented), paddles, personal flotation device, spray skirt and helmet. The following sites provide information about where essential kayaking equipment may be purchased as well information about accessories and non-essential gear.

Paddling.net: Offers product reviews, articles, discussion forums, and comprehensive buyer guides for all types of kayaks from recreational to folding and more.

Kayak Online: Offers deals on kayaks from around the world. It also offers information on how to choose a kayak and paddle and which accessories to buy and from where.

Kayak Gear Reviews: Features reviews of kayaks by kayakers. Users are encouraged to submit their own reviews to the site.

Kayaking Safety

Considered a fairly dangerous sport, kayaking requires the participant to know some basic safety precautions associated with the sport. From accurately reading weather conditions to must-have safety gear and equipment, the websites below offer some great precautionary tips.

Smart Start Kayaking: Gives you the low down on safety techniques ranging from CPR to personal floatation devices and information on how to make a float plan and what to do if your kayak overturns. This site take a no-nonsense approach to helping you educate yourself before taking up the sport.

The Marine Canoe and Kayak Club: Offers a lot of general safety precautions that often get overlooked. The site lists common sense tips such as being a good swimmer, kayaking in a group, and planning your route in advance as some of the basic safety precautions every kayaker should take.

The National Park Service (NPS): Classifies kayaking as a high risk activity and one that should only be taken with the proper experience, guidance and equipment. To that end the website lists a range of precautions to take which includes how to gauge weather conditions and how to equip your kayak. There is also a great kayaking safety video on the site.

The 6P's of Kayak Safety: This site explains the 6Ps of kayak safety namely Planning, Partner, PFD, Preparation, Practice and Patience. This is a great way to remember safety rules and teach them to beginning kayakers.

Kayaking Safety Precautions: This educational website offers a very handy grouping of safety precautions: requirements, recommendations and others. The first group elaborates on the safety equipment you are required by law to use such as the personal floatation device. The second group outlines recommended safety equipment which includes a rope, a knife, a map and more. The third group highlights some basic precautions such as checking weather conditions and knowing your route beforehand.

Strength and Conditioning for Kayaking

Kayaking, apart from being a leisure sport is also a fiercely competitive sport. To compete, a kayaker's body must be fit and conditioned for endurance and strength. Not only do kayakers need upper body strength to paddle, but lower body balance as well as muscle endurance for the exhaustive yet exhilarating sport. The following websites contain information about strength training exercises for kayakers.

Lifestyle Experts: Offers advice on fitness and strength conditioning. It provides a range of exercises that may be performed at home to build upper body strength and endurance.

Livestrong: Offers a unique take on why aerobic exercises are necessary for kayaking. The site emphasises that a kayaker's upper body, while doing most of the work, is not the only region that requires conditioning - the legs need to be conditioned too to provide balance.

Workout Routines for Kayaking: This site specializes in workout routines for the legs, back, chest, shoulders, arms and abs. It supplements each routine with pictures, tips and advanced strategies.

Help Prep for Paddling Season: 5 vital exercises to help you get ready for kayaking season

Kayaking Exercise Video: Exercise routines to improve one's kayaking skills from California Family Fitness

Kayaking Associations

The following is a list of major canoe and kayaking organizations around the world that help govern the sport and its participation at the Olympic level:
American Canoe Association: The American Canoe Association (ACA) is the largest organization of its kind. Its primary responsibilities include education and training in paddling sports and support for paddling programs across the United States.
British Canoe Union: The BCU protects the interest of the canoeing and kayaking community in Great Britain. Its website contains Britain's official rules and policies on kayaking and competing in Olympic-level sports, with additional information about kayaking clubs and centers it sponsors and coaching it provides for kayakers.
Canoe Kayak Canada: Canoe Kayak Canada focuses on providing support for three types of kayaking: sprint, white water and marathon. It also contains information about participation in the latest Olympic Games and coaching resources for kayakers.
International Canoe Federation: The ICF is the international governing body for canoe regulation around the world. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, it provides canoe and kayaking information at an international sports level, contains the latest news and an active events calendar of the kayaking events around the world.
USACK: US Canoe/Kayak is the governing body for the canoe and kayak racing in the United States.

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