How to canoe and kayak ?

As a beginner to canoeing/kayaking, are you ready to jump in at the deep end? We are here to help you prepare your equipment and advise you on preventive measures for outings of two hours or more. Ready? 

As you can see, canoeing/kayaking offers a multitude of possibilities, discoveries, experiences and a feeling of well-being. Welcome, hop on board, you will be quickly won over by this water sport that is accessible to all!

What type of boat is best for beginners?

When starting out, it is best to paddle a stable, flat-bottomed boat on a calm body of water. For easy transportation, you can choose an inflatable kayak. This type of boat fits in a large backpack that can easily fit in the boot of the car. For your safety, all inflatable kayaks comply with the ISO 6185-1 standard, which guarantees that they will continue to float so that you can get back to shore if one of the three tubes is punctured.

When learning, go for a kayak rather than a canoe. Kayaking is, in fact, more suitable. The double-bladed paddle will make it easier to steer and to push against the water.  It will enable you to learn the strokes (circle, draw, etc.) on the right and on the left. The sitting position on a seat will be more comfortable. The kayak is the boat of choice used by all paddling schools. Canoeing, with its kneeling position and single paddle, is more suitable for experienced paddlers.


Choose the right paddle for your practice

For your first sessions, you can use a double paddle with an aluminium shaft and a plastic blade. In addition to being very affordable, these paddles are easy to use and not too powerful so as not to overtax the shoulders. The detachable versions in two or four parts easily fit in the boot of the car or in the inflatable kayak's bag.

The more "high-end" models are typically made of fibres & carbon to be more responsive and lighter, with blades that are hollower for (power) and asymmetrical for (performance). They may also feature an angle between the two blades so that the blade in the air does not cause resistance while the other is in the water.

Which paddle?

Your buoyancy aid for safe paddling

It is strongly recommended to wear a 50 Newton buoyancy aid when you go kayaking. If you fall in the water, it will enable you to float effortlessly to get back to your craft and easily lift yourself back into it. For recreational use, a foam buoyancy aid will be easier to use and will provide immediate buoyancy if you fall in the water.If you want one that takes up less space, choose a manual inflatable PFD with a gas cartridge which will leave your shoulders free to move. Please note, you must pull on the handle to inflate the device as needed. Some buoyancy aids also feature a hydration bladder pocket at the back so you can easily stay hydrated as you paddle.

The size of the buoyancy aid is chosen according to the weight of the user to always ensure good buoyancy.

Please note, buoyancy aids are not life jackets (with a neck collar and required minimum buoyancy of 100 Newton). It is therefore necessary to know how to swim in order to use them.


Equipment for starting out safely

For a kayaking trip of more than two hours up to two miles from land, take the following with you:
- 1.5 l of water (per person);
- a snack (dried fruit, cereal bar);
- a first aid kit for minor injuries;
- a waterproof mobile phone or one with a watertight cover;
- a spare paddle (split paddle for easy storage);
- the trio of waterproof sunscreen, a cap and sunglasses (minimum category 3, bearing in mind that it is illegal to drive wearing category 4).

If you plan to stay within 300 metres from land, as a minimum you need to have: a buoyancy aid, a first aid kit, and a mobile phone. If you're going further than this, check out our guide to obligatory safety equipment at sea, according to where you are going.

Does your boat not have a watertight compartment? Consider buying a waterproof container or a dry bag with a capacity of 25 to 30 litres, a good size to store your accessories without it getting in your way on board. A bag is easy to carry and fits under the elastics or in the kayak. A container is better suited to protecting the items it holds from being crushed.


Where and when to kayak?

Kayaking is often thought of as a summer activity. But summer isn't necessarily the best season for getting started! 

That's because the days are long and the sea is often crowded with holiday-makers: boats and jet skis criss-cross the waters, and can be an additional source of stress for beginner kayak tourers.

Instead, choose a beautiful spring or autumn day, when it is sunny or even a little cloudy and, most importantly, without wind. To avoid the latter, it is best to set out in the morning: the time of day when the weather and sea conditions are calm. The water is often perfectly calm at 8 in the morning. 

That said you should always check the weather and tides before leaving, because water that's calm at 8 can become choppy by 10!And having a strong tide against you can be dangerous.

So now you are fully equipped and informed: all that's left is for you to find an experienced adventure buddy to show you some suitable spots and the basic navigation rules!


Browse our watersports advice section

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