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How To Sea Kayak

How to Sea Kayak

Sea Kayaking is one of those great sports that lends itself to the full spectrum of travellers. You don't need to be an accomplished waterman to go for a paddle in the water outside your hotel, but if you want to push yourself there is potential for serious adventure. Jonny Hawkins, for example, has used his love of paddling to see the world from the seat of his kayak. More recently he combined his love of kayaking with another great passion, Scotland, and circumnavigated it with a crew of friends from university. This month Jonny took some time out to take us through his top ten Do's and Don'ts of sea kayaking.

To read more about his adventure around Scotland, follow the link to his blog, Circumnavigate Scotland.

Do you take part in this adventurous sport? If so, let us know on our facebook page or in the comment box below of any other tips you have.

  • Do

    1. Learn from a pro. There are many of sea kayak guiding companies out there with well-trained, knowledgeable, friendly guides who will improve your kayaking form and make sure you still have a great time. Trust these people. They know all the cool spots and will get you from 'slow to pro' in no time.

    2. Stay safe. Speak to local boat hire companies, fishermen and lifeguards about your plans. The sea is a beautiful place, but it can also be dangerous. Good advice about tides, weather and equipment is essential before venturing out. The sea can change very quickly, so be aware before you head out. Do not leave the shore without a life vest. You can be an Olympic swimmer with years of experience – you still need a life vest.

    3. Sneak up on wildlife. As sea kayaks move through the water very quietly (hardly splashing the water when you paddle correctly), they are the perfect vehicle to spot sea animals and birds. Dolphins will follow you and sea eagles glide above you as you venture into their world. If you are into wildlife photography, this is a great way to snap rare and interesting angles. Get a different perspective while you're out there. Views of the coast from the sea are stunning. Cliffs look bigger and beaches more inviting. If you are lucky enough to see a sunset from sea level, you won’t forget it! Again, for budding photographers, this is a great opportunity to get some unique pictures.

    4. The more the merrier. Sea kayaking is a great bonding experience, much the same as taking a safari. Get a group of close friends or family members together and plan a trip. It's also nice to have people to share the experience with – not to mention safer. If you're just paddling around the shallows at your local beach, a solo session can be good for the soul and a great way to burn the edges off a hard day/week at work. But don't take chances if you're going on a long paddle.

    5. Make it a regular activity. Sea kayaking (or just regular kayaking in a river, lake or lagoon) is a great way to exercise and unwind – much better than going for an agonising jog in the summer. There's no reason you can't get involved in a local club or group if you don't have friends to rope into it a few times a month.

    6. Travel! Sea kayaking isn't limited by much – all you need is the sea and a boat. This opens the experience up to some of the most beautiful countries, islands and beaches around the world. One of the most exciting parts of any trip is getting your whole paddling band together to choose your destination and route. This generally involves some great debates, heated arguments and a good few laughs before the final decisions are made.

    7. Find a secret spot. Sea kayaks are great for accessing hidden coves, pretty nooks and beaches. This is really handy for scouting quiet places to have a picnic or hidden camping spots where you can sleep under the stars - sometimes on your own private beach. As long as you're aware of laws and regulations, you can pretty much take a free holiday – which brings me to my next point...

    8. Make your own adventure. Hire boats with a few friends and explore your section of coastline. 'Sit on tops' are the most versatile and user-friendly type of sea kayak - perfect for a day of ocean-floating and getting a new perspective on the coast. For more adventurous and experienced paddlers, 'closed cockpit' kayaks allow you to venture further in a day and carry all the kit in waterproof hatches – the stuff you would need for a night under the stars.

  • Don't

    1. Don't go beyond your limits. Don't sign up for a long paddle with a group unless you're fit and confident of your ability to complete the route. There's nothing wrong with pushing yourself, but don't put yourself in harm's way.

    2. Don't psych yourself out. Don’t think about it too much (except the important safety checks – consider those things seriously beforehand). But once you've made the decision to try it, get on and do it! You will be surprised how fun and easy it is, and you will finish your trip with more than one amazing story to make your friends jealous.

Last Updated: September 2012

Clayton Truscott

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.