Paddling is an awesome activity that pairs perfectly with a camping trip! You can paddle peacefully alone or make it a race against friends and family. Unlike an expensive boat, you can paddle anywhere, from lakes and rivers to a pond or the ocean. All while getting in a fantastic workout!
Paddling is a great, inexpensive activity. Once you own the equipment the rest is completely free! Paddling is a fantastic way to get outside, cool off, enjoy nature and get a great workout in without even realizing it.
You can burn up to 500 calories from just one hour of kayaking! All without any negative concussion or impact on your joints and tissues. Rowing helps build muscle through your arms, back, shoulders, and chest. You’ll even work your legs, abs, and lower back by balancing and turning your rowboat.
Paddling improves cardio and stamina and strengthens the heart muscles, improving circulation and red blood cell count. It exposes you to vitamin D, reduces stress, increases happiness, improves memory, focus, and quality of sleep.
Kayaks are much smaller than a canoe, and while you can purchase tandem kayaks, most are designed for one rower. They are simple to steer and the rower sits inside a closed deck low in the water. Kayaks are designed to not flip easily, and their low center of gravity helps them stay upright. They are stable and they handle wind and waves better than a stand-up paddleboard or canoe. Sometimes kayaks take some practice to get in and out of smoothly.
Types of Kayaks
There are many different types of kayaks, ranging in price, size, and shape. You can purchase kayaks designed for kids, or sit-on-top kayaks that are much easier to get in and out of, making them perfect for beginners.
A touring kayak is designed for hours of rowing across a large lake with its long body and small cockpit.
The recreational kayak is wider, shorter in length, and ideal for a calmer kayak experience.
Whitewater kayaks are designed for intense waters, and there are even four different sub-types of whitewater kayaks.
Picking Your Paddle
Consider the width of your kayak and the length of your torso when you are selecting a paddle. If your torso is longer than 28 inches, the paddle should be longer than 200cm.
To check the fit of your paddle, stand the paddle beside you, reach up and hook your fingers over the top blade. Your fingers should just be able to hook over the top of the blade by a knuckle, but if you can’t reach your fingers over at all, or can lay your hand flat on the opposite side, the paddle is not the correct size.
Paddle blades can be made from nylon, fiberglass, or plastic. The shaft can be made of aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. Different blade and blade materials affect how well energy is transferred to your stroke, and change the weight of your paddle. A lighter paddle reduces fatigue but increases the price.
Shafts come in straight and bent shafts. A kinked shaft is designed to minimize discomfort and fatigue on your joints. You can find small diameter shafts that are easy to hold if you have small hands. Some paddles come apart into two or four pieces to become more portable.
When you’re ready to start your paddling, enter your kayak and make sure everything is adjusted correctly. Sit up straight, with your hands placed shoulder-width apart, knuckles facing up on the shaft of the paddle. The concave part of the blade should always face you. Begin with your elbows at 90 degrees, and pull your hand towards your hip as you push the blade into the water and propel yourself forward. A wider grip while rowing increases speed, but requires more effort to row.
Sweep strokes – To turn the kayak by using one side of the paddle and pulling it towards you.
Draw stroke – To move the kayak sideways by placing both hands and blades of the paddle over one side of the kayak. Reach out as far as you can, holding the paddle vertically. Place the bottom blade into the water and pull your lower hand towards your hip, moving the kayak sideways.
Drybag – Waterproof bag used for gear storage
Eddy – A place in a river where the water reverses and flows upstream. A great place to pause or rest. Often found behind an obstruction or sharp turn.
Pogies – Mittens that attach to the paddle shaft for cold weather.
Tracking – The ability of the boat to hold a straight course, depending on the hull design.
Skeg – A steering device that drops down from the hull at the stern of the kayak. It is static and helps the kayak stay straight.
Portage – Carrying your kayak around an obstacle or across land to another destination.
Like kayaks, canoes can be taken on any body of water. Canoes have an open cockpit, usually with two bench-like seats fixed to the sides of the boat. Canoes sit higher in the water than a kayak, and they can fit a lot more people or equipment. You earn a great workout from canoeing, especially throughout your arms, back, shoulders, and abs.
Types of Canoes
There are many different types of canoes! The recreational canoe is commonly 13 – 17 feet long and designed for beginner use. They should have the highest degree of initial stability compared to other types, and they are simple to control.
Square stern canoes are designed to accommodate a motor on its flat rear, and whitewater canoes are difficult to paddle with their short length and high degree of rocker. Racing canoes are very narrow and they sit low in the water. They lack seats, and instead the paddlers kneel.
Bring a friend!
Canoes do not have the efficient hull design of a kayak and require more effort to paddle. However, you do not have to do it alone!
Canoeing with another person, or multiple people, is encouraged as it is much easier to steer and move with more rowers.
When you are tandem paddling there should be one person sitting in the front and one at the back. The person sitting in the front, or the bow, provides forward momentum and correction strokes when the canoe starts to wander.
They are on the lookout for obstacles and set the pace of rowing. They can use a draw stroke, similar to kayaking, to change the direction of the boat quickly and avoid obstacles.
Whoever sits in the rear, or the stern, should paddle on the opposite side of the canoe in sync with their bow partner.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP Boarding)
Rumored to have started by Hawaiian surf instructors so they could easily move around while they taught students, SUP boarding is only gaining more and more popularity! It is a great cardio workout, but like kayaking and canoeing, it is only as difficult as you choose to make it. It is a low-impact exercise that works the entire body while reducing stress. Regular SUP boarding will quickly improve your balance. Some SUP boards offer enough space to bring a child, pet, or friend along with you!
Types of Stand Up Paddleboards
The main difference in SUPs is hard paddleboards vs inflatable paddleboards.
A hard SUP is made from fiberglass wrapped around an EPS foam core. An inflatable SUP can be blown up in just a few minutes with a good pump. Inflatable SUPs roll up to the size of a sleeping bag for easy transport, are super durable, and sit higher in the water than hard boards do.
There are more than just two types of paddleboards, you can find fishing boards with wider decks and attachments to carry fishing gear, surf SUPS designed for surfing ocean waves, and touring SUPS that are designed for long-distance adventures with their narrow shape, pointed nose, and long body.
Paddles are made out of plastic, aluminum, wood, or carbon fiber.
A general rule of thumb is that the paddle should be 6-10 inches taller than the paddler. Use a longer paddle for flat water, and a shorter paddle for ocean surf.
While you row, place one hand at the top of the paddle and one on the shaft, about shoulder-width apart, and use your back muscles to row instead of just your arms.
The toughest part of paddle boarding is getting up, as it requires good balance. For beginners, it is recommended to be on a board that is at least 30 inches wide and 11 feet long. The bigger the board the easier it will be to balance.
For your first time, begin sitting or kneeling on the center of the board. When you feel ready to stand, hold the edges of your board and move one foot at a time to slowly place your feet where your knees were. Raise your chest first, and then extend your legs and stand up.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, parallel, and center on the board. Keep your toes forward, knees slightly bent, and back straight. Do not stand in a surfer stance as it is much harder to balance and row.
If you are on the water you should always have a personal flotation device on board with you! Always make sure to check the weather forecast before you leave too.
If you are paddling alone, stay within eyesight of other people in the area and tell somebody at home where you are going! Paddling can be as hard or difficult as you make it, so stay within your limits, search for calm water, and have fun!