Two Kayakers cropped

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started Kayaking

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started Kayaking

14 December 2022

Kayaking is a fun and exciting sport to get into. It’s relatively simple to pick up the basics, making it an easy and enjoyable activity for beginners. But what do you need to know before you take the plunge?

Check out our guide on how to get into kayaking and everything you need to know to get started.


Kayaking is a water sport, where you move through the water in a narrow, low-to-water vessel, aided by a double-ended paddle. A paddler will normally sit within the vessel with their legs enclosed and their torso free to move. You can get other varieties of open kayaks where your legs are exposed.

There are several types of kayaking, including recreational (best suited for beginners), sport, and sea kayaking. However, the two main categories of kayaking include white water and flat-water kayaking.

Flat Water Kayaking involves paddling across fairly calm waters, like lakes, where you need to simply keep the boat flat across the water. This is the easiest type of kayaking for beginners to start with. If you enjoy this you might be interested in kayak tours where you get to experience the beautiful relaxing natural scenery of rivers and lakes.

White Water Kayaking, however, involves faster running ‘white’ waters, where you need to be confident in moving the kayak in multiple directions, edging, and leaning. This is a faster, more challenging, and more dangerous version of the sport, but many people find it exhilarating.

Kayaking has been around for a long time. It is approximated that the first ever kayak was made around 5,000 years ago by the Inuit and Aleut people, to travel across the water. These kayaks would have been made from anything the tribes could find, including wood, bones, and animal skins. Today, modern kayaks, including sea, white-water, and flat-water styles are most commonly made from fibreglass or plastic.


Kayaking is often mistaken for Canoeing; however, they’re two entirely different sports, although they might seem similar!

There are several differences between canoeing and kayaking; the main difference is, as mentioned, Kayaks are often closed-deck boats where paddlers sit within the boat and use a double-ended paddle. In contrast, Canoes are usually open-deck boats, where individuals sit or kneel, and use a one-bladed paddle.

Furthermore, when you head out in a canoe, the chances of you getting wet are far less than when you’re in a kayak. This is firstly due to a canoe often being far more relaxed, which means that canoeists are also less likely to need protective clothing like a helmet and can wear a lifejacket over a buoyancy aid because you won’t need to move quite as much.

Secondly, the shape of the canoe and the fact you’re seated higher up and further away from the water means, canoeists are more likely to get away with shorts and a t-shirt on warm days. Whereas people kayaking have a far higher chance of getting splashed so will need waterproof clothing.

Kayakers Out On a Lake


As a beginner, when you get started, you’ll need some essential equipment:

  • Kayak

Well… of course!

  • Paddle

You’ll need a double-ended paddle – they often come in sizes between 210cm and 260cm, so the taller you are, the longer paddle you’ll need.

  • Helmet

Even most advanced kayakers tend to wear helmets. They’re essential if you capsize to prevent head injuries.

  • Buoyancy Aid

These will provide plenty of flexible movement whilst ensuring safety out on the water.

  • Wet Shoes or Trainers

Wet shoes are best as they won’t get heavy if they get wet, but you’ll get away with trainers if you don’t have wet shoes to hand.

  • Wetsuit

It’s no surprise that when kayaking, you’re likely to get wet. So, keep yourself warm with a wetsuit.

  • Dry Bag

If you’re taking any valuables with you, make sure you’ve got a dry bag on board to keep them safe.

What to wear Kayaking?

Along with a handy wetsuit, there are other items of clothing you can wear when kayaking for the first time.

  • Cagoule

This not only keeps you dry in wetter conditions but can keep the wind off you on colder, breezier days.

  • Rash Vest

Having a rash vest underneath your wetsuit can prevent chaffing and keep you comfortable throughout your activities.

  • Sun Hat

Being out on the water means you’re also exposed to the sun – even on overcast days. So, keep a hat handy to protect yourself from the sun.

On warmer days, you’ll probably get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt rather than a wetsuit. But make sure to avoid materials like cotton that tend to absorb water and stay wetter for longer.


The easiest and safest way to learn to Kayak is to have lessons. You’ll be accompanied by an expert coach to teach you the correct way to Kayak and provide you with top tips and tricks to get the best out of your session.

You’ll find plenty of places that provide lessons for beginners near you!


  • Don’t kayak alone

Especially as a beginner, avoid kayaking alone in case of any accidents like capsizing or injury.

  • Learn how to keep safe

Before you go out for your first kayaking session, we recommend reading up on kayaking and how best to keep safe.

  • Choose the right boat

Not only are there different boats for the various types of kayaking; as mentioned above, but there are also different boats for weights and environments. So read up on what boat is best for you!

  • Wear a buoyancy aid

Safety first – make sure you’re wearing a buoyancy aid before you take to the water.

  • Make sure you bring a spare change of clothes

Even if it’s just a small splash, there’s no doubt you’ll get wet kayaking. So, make sure to bring a change of spare clothes for after to get warm and dry.

Here you have our tips and information on how to get into Kayaking. We also have plenty more adventurous activities to get involved with at the Army Cadets. Get started on your adventure with the Army Cadets and find a detachment near you.

Hero Kayaking Image by Rachel Claire:

Image of 4 Kayakers out on a lake by Rachel Claire: