Kayaking for Beginners: Getting Started

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As the weather gets warmer, so does the water – which means kayaking season is here. If you’re like me and love to spend a beautiful day on the water, yet you don’t really want the fiscal responsibility and maintenance of a boat, then kayaking is the hobby for you.

To get started kayaking, you first must snag the kayaking gear essentials.

Essential Kayaking Gear

Do you plan to own, rent, or borrow a kayak? If you plan to buy a kayak, you’ll likely need tools for maintenance, kayak storage equipment, and other types of kayak accessories. To make things simple, below is a list of the essential kayaking gear you need to start kayaking today.


Duh. To take up kayaking, the first thing you’ll need is a (drum roll please) a kayak. There are many different types of kayaks; each one is better for different things. For example, some are better for light fishing and paddling down a quiet lake, while others are meant for white water rapids or storming beaches.

As I mentioned, there are many different types of kayaks, so if you plan to purchase a kayak, you’ll first want to figure out exactly how you plan to use your kayak.

If you’re unsure as to which type of kayak is right for you, consider borrowing or renting.


Paddles are another no-brainer item that you’ll need to start kayaking. I could talk at length about which paddles are the best, I’ll save that for another day. All you really have to know right now about kayak paddles are that they are different than canoe paddles.

Kayak paddles are double-bladed and often designed for a single paddler who takes shorter strokes. You could get away with using a kayak paddle while canoeing, but I highly recommend that you NOT use a canoe paddles when kayaking.

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) | Life Jacket

Coast Guard approved PFDs are essential being that not only can they save your life, but they can also protect you against fines. Most maritime law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Natural Resources, or fish and game agencies can fine you for not having a life jacket.

Whistle or Noise Making Device

As a former boarding officer in the Coast Guard, I can’t speak for every body of water and every state’s laws. However, I do know that to be compliant with federal laws and regulations enforced by the Coast Guard, you do need a whistle or sound producing device while kayaking.

A sound producing device such as whistle can help save your life in the case of an emergency.

Think about Rose in the movie Titanic!

We could talk for days about some great kayaking equipment to make your paddling experience better, but we’re only going to focus on what you need to begin kayaking.

If you’re interested in some cool ideas for kayak accessories, check out our list of kayak accessory must-haves for this summer.

After you have the kayaking gear essentials, it’s time to make a list of everything you’ll need for the trip, and organize it.

Make a List & Organize

We talked about the kayaking gear essentials, now you’ll want to make a list of items such as a cooler, water, beer (drink responsibility), snacks, backpacks, and trash bags.

Organize your kayak gear

Next, lay out all of you kayak gear and equipment and neatly stow each piece of equipment. Place the more important items in easy to reach areas because one of quickest ways to end up in the water is to twist around while reaching for something.

To help with organizing your kayak equipment, purchase a dry bag sack. Dry bags are great in that they keep all of your stuff dry and they don’t take up any room inside of your kayak. Simply attach the bag strap to your kayak and drag your belongings. Remember to keep a small flotation device inside of your dry bag to help keep it afloat.

Are you an experienced paddler and want to share your knowledge with kayaking beginners? Leave a comment below and tell us what you find most helpful for beginners.

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