When you go out sea kayaking, you’ll be exploring coastlines and islands that can be reached no other way. You might choose to visit the dolphins, seals, seabirds and the many other creatures who live in or near the ocean. In fact, a dolphin or a seal may be so intrigued by you that they come close to investigate.
Beginners to Sea Kayaking
If you’ve used a fresh-water kayak before, you’ll notice a few differences right away. A sea kayak is longer, about 5-6 meters in length, and is more watertight — it also has many more sealed compartments to store gear, supplies and camping equipment.
When sea kayaking, you do not have to have a superb set of muscles — stamina is much more important than strength. A beginner with a few days of training will soon be able to paddle ten kilometres or so without tiring; paddlers with a bit more experience can expect to go several dozen kilometres.
Learning how to paddle a sea kayak is not difficult to learn, but the paddling movement will not be obvious to someone trying to learn on their own. Find a teacher who will show you the basic movements and proper safety techniques; such teachers can be found at sea kayaking clubs or at professional schools. You can start out in an indoor swimming pool before venturing out to sea.
Navigation is the next step. You’ll first learn how to use a magnetic compass and a simple seacoast map. Then you’ll learn about tides, reading marine charts, using a GPS, plotting a course and assessing sea conditions.
Most people who are new to sea kayaking worry most of all about capsizing and drowning. First of all, kayaks naturally float, so you won’t sink. Second, one of the first basic skills you’ll learn with a teacher right next to you will be how to right yourself if you flip over. Third, the cockpits of sea kayaks are designed for safe easy entry and exit. Fourth, part of the basic safety equipment for sea kayakers is a personal flotation device or PFD to keep you afloat.
What You’ll Need
The first item, of course, is the sea kayak. Don’t go buying one for your first outing or for your training. The school or club where you train will have kayaks you can borrow or rent. You’ll want to try out several different models before you buy one that suits you. The first one you’ll be using will likely be a wide flat-bottomed recreational model.
You’ll also need a kayaking paddle and a buoyancy aid or PFD. A professional will let you know the right length of paddle for you. A PFD must fit tightly, but still be loose enough to allow enough freedom of movement for paddling.
Avoid wearing cotton or denim for your lessons and outings in a sea kayak. A kayaking dry suit or a sleeveless wetsuit will be the perfect outfit, but you will able to get by with a thermal top under a light or medium fleece top, overlaid by a thin waterproof jacket. Trousers can be fleece of polyester — track suit pants work quite well. Wet suit boots will keep your feet warm. Do not wear a full wet suit — it restricts your movements too much to let you paddle correctly.
Cost of Sea Kayaking
Prices vary, but here’s what to expect:
- Tuition for a week of classes will be between AU$400 and AU$800.
- A new plastic sea kayak will cost about AU$1500 — you can get a hybrid kayak for AU$800.
- Clothing and accessories will cost you about AU$400-500.
- A car roof rack to carry your kayak will cost AU$60-150.
Where to go? It depends on the tides, the weather conditions and on what you’d like to do.