Beginner’s Guide To Ocean Kayaking

If you’re looking to get out in the water in something a bit smaller than your boat, then taking a kayak out into the ocean may be just the adventure you’re looking for right now.

Don’t worry if you’re new to sea kayaking because we’re going to give you a quick beginner’s guide below to help you get started.

From what it is to the gear you need to safety considerations, we’ve got everything you need to know in this guide.

Ocean kayaking can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s also an extremely exhilarating experience.

Keep reading to prepare for your adventure on the sea.

sea kayaking

Intro To Sea Kayaking

As you may already know, there are different types of kayaking and sea kayaking is one of those types.

While you do encounter waves out in the ocean on a kayak, we consider this to be flat water kayaking. Flat water kayaking is also what you do on a lake or river.

Sea kayaking is ideal for:

  • touring
  • discovering
  • going on multi-day trips

And this is something that you can do as a solo excursion, with a buddy in a tandem kayak, or with a group of friends in their own kayaks.

Essential Gear

If you don’t already own a kayak, then you want to make sure that you shop for a quality kayak designed for flat water. This means avoid white water kayaks!

The two types of kayaks you should consider are: touring kayaks and sea kayaks.

You’ll find that these two types of kayaks are easy to steer and relatively comfortable. And most sea kayaks have waterproof compartments for your gear.

For most kayakers, plastic kayaks are a better option than carbon fiber because they are quite durable and don’t damage easily.

The downside of a plastic kayak is that they move slightly slower in the water compared to the carbon fiber models.

And if you want a kayak that is easy to transport, then choose an inflatable kayak.

You’ll also have to choose between a sit-on-top kayak and a sit-in kayak.

Anyone kayaking in the ocean other than experienced paddlers should use a sit-on-top kayak.

The beauty of this style of kayak is that they are completely sealed, allowing them to be rolled back over if they capsize, without filling up with water.

This then enables the paddlers to easily climb back in and keep on going.

This is not possible with a sit-inside style of kayak that would be filled with water and need to be swam back to shore.

Only very experienced kayakers should take sit-inside kayaks into the ocean.

If your kayak does not come with the paddles, then you’ll need to purchase those as well.

The U.S. Coast Guard requires that you also wear a PFD while out on the kayak, though you should always wear one of these no matter what body of water you’re in.

Other gear that you may want to buy include:

  • sunscreen
  • dry bags
  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • safety whistle
  • a radio
  • paddle leash
  • extra paddle
  • kayak light
  • kayak anchor
  • water bottle & snacks
  • backrest
  • first aid kit
  • GPS and compass

Sea Kayaking Safety Considerations

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re planning an ocean kayaking excursion is that you should only go out on the water then the conditions are good.

This means don’t go out if there is going to be a storm or strong winds.

You don’t want to get swept out to sea or have other problems out there.

If the waves are over 2 to 3 feet you may want to consider waiting for a better day.

If you do decide to brave the surf, it is a good idea to study the wave pattern before you go.

The breaking waves almost always come in sets of 6 to 8 followed by a calmer period. This is when you want to make your break for it.

It’s also important that you are prepared for the worst with your PFD and other safety gear.

Larger boats pose a risk to your smaller vessel, so make sure that you are aware of other boats in the water and do your best to stay away from them

You never know if the boat will see you or not, which is why it’s a good idea to steer clear of them.

Before heading out into the ocean for the first time, make sure that you know the proper paddling technique. An instructor can help you with this.

You should also practice a self-rescue in the event that your kayak capsizes while you’re out in the ocean.

Plan your first trip close to the shoreline. In the event that you capsize, it’ll be easier to swim back to the shore if you find yourself unable to get back into your boat.

Learning how to kayak in rougher waters takes time and practice.

Always be aware of the water temperature before you set off on a sea kayaking trip.

If it looks to be quite cold, it’s recommended that you wear a wetsuit in case of a boat capsize.

Ocean kayaking can consume a lot more of your energy than you think, so remaining hydrated is of the utmost importance.

You can invest in a hydration pack which is designed to quench your thirst without hindering your movements.

Once you’ve planned out your ocean kayaking trip, tell someone (who’ll be remaining on land!) of the route you will be taking, how many people are going with you, and how long you plan to be gone for.

Once you’ve informed someone of your plan, stick with it. They’ll be able to find you more quickly in case of any emergencies.

ocean kayak with pfds

Launching Into The Surf/Shore Break

Always check to make sure that all the hatches are shut tight and the drain plug has been screwed in securely.

This will ensure that the boat does not start to take on water while you are out to sea.

When you are handling the kayak in the surf zone there are a few things to remember in order to keep the boat from hurting you or anyone else around you.

Most injuries are caused by a loose kayak getting pushed by a wave into someone who is standing between the kayak and the beach.

This can be avoided by simply making sure that you and anyone around does not get caught in that position, and also by holding on tight to the kayak so that it does not get away from you.

Launching and landing a kayak on a crowded beach should be avoided if at all possible.

Depending on the conditions, just getting into your kayak and out through the surf can be quite a challenge.

Launching your kayak directly from the beach can be difficult due to some waves breaking directly on the beach called ”shore break”.

The best method is to wade out about waste deep past the shore break.

When wading out through the surf you should always carry the kayak by the front handle so you can lift the front end over any oncoming waves letting the wave pass underneath the kayak behind you.

Here you can wait for a break in the waves and easily jump onto the kayak and quickly paddle out through the breaking surf.

The faster you paddle out of the surf zone, the less likley you are to get dumped by a big wave.

Once you have gotten outside of the breaking waves you can relax and enjoy your paddle.

Returning To Shore

While you are out to sea, everything on the beach will look the same, so be sure to pick out a landmark on the beach that you will be able to find on your way back.

Often, winds and currents can carry you far away from where you started without you even realizing it.

Another thing to be careful of is not to paddle out any further than you are capable of paddling back.

If you are going to open any hatches while on the water, be very careful not to flip the boat, or water will fill the hull and you will have no way to paddle back in.

When paddling back in, be sure to pick a good landing spot without many people in the water.

A loose kayak can be a very dangerous projectile to an unsuspecting swimmer.

You should always try to paddle in on the back side of a wave.

This does require some timing and patience, but if done correctly you will ride all the way onto the beach behind a surging wave of water.

If you do get caught in a wave be sure to jump off the kayak on the ocean side so the boat does not slam into you causing injury.

Once off the kayak, quickly pull it far enough up onto the beach so that you can rest without another wave carrying the boat back into the surf.

Final Word

Playing in the surf with a sea kayak is extremely exciting and rewarding.

It puts your paddling skills to the test and is highly addictive.

Work on building your skills and confidence slowly with like-minded paddlers.

Avoid pushing too far beyond your comfort zone to minimize the risk of injuries.

Seek out a qualified instructor and you’ll learn quicker than you can on your own.

This guide is meant to give you a good idea of the simple easy steps to ensure that you have a fun and safe time out on the water.

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