Getting started; boats, paddles, and other equipment. The best place to get the feel of a narrow, tippy kayak is in a pond or a pool with a knowledgeable instructor. Local paddling clubs, the American Red Cross, and YMCAs often sponsor courses in kayaking. Always wear a helmet (a lightweight motorcycle helmet will serve), sneakers, and a Coast Guard-approved life vest. You should be a strong swimmer.
A wide range of kayaks exists to serve a range of kayaking activities. For example, the slalom kayak, with a wide, flat bottom and rounded sides, is easy to maneuver through tight turns and into and out of eddies. A down-river kayak-longer, deeper, and with sides sloping to a V-is faster but less maneuverable. For flatwater touring, there are one- and two person kayaks that are still wider and longer and will carry a heavier load.
You slip into a kayak like a pair of pants. First, you fasten an elastic spray skirt around your waist. Then you slide in feet first (have someone steady the kayak if it’s your first time). Place your feet against the adjustable braces with knees slightly bent and pressed against the underside of the deck. Wedge your back firmly against the seat back. Finally, snap the hem of the spray skirt over the cockpit coaming tight enough to keep the water out if you roll over, but not so tight that you can’t bail out in an emergency.
The double blades of the paddle are set at 90 degrees to each other so that as one blade leaves the water, it turns, reducing wind drag, while the other blade enters. The basic strokes-forward, backward, the draw (sideways), and the brace (to steady the boat) are similar to canoe strokes.