Kayaking With A Newbie- A Guide’s Checklist

It’s almost time to start thinking about dusting off our kayaks and going for a paddle. I thought I would give you all some good information we have learned over the years about taking a newbie kayaking with you. I remember clearly all my fears as a newbie and think this could benefit many others.

I will never forget the first time my husband begged me to try kayaking with a friend of his. I was not willing and said I never would be. So he took our son and the three of them went. Our son tipped over the first paddle stroke he took and they arrived home raving about the experience. I just shook my head in mom fashion and said I was glad they had a good time. End of discussion!

However, that was not the end of my husband trying to get me to go. It’s all I heard about, everyday, for days on end. Then one night he arrived home from work and waited patiently for my last child to be picked up and my work day to be over. He told me to go change, and get in the truck, we were going kayaking with his friend and he was not taking no for an answer. I spoke my mind, said I was not going and that was that. Well, about 20 minutes later I found myself in the truck, not speaking to my husband and very unhappy. I finally just gave in, because I figured it would just be easier. I assumed I would hate it and I would never have to hear about it again. Little did I know how wrong I was.

We bought our first two recreational kayaks that next weekend. One more a few weeks after that. One year after having those, we bought our first two whitewater kayaks and a year after that I purchased my whitewater kayak. Which left us with two recreational kayaks for friends to join us. And we sold the third recreational kayak to my brother.

We wasted no time learning the ropes of this sport. We took a rescue class in a pool setting during winter one year, we purchased all the proper gear and also made sure to read up on the rivers we wanted to kayak. We knew this would all be very important if we ever wanted to have friends join us. A great book we find very useful for our area is:

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Since then, we have taken friends and family along for some paddling fun. Many really have no idea what to expect and others are into trying everything the first time in a kayak. When you are the one guiding the trip of the day,  there are a few important rules you should follow. Like everything in life, their first time in a kayak can be whatever they wish it to be. It can be an adventure, a wild ride, a relaxing paddle, a way to connect to nature or quite the workout. However, it can also be a terrible, dangerous, miserable experience if they are not prepared for what could happen on a river in a kayak. That is where you, as the “guide” comes into play. A good guide can really make or break any trip. Here are some important pointers as a guide of a newbie:

#1 Check that everyone has the proper gear before leaving home. Examples:PFD, helmet, spare keys, water, sunscreen, portage shoes, snacks etc. Also, make sure their PFD fits them.

#2 Let someone (neighbor, friend, parent) know what river you are doing, from what point to what point and when you expect to return home. Just in case!

#3 Get the current weather forecast. If possible, try and take a newbie on a nice day. It’s not so cold and miserable when they decided to swim instead of paddle:)

#4 Give details of the river they will be paddling. Some of the most common questions for us when we are guiding a trip is: How do we portage? How many portages are there? Do I have to portage? Is there a place to change? What should I wear? (These last two are normally asked by females) Letting them know what to expect always seems to help.

#5 Stress proper hydration/nutrition throughout the day. Tell them to bring water and somehow secure it into their kayak. Remind them throughout the day to drink. You would be surprised how many people forget to drink. Also, ask them often how they feel. Would they like to stop for a snack? Are they comfortable?

#6 Assist them on paddle strokes and the feel of the kayak upon entering the water. Before you even start paddling, make sure they understand how to hold the paddle, what strokes do what, make sure their seat is adjusted correctly, and they are comfortable with their kayak. Making adjustments mid river is not always easy or possible for that matter.

#7Make sure you take them to a river you are familiar with. I cannot stress this enough!!! They are depending on you to know what is coming next. Especially with a river that has rapids. If they change their minds when they start to hear the rapid around the corner, you know where and how much time you have to get them out to portage before they are committed. Be a knowledgeable guide about the river you are on.

#8 Don’t push them too hard. Ask if they are tired and would like a break. Remember you paddle often, they do not. If they want to try something new, let them. On the other hand, if they need to think about it for awhile or watch someone else first, let them do so.

#9 Stress what to do in a roll over. This is usually the scariest thing for newbies, but let’s face it, it sometime happens. Tell them exactly what to do. Tell them in what position to float downriver, never to get between their overturned kayak and a rock and to swim to the rivers edge when possible. Explain to them how to wet exit their overturned kayak.  Remember it’s all about priorities. Rescue order should be people, boats, equipment.

#10 Bring First Aid. This is what dry bags are for. Accidents happen. You don’t need much, but when you need it, you will be glad you had it. We have used our first aid a couple times. From simple bandaids to gauze wrapped with duct tape. (Yes, duct tape! Holds great in water)

These are the basics for taking a newbie kayaking. Just keep in mind, a great guide can really make a great trip. If you want your family and friends to join you, show them you can be fun and knowledgeable all at the same time.

Safe and Happy Paddling Everyone!

 

 

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