Is Kayaking Hard? Everything You Need To Know

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If you’re completely new to kayaking it’s natural to wonder how difficult it can be. Kayaking is much more than just traversing water on a small vessel, it can be easy and recreational or pose a challenge to even the sturdiest adventurers. 

So, if you’re a newbie wondering if kayaking is too hard, or a veteran wondering how difficult it can be, this guide will give a rundown of everything you should know.

Key Takeaways

  • Kayaking is a scalable activity that can be easy or hard depending on the conditions and preferences of the kayaker.
  • It’s easy for beginners who want to enjoy recreational kayaking on calm waters with minimal equipment and skills.
  • It’s harder for advanced kayakers who want to challenge themselves on whitewater rapids, ocean waves, or long distances with specialized kayaks and techniques.
  • Kayaking requires knowledge and preparation for different environments, weather, navigation, and self-rescue skills.
  • It’s a fun and accessible outdoor activity that can suit anyone’s interests and abilities

Kayaking Is as Easy or Difficult as You Want It To Be

The truth is kayaking is one of the most scalable activities you can do. If you’re a beginner then you need not worry, kayaking is simple to learn and doesn’t require great skill or fitness.

So in answer to the question is kayaking hard? The answer is no. Not unless you want it to be.

Recreational kayaking is fun for almost anyone, from the elderly to young children, doesn’t need you to obsess over equipment, and you can learn the basics very quickly. 

So, when is kayaking hard? What circumstances could lead to kayaking being too challenging, or too difficult to enjoy?

The simple answer is that straying from the safety of a calm lake or the leisurely paddling of calm rivers can make for a more challenging experience. Challenging trips – like sea kayaking in a coastal region, require good paddling technique, upper body strength, a good amount of skill, an intimate knowledge of your equipment and environment, and a developed knowledge base. 

In this scenario, a beginner to intermediate paddler would find kayaking hard (and it’s therefore probably not recommended). 

However, for the average person, kayaking is easy to get into and could be argued as one of the easiest adventure activities to get into. 

Here’s a summary of everything you need to know about kayak difficulty: 

  • Kayaking is one of the easiest outdoor activities to get into for beginners. 
  • Advanced kayaking requires more skill and more knowledge, but most recreational kayakers do not need this level of skill and knowledge. 
  • While the knowledge and skill requirements go up, there is nothing that will bar any beginner from getting into advanced forms of kayaking. 

Why Kayaking Can Be Easy

When looking at any potential activity there are a bunch of factors to consider. Most of this comes down to what you need to know, how much it’s going to cost you, and how challenging it’s going to be physically and mentally. 

Fortunately, kayaking goes very well with beginners, the basics are simple, the demands can be low, and the equipment is accessible. 

Basic Paddling Technique Is Easy

Like any activity or sport, there are basic techniques to learn with kayaking. These basic skills branch off to more complex techniques. However, you don’t need to worry much about your technique unless you plan to enter competitive divisions or races. 

Basic paddle strokes that you can learn in a single kayaking lesson are all you need to know to operate most recreational kayaks. You can learn a basic forward stroke in 20 minutes, and in a few hours, you might know everything you need about recreational kayaking. 

There are several paddling techniques you can learn about, and if you want to learn more, check out this comprehensive guide on how to paddle a kayak. 

Beginner Kayaks Can Be Cheap

If you’re concerned about having to pay a small fortune for a good kayak then you need not worry, a basic recreational kayak should cost less than $100 and you should never pay more than a few hundred. 

An inflatable kayak can also be a fantastic choice for a beginner or anyone who wants to stick to recreational kayaking. They are easy to store, they’re made from materials that are surprisingly sturdy and they’re very stable. 

Another point in your favor as a beginner is if you don’t intend to kayak frequently you can just rent a recreational kayak which should keep costs to an absolute minimum. 

Compared to most outdoor activities, kayaking can be a cheaper option, so long as you aren’t hoodwinked into paying for high-end gear that you don’t need as a beginner. 

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Kayaking Doesn’t Have To Be To Strenuous

Another concern that beginners have is that kayaking will be physically demanding, and they’ll hit dry land feeling like they’ve just fought a battle with the sea or the rivers. 

It would be false to say that kayaking is never physically strenuous, but if you’re taking it easy in warm weather on a gentle lake or calm river, you’ll find it feels more relaxing and stimulating. 

There’s no need to turn kayaking into a grueling physical challenge, you can scale your activity up or down as you like. This is one of the primary benefits of kayaking, it’s infinitely challenging, but if you want to take it easy, you absolutely can

If you find that you’re exhausted even though it doesn’t seem like conditions are challenging, a couple of kayak lessons can work wonders for technique, and you’ll feel like you’re almost gliding across the water. 

Recreational Kayaking Is Very Safe and Accessible

It goes without saying, but recreational kayaking is equivalent to walking in a park. While an experienced kayaker might put a lot of thought and preparation into a trip, including packing camping gear, most beginners don’t need to worry about this. 

Most recreational zones will be full of veteran kayakers who can help you or have local staff who can inform you of any potential weather hazards. 

The only legal requirement for equipment is a personal flotation device

Why Kayaking Can Be Hard

Now, while kayaking is easy and accessible for beginners, things do change a little once you get into the more advanced layers of kayaking. 

The knowledge and skill base increase significantly when you move from beginner to intermediate. However, it’s worth pointing out that not everyone will make this leap – many are just fine with leisurely and easy recreational kayaking. 

It also should be understood that kayaking is never so difficult that it will stop beginner kayakers from getting into harder forms of kayaking if they want to. 

Advanced Paddling Skills Take Time to Master

Kayaking is the definition of simple to learn and hard to master. The basic paddling moves and techniques can take you far in a good majority of cases. 

However, handling sea kayaks in challenging ocean terrain is entirely different from kayaking down a lazy river. Your skills have got to be good here, and it can take some time to develop the skill and confidence you’ll want if you’re a raw beginner. 

Developing your paddling motion will show you how much of your upper body musculature gets used and will ramp up the physical challenge. However, this is the only way to be able to go long distances in challenging conditions. 

If you plan to go off the beaten path, you’ll need to develop some navigational skills – if you’re in unfamiliar territory, this can help you out of potentially sticky situations. 

Recovery Skills Can Be Intimidating for Beginners

Self-rescue skills can be intimidating for most beginners – they often look scarier than they are. A lot of self-rescue skills involve going under water, but these are advanced maneuvers and you don’t need to worry about mastering them early on. 

More Advanced Kayaks Are Expensive

Like cars, there are different types of kayaks and as you get more advanced, choosing the right kayak becomes increasingly important for the best experience. 

This is especially true for stuff like whitewater kayaking – these specialized kayaks are  designed for the conditions you’ll face, namely fast-flowing rivers and obstacles you can potentially crash into. 

The same goes for ocean kayaks or touring kayaks. It’s fair to say though that if you’re looking at or interested in these types of kayaks, you’re aware of the price increase. 

Adventure Kayaking Is Not as Accessible 

There are many different forms of adventure kayaking; some of the most common are whitewater kayaking and ocean kayaking. 

Adventure kayaking isn’t something you should necessarily drop into without some idea of what you’re doing. While whitewater kayaking often has graded rivers, what you have access to depends on what you have in your location. 

Ocean kayaking is similar. If you’re staying close to the shore, it’s not as much of an issue, but if you intend to go out from the shore and explore, then there are more things to be aware of. For example, beginners underestimate just how quickly the weather can change on the ocean. 

The skill, knowledge, and preparation requirements jump up even more if you’re solo kayaking in challenging conditions. 

So, is Kayaking Hard?

You can make kayaking easier or more difficult depending on what you want out of the activity. There’s no simple answer to the question, ‘is kayaking hard’ – because this depends on multiple factors.

The key takeaway is that kayaking can be hard – but it can also be very easy, and is accessible for beginners of all stripes. In fact, it’s probably one of the easiest outdoor or adventure-style activities to get into.

Thank you for reading, and if you found the information here helpful, please comment or share. 

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