Is Kayaking Hard? (Plus 18 of Your Other Kayaking Questions Answered)

Is kayaking hard? The short answer is that it depends.

There is more to kayaking than gliding effortlessly across a calm lake on a beautiful sunny day.

This article will discuss the art of maneuvering a kayak on the water and other factors like transporting and carrying your kayak.

Kayaking is different for everyone, and factors like weather and water conditions can significantly determine how hard it is to kayak.

Having the right equipment can make a huge difference in your experience too. So, is kayaking hard? Stay tuned and find out. 

How hard is kayaking?

Kayaking is not as hard as you might think. There is the process of getting in and out of the boat, which can be challenging. But, with a few simple guidelines, kayaking is pretty straightforward. Once you learn some basics, like paddling forward and turning the kayak, you are on your way.

Is kayaking hard for beginners?

Many beginners think kayaking is demanding, but it’s pretty easy to learn. However, there are a few things that you need to know before hitting the water.

For starters, you will want to learn how to paddle correctly. You may want to consider taking a lesson the first time out. In addition to paddling, an instructor can teach you the basics of kayaking safety and how to get back in a kayak if you end up overboard.

You may also want to practice getting in and out of your kayak on land before taking it out into open water.

A kayak can seem a little unstable at first, but kayaking is an enjoyable way to spend time on the water once you get the hang of it.

Kayaking takes time and practice, just like any other activity. But, if you put in the work, you will be paddling like a pro in no time.

Does kayaking require athleticism?

Kayaking does not require much athleticism. Body rotation and twisting your hips and core are the best ways to paddle. Use your arms to support the paddle.

Some people with greater upper body strength rely on their arms to dig in and power them through the water, which is not the most efficient way to paddle, and you can get tired quickly.

Do kayaks tip over easily?

Most recreational kayaks are pretty stable, but some are more stable than others. A wide, hardshell kayak is a good option for beginners on flat water.

Longer, narrower boats tend to be for speed and are easier to flip. You can read this article for more about kayak safety.

Inflatable kayaks are very stable because they are wide.

Getting in and out of your kayak

I touched on this briefly, but getting in and out of a kayak can be difficult for the first time. You might feel like the boat is unstable (squirrelly) as you step into and out of the kayak. However, as you get used to boarding the kayak, you will get more comfortable with the whole process. 

It also depends on what type of boat you are using, like a sit-inside kayak or sit-on-top kayak. You can stand up on some sit-on-top kayaks, and many people use these for fishing. However, that is a topic for another post.

Often, it’s easier to board a kayak by standing in the water next to your boat.

You can put one leg in the boat when standing in water up to your ankle or even your calf. Then you can sit down and swing your other leg in easier because your center of gravity is lower.

Yes, you will get some water in the boat, but that’s part of the adventure.

How To Stay Safe When You Are Kayaking

Safety is the top priority when you are on the water. Here are some ways to stay safe.

Things that might make kayaking hard

  • Tired arms and shoulders from paddling too much with your arms
  • Lengthy day of paddling – try to keep it short
  • Water and weather conditions

How to make kayaking more enjoyable

If it’s your first time or the first time in a while:

  • Choose a good spot to launch
  • Make sure you are ready for the water and weather conditions
  • Dress accordingly
  • Stick to calm water
  • Paddle with efficiency using your hips and core
  • Make sure you have the correct size of equipment

Other things to consider

Paddling across your favorite body of water is the easy part, but some factors can make your kayaking adventure harder.

Transporting your kayak

Transporting a kayak is often overlooked. Lifting a kayak onto your vehicle can be one of the most challenging parts of your day. Kayaks are heavy and awkwardly shaped, making them hard to lift over your head.

If you have a pickup or a trailer, it’s pretty easy to load a kayak. If not, you may have to invest in a roof rack, which can get expensive. However, there are other ways to transport your kayak, and you can read more about them here

Of course, an inflatable kayak is very easy to transport. You can put an inflatable in your trunk, and away you go, which is one reason why inflatable kayaks are so popular.

Launching your kayak

The word portage means carrying watercraft or cargo over land. Unless you are lucky enough to live extremely close to a body of water, you will have to carry your kayak from your car to the water. Launching a kayak can be difficult.

You might have the perfect spot to launch your kayak, like a boat ramp or a beach that is easy to access. Other times, launching a kayak is not so easy. You may encounter obstacles like sharp rocks or deep sand on your way to the water.

You may need a kayak cart to get your boat from the car to the water. You can read more about kayak carts here. However, some places I kayak have difficult launch points, even with a cart.   

Rent if you can

If you are trying to decide if kayaking is hard, try renting first. Renting a kayak is a great way to get familiar with the sport and the equipment. In addition, you can try different sizes of kayaks, and different types of kayaks (read more), including rigid, inflatable, sit inside, sit on top), etc. 

You can see if you like an inflatable kayak or a hardshell kayak and decide which one is the best fit. You might find that an inflatable is easier for you because it’s wider, as an example. Renting a kayak is a great way to learn how challenging kayaking is.

How Hard is Kayaking - Nice day kayaking on a calm lakePin

Weather conditions can make kayaking hard

Different weather conditions, like wind, rain, and cold, can make kayaking hard. The wind is tricky for a couple of reasons. First, the wind blowing in your face is an added element that is challenging, and you are fighting an uphill battle.

Wind from the side or swirling makes it challenging to keep your kayak going straight.

Other conditions like cold weather and rain can make for a miserable day on the water if you are not prepared, or even if you are well prepared. Weather conditions play a factor in how easy or hard kayaking is.

The right equipment

The right equipment can make or break your kayaking experience, and when you are just getting started, there is a lot to consider because there are so many choices when it comes to equipment. First, you need to choose the right kayak, paddle, life jacket, etc. 

There are different kayak types for different water bodies, like a lake, the ocean, or a not-so-friendly river. You want to make sure you have the right equipment (and the correct sizes) to make your trip fun, not hard.

Other Questions About Kayaking

What is the purpose of kayaking?

Who doesn’t love paddling a crystal clear lake on a warm summer day?

With that vision in your head, the primary purpose of kayaking is to enjoy your favorite waterways and get some exercise at the same time. However, there are many reasons why people love kayaking.

Some people love kayak fishing. Sneaking up on unsuspecting fish is a great way to spend some time on the water—other folks kayak for bird watching or wildlife photography.

Kayaking can also be a great way to relax and clear your mind.

Some folks enjoy kayaking on rivers and even tackling some whitewater.

Kayak camping is another popular activity among kayakers. Various camping kayaks allow you to take your gear and camp anywhere you can paddle.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to kayaking. No matter your reasons for kayaking, there is no wrong way to enjoy it.

Is kayaking an expensive hobby?

Like any hobby, kayaking can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want it to be.

Of course, you need some essential equipment to get started; a kayak, paddle, and a life jacket. There are many places where you can rent all the equipment to get a taste before you buy equipment.

If you only plan on kayaking a few times per year, it might be best to rent a kayak rather than buy one.

If you decide that kayaking is something you want to do more often, you may want to buy a kayak.

High-end kayaks can be very expensive, but many affordable options are also available. In addition, you can find some inexpensive kayaks and even cheap inflatable kayaks, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get started.

But don’t feel like you have to buy the most expensive model right away – start with something affordable and work your way up as your skills improve.

Is kayaking good exercise?

Kayaking is a great way to get exercise without even realizing it. You may not think of kayaking as a workout, but you will feel the burn after a few hours on the water.

You might be surprised that kayaking works your upper body and your legs and core. Paddling requires some upper body strength, but you also need to engage your lower body and core to stabilize the kayak.

Kayaking can be considered a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, which means that it is good for your heart and lungs and can help improve your overall fitness level.

If you are looking for a low-impact workout, kayaking is a great option. Kayaking is easy on your joints and muscles, and you can paddle at your own pace.

Should you kayak alone?

People ask this question a lot, but there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your personal preferences, comfort, and paddling skills. Most of all, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

Kayaking alone can be a great way to get some much-needed alone time, and it can also be a lot of fun. However, it is essential to remember that kayaking can be a risky activity, and there is always potential danger.

If you are new to kayaking, it’s good to start by paddling with someone else.

Kayaking with a partner can also help improve your skills and give you a chance to ask questions. Then, as you get more comfortable and adventurous, you can start kayaking alone more often.

If you go kayaking alone, let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back.

Is kayaking easier than canoeing?

Kayaking vs. canoeing is a pretty heated debate for avid paddlers. The ease of paddling a canoe vs. a kayak depends on what you are most comfortable with and what you want to get out of your paddling experience.

Canoes are typically wider and heavier than kayaks and have more space than kayaks. This space is excellent for hauling camping gear, kids, and pets but makes paddling a canoe less efficient than paddling a kayak.

Kayaks are more low profile and, with a double-blade paddle, tend to be more efficient. Whatever vessel you choose to paddle, it’s essential to practice and become efficient with your strokes.

It comes down to personal preference, so you should try both activities and see which one you prefer.

Check out our comprehensive article about the differences between a kayak and a canoe.

Is it easier to kayak single or double?

If you are a beginner, paddling a tandem kayak is a great place to start. You will have a chance to get used to being on the water and paddling with someone who can teach you the ropes.

Generally speaking, a tandem kayak is larger than a single kayak. Double kayaks are great for couples or friends who want to paddle together, but they can be more challenging to maneuver.

The average recreational single kayak runs about 8-12 feet long, and a tandem is about 12-14 feet long. A single kayak is easier to maneuver than a longer tandem kayak.

With a tandem kayak, you have twice the paddling power, so (in theory) it’s easier to kayak long distances. But, of course, this depends on how you share the workload.

The answer to this question is how proficient you (and potentially your partner) are at paddling.

Some folks love the social aspect of paddling tandem, while others, like my wife, like to stay as far away from me as possible when paddling (LOL).

Can you use a two-person kayak alone?

Yes, you can paddle a two-person kayak alone. However, many people buy a tandem kayak if they have a lot of gear or want to take their dog.

Tandem kayaks are great for kayak camping or longer paddling trips. In addition, if you are a larger person, a tandem kayak gives you plenty of room to spread out.

If you are paddling a tandem kayak solo, it’s best to sit in the back seat while you paddle. Pack your gear or your pooch upfront to distribute the weight evenly, which will give you the most control of the kayak.

Like the Sea Eagle 380x, many tandem inflatable kayaks have multiple seating positions, one specifically for paddling solo. However, I love paddling the SE 380x by myself. It gives me plenty of room to spread out and has a lot of storage space.

Where should the heavier person sit in a kayak?

If you are paddling a tandem kayak with another person, the heavier person should sit in the back of the kayak, which will help with weight distribution and make it easier to paddle.

If the weight is not distributed evenly, it can make the kayak unstable and harder to control. It’s harder to turn and maneuver the kayak when there is uneven weight distribution.

So, if you’re planning on kayaking with someone heavier than you, be sure to have them sit in the back. This way, the smaller person can sit up front, and hopefully, you can pack your gear in and around the kayak’s bow, so the weight is distributed evenly.

For a more enjoyable paddling experience, have the heavier person sit in the rear of the kayak.

Can you teach yourself to kayak?

The answer is yes. You can teach yourself to kayak. However, it’s best to take kayak lessons from a professional who can teach you to paddle correctly and safely.

If you decide to start paddling on your own and it’s a good idea to practice in shallow water. This way, you’ll understand how the kayak moves and how to position your body to make efficient progress.

Once you understand the paddling motion and how to maneuver the kayak, you can venture to deeper water. Remember, take it slow at first. Kayaking can be a strenuous activity, so don’t try to do too much too soon. Instead, build up your endurance gradually, and you’ll be kayaking like a pro before you know it.

Yes, it is possible to teach yourself to kayak. However, it is always good to take a class or go on a guided tour before hitting the open water, which will help improve your skills and allow you to ask questions.

What should you not do while kayaking?

It would be best if you did not do a few things while kayaking, like overloading your kayak and not wearing appropriate safety gear.

Overloading your kayak is one of the most common mistakes people make. Kayaks have a weight limit set by the manufacturer for a reason.

Adding too much weight to your kayak can increase the chances of tipping over and makes the kayak more challenging to maneuver.

Another thing to keep in mind is always wearing appropriate safety gear, such as a life jacket. Kayaking can be a dangerous sport if you are not prepared. Wearing a life jacket will help keep you safe in case of an accident.

Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return, which is vital in case of an emergency. If something happens and you don’t return when you are supposed to, someone should know your whereabouts to send help.

You can ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience by following these simple tips.

Can I wear sneakers kayaking?

No, you should not wear sneakers kayaking. Sneakers can get wet and weigh you down. It is best to wear proper shoes for kayaking that drain well, dry quickly, and have a non-slip bottom. Wearing the wrong shoes can make your kayaking experience uncomfortable and dangerous.

So, what are the best kayaking shoes? There is no one perfect answer to this question. However, there are a few things you should look for when choosing kayaking shoes.

Shoes should be water-resistant or waterproof, have a good grip, and be able to drain quickly. They also need to be lightweight, so they don’t add extra weight to the kayak.

There are several kayaking shoes on the market that fit these criteria.

How much does a kayak cost?

Kayaks can range from around $100 for a cheap inflatable kayak to thousands of dollars. The type of kayak, the material, and its features will all affect the price.

The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a kayak is to find one that fits your needs and budget. There is no point in spending a lot of money on a kayak if you’re not going to use it.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced kayaker who wants the best of the best, you’ll be willing to pay more for a high-quality kayak.

No matter your budget, there is a kayak out there that’s perfect for you.

How much does a kayak weigh?

A kayak’s weight can range from 25 pounds for a small inflatable kayak to well over 100 pounds for a fully equipped fishing kayak. The material and size of the kayak will affect the weight.

The kayak’s weight is something you should keep in mind when choosing a kayak. Remember you have to transport the kayak to and from the water, and you have to store the kayak, so weight is something to consider before you buy a kayak.

It’s not easy to toss a 100-pound kayak on a roof rack. So if you buy a heavy kayak, you might need to invest in a kayak trailer.

Can a kayak sink?

Yes, a kayak can sink, but it’s not very likely. Kayaks are designed to float, usually made to stay afloat.

Many inflatable kayaks also have multiple air chambers that help keep the kayak afloat even if one of the chambers is punctured.

Some hard shell kayaks have bulkheads, essentially sealed walls that run vertically from the top (deck) of the kayak to the bottom (hull). The wall creates an air pocket in the bow and stern of the kayak to help keep the boat afloat if you take on water. Bulkheads are typically located where the hatches are on the kayak.

A kayak might sink if it’s overloaded. Therefore, it’s essential to pay attention to the maximum load capacity of the kayak.

Is sit in or sit on kayak better?

This is a matter of personal preference. Some kayakers prefer sit-in kayaks because they offer more protection from the elements and can be easier to paddle in rough water.

Sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks are easier to get in and out, making them a good choice for beginners or kayakers who want to kayak in warm weather.

All things being equal, there is more storage space on a sit-on-top kayak due to the open deck area. So if you are kayak fishing, camping, or paddling with your dog, a SOT kayak is a great choice.

What’s the average length of a kayak?

Kayak length varies a lot depending on the kayak. Some kayaks are as short as 8 feet long, and others can be 16+ feet long.

Kayaks designed for traveling long-distance (like a sea kayak) are longer than your everyday recreational kayak. Most recreational weekend warrior kayaks are around 9-12 feet long.

The length of the kayak will affect how fast it is, how easy it is to maneuver, and how much storage space it has.

Does a kayak tip easily?

Kayaks are designed to be stable, but all kayaks can tip over. Therefore, it’s essential to know your kayak’s limits and paddle within them.

Some kayaks are more stable than others. For example, all things being equal, a sit-inside kayak is more stable than a comparable sit-on-top kayak. With a sit-inside kayak, you sit lower, so you have a lower center of gravity.

In a sit-on-top kayak, you sit higher up, like on a perch, so you are more prone to tipping.

Think of it like this. If you have one too many cocktails and are sitting on the ground, you are less likely to fall over than standing up.

Wider kayaks are also more stable than narrower kayaks. Sea kayaks and kayaks designed for paddling long distances are more narrow than your run-of-the-mill recreational kayak.

That’s why beginners and kayakers who want a stable kayak often choose a wide sit-on-top kayak.

Can I kayak if I can’t swim?

If you are a non-swimmer, you can still enjoy a day on the water. You just need to take precautions.

Firstly you need to have a life jacket that fits well, and you need to actually wear it.

Another way to prepare for kayaking if you don’t know how to swim is to take a kayaking lesson. A certified instructor can teach you proper paddling and even how to get back in a kayak if you end up overboard.

Another tip for kayaking is to paddle on a calm, protected waterway, like a lake or slow-moving river, if you can’t swim. Then, there is less chance you tip over and end up in the water with good conditions and no wind or waves.

Kayaking is relatively safe, and if you take the proper precautions, you can kayak even if you can’t swim.

Wrapping up

Is kayaking hard? It doesn’t have to be. With the right equipment and some basic knowledge, you can have a fun and relaxing day on the water. Kayaking can be a little intimidating at first, but it’s a great way to get outdoors and explore.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.