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Is Kayaking Hard? (Take an Inside Look)

Many folks interested in kayaking ask the question, “is kayaking hard”? The short answer is that it depends. In this article, we will discuss the actual art of maneuvering a kayak on water and factors like transporting and carrying your kayak.  There is more to kayaking than just gliding effortlessly across a calm lake on a beautiful sunny day.

Kayaking is different for everyone, and factors like weather and water conditions can play a significant role in determining 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. 

Is kayaking hard?

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.

Does kayaking require athleticism?

Kayaking does not require much athleticism.  Body rotation, twisting your hips, and core is the best way to paddle.  Your arms should be used to support the paddle. Some people with greater upper body strength tend to rely on their arms to dig in and power them through the water. This 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.  Inflatable kayaks are stable because they tend to be fairly wide. 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.

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.  As you get more and more 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.  That is a topic for another post.

A lot of times, it’s easier to board a kayak by standing in the water next to your boat.  When you are standing in water up to your ankle or even your calf, you can put one leg in the boat, and your center of gravity is lower.  Then you can sit down and swing your other leg in more easily.  Yes, you will end up with some water in the boat, but that’s part of the adventure.

Safety precautions when 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 right size 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, which makes it hard to lift up 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.  There are other ways to transport your kayak, and you can read more about that here

Of course, an inflatable kayak is very easy to transport. You can put an inflatable in your trunk, and away you go.  This 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. 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.  You can try different sizes of kayaks, different types of kayaks (read more); including hard, inflatable, sit inside, and 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 find out firsthand how difficult 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, cold, can make kayaking hard. The wind is tricky for a couple of reasons.  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 all around makes it difficult to keep your kayak going in the right direction, called tracking.

Other conditions like cold weather and rain can just make for a miserable day on the water if you are not prepared (or even if you are prepared).  Weather conditions definitely 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 think about.  There are so many choices when it comes to equipment.  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 right sizes) to make your trip fun, not hard.

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.

Steve, Founder of Paddle About
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.