6 Mistakes Beginner Kayakers Make: Avoid it!⚠️ | Kayaks Hub

Discover the common pitfalls and mistakes made by beginner kayakers. Learn how to avoid errors in equipment choices, paddling techniques, and safety measures for a smooth and enjoyable kayaking experience. Navigate your way to success on the water with insights into the most common blunders made by those new to the world of kayaking.


If you’re setting out on a kayaking adventure as a beginner, you’re in for an exciting and rewarding experience. However, to ensure your time on the water is both safe and enjoyable, it’s crucial to avoid some common mistakes that many novices make. Shall we dive into the nuisance of mistakes done by beginner kayakers?

1- Upside Down Paddle – A Silly Blunder

When you’re new to kayaking, excitement can run high, and sometimes, even the most straightforward things can go awry. One such blunder that often occurs is using your paddle upside down. It may seem like a minor mistake, but it has more consequences than you might think.

To put it bluntly, paddling with an upside-down paddle is akin to wearing your shoes on the wrong feet. It doesn’t just look odd; it hinders your performance on the water. Let’s break it down.

A person kayaking a yellow kayak

Why Does It Matter?

Kayak paddles are designed with precision, and their shape is no accident. When you take a stroke with the paddle right side up, it’s engineered to distribute the force evenly on both sides of the blade. This even distribution prevents fluttering and provides a smooth, stable pull through the water.

However, when you use the paddle upside down, this balance is thrown off. You won’t get the same distribution of paddle power on the top and bottom parts of the blade. The result? You’ll likely experience some annoying flutter, even if it’s subtle. Over time, this can affect your efficiency and control on the water.

How to Avoid the Blunder

Spotting an upside-down paddle is easy. Most paddle brands have logos on both sides, and if you can’t read the logo because it’s upside down, your paddle is as well. A quick flip, and you’re back on track.

In kayaking, appearances matter, but performance matters more. So, not only will you avoid looking like a doofus, but you’ll also enjoy a smoother, more efficient ride by using your paddle the right way.

2- Drip Rings: Don’t Overlook Them

Beginner Kayakers! let’s talk about another seemingly insignificant yet crucial element in your kayaking setup – drip rings. These unassuming accessories might not get much attention, but they serve a vital purpose that you shouldn’t underestimate.


The Role of Drip Rings

Drip rings are designed to intercept the water that runs down your paddle shaft after each stroke. Without them, that water would continue its journey right to your hands, arms, and sides, leaving you shivering and uncomfortable. Moreover, a drenched and shivering kayaker doesn’t exactly exude confidence on the water.

But here’s a key point to remember: while drip rings are essential, don’t use them as landmarks for your hand placement on the paddle shaft. They aren’t meant for that purpose. Using them as guides for your hands is a surefire way to ensure that water flows directly to your skin, making you look like, you guessed it, a doofus.

The Fix

Ensure that you stay dry and comfortable, slide the drip rings down the paddle shaft until they’re just above the place where you grip the paddle. This way, they’ll effectively catch the water, preventing it from reaching your hands and causing the dreaded kayak shivers.

3- Be Prepared to Flip: Safety First

One of the most critical aspects of kayaking, especially for beginners, is being prepared for the possibility of flipping over. Even if you believe the chances of capsizing are low, being ready for it can make a significant difference in your overall safety and confidence on the water.


Always Wear a Life Jacket

First and foremost, always wear a life jacket (personal flotation device or PFD). A life jacket sitting in your kayak or stowed away isn’t going to help you in an emergency. It should be on your body, properly fastened, and snug. Paddle-specific PFDs are designed with comfort and functionality in mind, so investing in one is a smart choice if you plan to spend significant time on the water.

The reason for this is simple: accidents can happen. Even experienced paddlers can find themselves unexpectedly in the water due to various factors, like sudden weather changes, equipment malfunctions, or misjudging challenging water conditions. When that happens, having a PFD on ensures you remain buoyant and safe.

Dress Properly for Immersion

While it’s crucial to wear a PFD, dressing appropriately for immersion is equally vital, especially in situations where the air temperature is warm while the water is cold or cool. This scenario can catch many novice kayakers off guard.

Imagine being comfortably dressed in just a t-shirt on a warm day, but suddenly finding yourself in cold water. Hypothermia becomes a real risk in these conditions. To avoid such a predicament, you must be prepared for immersion, even if you don’t plan on intentionally getting wet.

See Also | Is Kayaking Safe for Non-swimmers?

Consider investing in a wetsuit or neoprene gear suitable for the water temperature. These materials provide insulation, keeping you warm and safe during unexpected swims. Remember, it’s not about being ultra-comfortable; it’s about being prepared to survive in cold water if the need arises.

Protect Your Valuables: Dry Bags and Waterproof Cases

Aside from clothing and safety gear, think about items that can’t get wet, like your wallet, keys, or smartphone. It’s tempting to keep them in your pockets or haphazardly stowed in your kayak, but this can lead to disaster if you capsize.

A simple solution is to use dry bags or waterproof cases. These keep your essential items dry and secure. Clip them into your kayak so they don’t float away in case of a flip. It’s a minute investment that can save you a lot of trouble and maintain your image as a prepared and responsible kayaker.

4- Footwear Matters: Say No to Flip-Flops

In the realm of beginner and even experienced kayakers, one fashion faux pas that can lead to discomfort and accidents is the choice of footwear. Specifically, the cardinal sin is wearing flip-flops while kayaking.

shoes on beach for kayaking

The Pitfalls of Flip-Flops

Kayaking often involves getting in and out of the water, navigating rocky or uneven terrain, and carrying your boat. All of these activities demand appropriate footwear. Flip-flops, with their thin soles and lack of support, are ill-suited for these tasks.

Imagine trying to traverse a rocky shoreline or dealing with slippery terrain while wearing flip-flops. It’s a recipe for disaster, not to mention the potential for painful stubbed toes or injuries. Plus, they offer minimal protection from sharp objects lurking beneath the water’s surface.

Invest in Water-Friendly Shoes

Instead of flip-flops, opt for best water-friendly shoes or sandals designed for kayaking and water activities. These footwear options typically have sturdier soles with better grip, which can provide stability and protect your feet.

For kayakers, water shoes or booties are excellent choices. They come in various styles and thicknesses, suitable for different water temperatures and conditions. Water shoes with proper grip and support can help you maneuver comfortably in and out of your kayak, enhancing your overall experience.

5- Stay Safe: Paddling and Safety

Beyond the basics of choosing the right kayak and gear, understanding essential safety measures is crucial for beginners and novice kayakers. Safety should be a top priority to ensure a enjoyable and secure kayaking experience.

Online Safety Courses: A Must-Have

One valuable step in becoming a responsible kayaker is taking an online safety course. Organizations like the American Kayak Association (ACA) offer comprehensive online paddling safety courses that cover essential topics, including:

  • Navigation: Learning how to read water, understand currents, and plan routes.
  • Rescue Techniques: Know how to rescue yourself and others in case of a capsize or emergency.
  • Weather Awareness: Understanding how weather conditions can impact your paddling trip.
  • Safety Gear: Identifying and properly using safety equipment, such as PFDs, flares, and communication devices.

These courses are often free or available at a minimal cost and can be completed at your own pace. Investing the time to learn these critical skills will not only enhance your safety but also boost your confidence on the water.

Practice Makes Perfect: Getting Back On the Kayak

One mistake that both beginners and experienced kayakers sometimes make is not learning and practicing how to get back onto their kayak from the water. It might seem like a simple task, but in reality, it can be challenging, especially if you’ve never tried it before. For the purpose of good knowledge and enhancing your kayaking skills, I would suggest you to read a guide book on kayaking skills and rescuing.

Before heading out for a paddling trip, take the time to practice getting back onto your kayak from the water. It’s essential to know whether you can do it comfortably and confidently. This knowledge impacts the decisions you make while kayaking.

If you’re unsure about your ability to re-enter your kayak from the water, it’s wise to stay close to the shore during your paddling adventures. This way, you can swim to safety if needed, and your companions can assist in retrieving your kayak. Being prepared for such situations is key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience.

6- Launch Like a Pro: Avoid Bridging Your Kayak

Properly launching your kayak can make a significant difference in your overall kayaking experience. Many beginners and novices inadvertently make the mistake of bridging their kayak when launching, which can lead to instability and even an unplanned dip in the water.

two persons kayaking

The Pitfall of Bridging

Bridging occurs when you attempt to launch your kayak from a slope leading into the water, and one end of the kayak is buoyant while the other rests on the ground. This creates an unstable situation, as the center of the kayak—the area providing stability—is suspended.

When you try to get into your kayak in this position, it’s easy to lose your balance, resulting in an unexpected flip into the water. Not only does this look less than graceful, but it can also disrupt your paddling adventure and cause unnecessary stress.

The Right Approach: Parallel Launch

To launch your kayak smoothly and safely, always aim to keep your kayak parallel to the shoreline. Instead of attempting to get into your kayak from a bridged position, pull your kayak directly into the water alongside the shore.

By doing so, your kayak remains stable, making it easier to enter without wobbling or tipping over. This simple adjustment can save you from a potential mishap and ensure that your kayaking adventure starts on the right foot—literally and figuratively.

Key Takeaways

1. Using the paddle upside down affects performance; recognize the logo for correction.
2. Position them correctly to keep hands dry, but don’t use them as hand placement guides.
3. Always wear a life jacket, dress for immersion, and invest in safety education for a secure kayaking experience.
4. Use dry bags to secure essentials and prevent water damage.
5. Opt for water-friendly shoes instead of flip-flops for stability and protection.
6. Master re-entering your kayak from the water for emergency preparedness.
7. Avoid bridging your kayak; launch parallel to the shoreline for stability and a safe start.


Embarking on your kayaking journey is an exciting venture, but avoiding these beginner kayak mistakes is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience. Using your paddle correctly, paying attention to drip rings, staying prepared for a capsize, choosing appropriate footwear, mastering re-entry skills, and launching your kayak correctly will set you on the path to becoming a confident and skilled kayaker. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be gliding smoothly through the water with ease and confidence.


Common injuries in kayaking include muscle strains (especially in the shoulders and back), blisters on the hands from repetitive paddling, and minor cuts or bruises resulting from capsizing incidents. Proper paddling techniques, safety gear, and awareness can help minimize these risks.

While kayaking can be accessible for beginners, it does have a learning curve. Basic paddling is relatively easy to pick up, but mastering advanced techniques and understanding water dynamics may take time. Taking a beginner’s course and practicing in calm waters can help ease the learning process.

Sit-on-top kayaks are generally recommended for beginners due to their stability and ease of use. These kayaks are forgiving if you capsize and provide a comfortable learning platform. Shorter and wider kayaks are also preferred for their stability.

To stay safe, always wear a properly fitting life jacket, familiarize yourself with water safety rules, check weather conditions before heading out, and inform someone about your plans. Taking a kayaking safety course can provide essential knowledge on rescues, navigation, and emergency procedures.

While it’s generally recommended for beginners to kayak with a partner or in a group, experienced kayakers may choose to go solo. If kayaking alone, inform someone about your plans, wear a personal flotation device, and choose calm waters. As your skills grow, you can gradually explore solo kayaking adventures.


  • David Graham

    Meet David Graham, an avid kayaker based in Florida, USA, who has been mastering the art of kayaking since 2013. As a former trainer with three years of experience, David has shaped the skills of numerous kayakers, sharing his passion for the sport. Living in a state known for its diverse waterways, his expertise and commitment to kayaking go beyond personal pursuits, making him a valuable contributor to the local kayaking community.

    View all posts