Chris Ladner has been paddling kayaks for 36 years, and he says that learning this old boating activity is intuitive.
“Fifteen seconds,” Ladner quipped when asked how long it takes a beginner to figure out how the long, narrow, covered water vessel with one or more cockpits works.
For novices who want to avoid missteps, the owner of the Vancouver-based Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre strongly recommends taking lessons.
“In a full-day program, an eight-hour program, you will learn about the equipment, how to control the kayak, what to do when it turns over,” Ladner told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Ecomarine offers lessons, sells kayaks and various types of equipment, and provides rentals as well as tours. It has three locations: Granville Island, English Bay, and Jericho Beach. The waters in these areas are good places to start.
It takes more than the boat and a two-bladed paddle to go kayaking, though. Ladner said the Canadian Coast Guard requires the following gear: a Transport Canada–approved personal flotation device or life jacket, a pump to bail out water, a whistle, a 15-metre line that can be used to tow the kayak in distress conditions, and a light for when travelling at night. This equipment comes with kayak rentals.
Another good location to learn how to kayak is Deep Cove in North Vancouver. Mike Darbyshire, assistant school director of the Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak Centre, is generous with basic tips for beginners.
“Places to avoid are areas where you have to do large crossings,”
Darbyshire told the Straight in a phone interview. “You want to be close to shore. You want to avoid areas where you can't land very often. You want to have places where you can stop and get out of the kayak.”
Darbyshire also said that some kayakers get shoulder, hand, or wrist injuries. The best way to prevent these is to warm up by stretching and starting slow.
According to Transport Canada, kayaking is appealing because it brings people in close contact with nature, particularly wildlife. Because a kayak has a shallow draft, it can move quickly and quietly close to shore.
The federal body has drawn up a code of ethics for kayakers, which includes a number of points that deal with wildlife. For example, never go within 200 metres of wild animals. Cut noise and speed near animals. Never circle or chase wildlife. Move away if there are signs of nervousness or panic in animals. Avoid abrupt changes in direction, as this can disturb wildlife and may surprise other boaters as well.