Brand new to Kayaking and worried

I am planning a trip to Nova Scotia, Canada and I thought that trying kayaking for the first time would be fun. I ended up signing up for a group paddle with my husband. We are sharing a double. It said that no experience was necessary so that gave me a little confidence.

But when you looked online and researched kayaking a little more, I saw videos of people flipping over. I started to freak out a little. What is the chance of me flipping over and is it hard to flip right side up again? Should I not be trying this without more instruction?


– Last Updated: May-25-15 4:46 PM EST –

First thing to say is that you'll be wearing a lifejacket and have others there to help, so even if you do go in, it shouldn't be a dire situation.

Try to relax, and always keep your weight over the center of the boat. Keeping your hips loose will allow the boat to rock side to side to follow waves, without your upper body following out to the side (which would make the boat unbalanced).

Never try to support your weight with either your hands or your feet out on sides of the boat while getting in and out - keep them along the centerline, and your weight will then stay over the centerline and you will be fine.

If the waves are bigger, try to minimize the time your boat is parallel to the waves to minimize the chance of one carrying you over.

If you can do these simple things, the odds are very small that you will capsize, and I am sure they won't be taking you out into open water in any actual dangerous conditions.

First time
Doubles are wide and stable as sea kayaks go. That’s why outfitters use them for first-time paddlers. In calm to moderate conditions the odds of capsizing are very low.

In bad weather anything is possible, but a good guide won’t take you out in those conditions.

In sequence…
You are with a group, that means guides will be getting paid to keep you in safe water, and in a double. The double means that if the guides are doing their job at all the odds of your capsizing are practically nil.

Should the very unexpected occur, you will fall out of the boat and the guides will stabilize the boat and get you back into it on the water. All you and your husband have to do is follow orders. It takes just a few minutes as long as everyone does what they are told.

Given the location, you can expect that they will have you in clothing appropriate for chilly water. What that is does not have to be gone into here - the bottom line is that on guided tours they supply it.

I have an entirely different concern than of your capsizing, because on a guided tour that gets handled. My concern is that you have not even gotten near the boat yet and you have already been online finding things about kayaks that scare you. It sounds as though you have a fundamental fear of the water, or of swimming or of being on the water in a boat. Or maybe all of the above.

If this is the case - and I assume the tour is not cheap - I suggest that you get into a boat before you go so that you can actually enjoy the trip. Right now it sounds like you will be spending most of your time waiting for the catastrophe to happen rather than sightseeing.

More info
Which outfitter did you sign up with, and for which trip? There is a lot of knowledge on the board, and likely people who have taken the tour you’ve signed up for, or at least paddled the same water.

Also, I agree with all the prior posts, outfitters don’t put newbies into dangerous situations.

Thanks but no thanks
Thanks for your concern, but your assumption is off. I looked up general kayak videos just to learn more about it not to purposely find things that would scare me. I guess what scared me when I did watch those videos is imagining myself being upside down, attached in the kayak and not being able to get out from underneath it. I’ve been in a row boat before but that didn’t scare me. I am afraid of drowning but not afraid of being in a boat or in water. I’m not a strong swimmer but I feel comfortable in a life jacket.

To be honest I felt a little offended by your post since you don’t know anything about me and tried to assume things from what little I wrote. The first part of your comments were sufficient for what I needed.

Anyway, thank you to all of you who shed some light on what the experience will be like. And I do plan on enjoying the experience, not waiting for some catastrophe.

I signed up for a Friday night paddle with Eastern coast Outfitters.

Go and have a great time
the videos you saw not in the same conditions where your group will be going.

If the guide(s) are with a reputable outfitter, they will give any newbies some basic instructions, and they won’t be going out in rough or dangerous conditions

After your trip, please come back here and tell us how it went

Jack L

Nova Scotia

on Friday night. ah yes.

I have a Vancouver Island guidebook…stop here it reads…bar with hard liquor 1500 yards to the east.

But that’s the west coast.

I have followed tandems paddled by paddlers writing experience on the application form where you release the company and guides from all responsibility, as if they had any to start with.

In following seas, tide going our way home, the hulls are amazingly stable, self correcting, forgiving. On 4-5 foot swells.

You should get together with your partner and practice paddling before hand. This makes sense no ? Novice tandem paddlers whether experienced or not do the drunken spider paddle first exposure to…paddling.

I have a photo of two tandems entering the Fraser River outgoing tide current outside Smallpox Bay San Juan Island…doing the Spider…but the forum weenied out on it as ‘demeaning’


Second, buy a waterproof bag, fill with extra warm clothing. Buy neoprene booties and gloves if you expect a chill. Temperature discomfort is standard. A hat. Fleece balaclava ski designs rolled up into a watch cap are effective. Add munchies.

Weatherunderground has an almanac for your paddle area giving last year’s monthly reports for your week at NS

spider stroke


It’s a wset exit

– Last Updated: May-25-15 8:19 PM EST –

FWIW, what you cite as a concern is a very common one - "...being upside down, attached in the kayak and not being able to get out from underneath it."

The process of getting out after a capsize is called a wet exit, and there is plenty of information around about doing so successfully. I am not sure what you found in the way of videos where the getting out part wasn't talked about or shown by bobbing heads in the water.

The chance of flipping over is 100% and
the chance of coming back up without more training is 0% Paddling is a get-wet sport. You can never assume you are going to stay in the boat and paddle safely through.

try the horse’s mouth
Have you contacted the outfitter with your concerns? That would be the best place to start. They should know the likelihood that someone capsizes on one of their trips and what they do in the event a capsize occurs. They should also be able to tell you what safety training or paddling instruction you’ll get before hitting the water.

Also, lighten up on Celia. She makes a good point and I doubt she meant to offend you.

Most of all, have a great trip and enjoy the paddling! I’ve always wanted to go to Nova Scotia.

Do you have a source
for your statistic that the OP has a 100% chance of capsizing?

Sunset tour…
sounds lovely. I looked up ECO - you’re in very good hands. Quoting from the site:

“Each one of our guides has completed our intensive Guide Training program, which spans a period of 8 months. They are certified by Paddle Canada, and have been trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid and Leave no Trace Ethics.”

Plus, the guy who runs ECO is past VP of Paddle Canada, an instructor/trainer in whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, and whitewater canoeing, and was on the US National Team in whitewater slalom kayaking, placing fourth at the 1991 Worlds.

You’ll have a delightful time.

I can’t agree with this
I would never rely on either a guide or a group for my safety. I would only go with a group if I felt I had the skill to keep myself safe in the expected conditions. I’ve heard too many horror stories about guides making bad decisions and taking a mixed group into conditions that were beyond the skills of the lowest members on the theory that they would be saved by the others.

“The odds of your capsizing are practically nil.” Wow, what do you base that on?? That’s a dangerous sweeping statement.

“Should the very unexpected occur, you will fall out of the boat and the guides will stabilize the boat and get you back into it on the water. All you and your husband have to do is follow orders. It takes just a few minutes as long as everyone does what they are told.” Too many assumptions here about the OP’s fitness level and mental state and the conditions. Filambee, you should know that if you fall out of your kayak due to rough water, those same conditions will make it difficult for you to get back in.

You’re right to be super cautious and to ask questions.

I flip over on purpose
You should too. Make them work for their money.

No worries
I would go on a tour with this outfit with no hesitation - they look completely professional.

first timers
My wife and I started kayaking about 9 years ago in much the same setting as you describe. Those in charge of the group were competent and safety-alert. It was a great experience and we continue kayaking these years later. It has become an important and integral part of our life. You have made a smart decision to give it a try.

But be careful driving to the site; that’s the most dangerous part.

It’s not as scary as you think.

– Last Updated: May-26-15 12:40 AM EST –

The first tour that my wife and I ever went on was in a double. We had zero previous knowledge. It wasn't scary at all. The guide just gave us one basic warning concerning the double, "don't both lean over to the same side to look into the water.".

On the next tour we wanted to use single kayaks. This was when both of our first capsizes occurred, not due to rough condition, but instead due to my stupidity and my wife's concern for my safety. Let me explain: after the first trip we fell in love with the freedom and natural feeling of kayaking. I got really into studying techniques through YouTube and various websites. One of the techniques I was first interested in trying was edging the kayak. During the second tour I was in a wide 61cm sea kayak. I was attempting to edge it while also doing a reverse sweep stroke. I capsized myself in completely flat water. My wife, having heard the sound of me capsizing and seeing the hull of my kayak facing the sky, panicked and capsized herself in some crazy attempt to rescue me. Under the water, time seemed to move really slowly. I kept reaching for the grab handle on my sprayskirt, but as a new paddler I wasn't familiar with its location. I ended up grabbing a handful of the sprayedeck itself and gave it a hard pull. I fell out of the kayak and floated to the surface immediately. I saw my wife floating next to her kayak, we looked at each other and just started to laugh. The guide paddled back to us and said something like, "What? You capsized here? This water is flat!" He was also laughing. He then proceeded to instruct and help us to get back into our kayaks by doing an assisted rescue. We paddled on through the rest of the tour without incident.

Now, some 3 years later, I still get nervous about conditions before a trip. I worry about the wind and the waves, but in reality I have never capsized due to either of them. My wife capsized once due to the wake coming off of a speedboat in a narrow passage, but that is a fluke.

My point is that right now you are playing a mental game with yourself, much like I do before every kayaking trip. If you go on a few trips you will better understand what things you should really be concerned about and probably laugh at the nerves you are feeling now. I will admit that the first time a capsize happens it can be scary, but it's like everything else, it becomes less scary and intimidating after the first time. You probably learned to ride a bike and fell a few times, but you got back on and did it again. Kayaking is similar, but at least if you "fall" in a kayak it doesn't hurt. Just muster some bravery and go on the trip, your nervousness will go away as you experience all the great things that kayaking has to offer.