First Time Out -Kayak-Questions

Decided to finally give Kayaking a try. My buddies father was into it for a while, gave it up and gave him 2 kayaks w/ gear. They’ve been in his crawlspace for 2 years now, so I borrowed one. It’s a 11 ft Dagger Rescue (red with bubble graphics). I couldn’t fit in the smaller whitewater style kayak so I’m assuming they come in various sizes.

A few newbie questions as I have not done any reading or searching on this sport, I apologize, no time in my life–wedding in 58 days and counting!

It seems like I barley fit in this thing, I’m 6’2" and it has adjustable foot rests (metal on metal geared/toothed track) which I adjusted out as far as they will go. Are my feet supposed to be straight up and down, or can the be angled outward slightly (they don’t physically fit straight up and down). Knees slightly bent?

I’ll be trying it out today on the Chattahoochee river in Roswell Gad, no real whitewater and I’ll just stick to the calm areas, should I even use the rubber boot that goes around my body and the opening, or does it slow you down if you need to get out quick (flip over).

If someone could point me to a write-up on learning to kayak or something I would greatly appreciate it!



Find a place to get some lessons, get proper clothing before you go out (NOT cotton) since your water is still probably in the 50’s at best, and don’t even think about wearing the skirt (the thing you called the rubber boot) until you have practiced flipping over and pulling it off in a safe and guided environment.

I mean this with the best of intentions - but posts like this scare the heck out of anyone who has taken the time to learn to do this sport with safety in mind.

I was going to wear my two piece wetsuit. I understand your concern about the lessons. I won’t be alone, my friends will be in my scanoe with me and could recue me if need be.

But, regardless, I’m the one that has to exit the kayak, I don’t see how the instructor could do that for me.

Feet perpendicular, Pigeon-toed?

Well, you will…
remember hindsight is 20/20…so with people telling you (and they have the xp to do so) that lessons should be sought after…and the skirt not used (until proper instruction is shown).

You are right, you are the one who has to exit the kayak…shouldn’t that tell you that any knowledge that can be shown to you would be invaluable?

The best of luck to you! and hope you love the sport!!


Feet and Exit
Glad to know you have a wetsuit, as to the exit… if the skirt is too tight for you to pull off without correct technique (pulling forward first), and you have not practiced in a safe environment, you can’t assume your friends could get to you in time. There was a kayaker off of Cape Cod who died a year and a half ago with the instructor and several classmates pretty much right there, in I think warmer water.

As to the legs/feet - the point of proper placement in a kayak is to allow you to turn it by leaning via the thigh braces. Which is another dandy way for someone new to flip over.

Thank you
for you advice. Where I will be going there is a pool I can use. I assume the most important thing I need to be able to do is escape from the kayak. So I imagine flipping over and escaping should be what I practice first in the pool.

I will not where the skirt. Once I can escape the river is slow moving and calm at this location, but I imagine balancing will be difficult enough that I wont be in the river today.

I appreciate everyones concern BTW.

Thanks again,


Hey Nathan
If you look over at the side there is a link called “Guidelines” it has blue check in a yellow box on my screen, it has a bunch of basics about getting started. Read through it before you head out. Try getting in and out of your boat on the shore and then try flipping over in shallow, calm water with your friend nearby and getting out. Wear your PFD. If there is a strong spring flow, current is swift or there are rapids, go practice on a lake instead in shallow water. There are several good books on learning to kayak. Check out your local library or bookstore. Also if you are interested in whitewater kayaking check out some instructional videos from Eric Jackson (google for Eric Jackson Kayaks) on paddling technique and rolling and bracing. This time of year many people drown going out too early into cold water and/or moving water when they don’t know enough about what dangers there are. In moving water it is really easy to get pinned in a kayak. That is why people are concerned. I’ve seen part of the Chatahoochie river and the part I saw I don’t think would be dangerous but make sure you get some practice before getting in moving water.

Well I read that…
O.K., I read through most of that and skimmed the rest. One interesting quote “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t learn to paddle on your own. Given the right conditions—minimal fitness, modest smarts, reasonable patience, and sound judgment—you can. Tamia and I both did, mostly, and we manage just fine, thanks. So do tens of thousands of other “self-taught” paddlers.”

I was expecting advice like this quote “Early on, you need to teach yourself to do many things that are counter-instinctual, such as keeping your head down while rolling, getting more aggressive as the current gets stronger, and using rocks as your friends.” but that was the only bit.

So can I pretty much expect to spend my first few times out barely able to keep upright, is it that difficult to balance? Do your instructors just hold onto the side the entire time until you can float their on your own?

I spent three years paddling on the ocea
ocean before I ever took a course. It certainly is possible to teach yourself. I just want you to have the knowledge of the risks so that you can have a safe time learning. Most, myself included would recommend heading off with someone who is expierenced, or even better - take a course.

If self learning is your way to go - great - just be safe while at it!


A common misperception (depending upon the boat!) is that kayaks are tippy. I thought so too but when I took mine out and TRIED to tip it I had to work really hard to get it over.

This is not to say that you won’t flip but on FLAT WATER I have found the sea kayaks to be pretty darn stable.

I’m not sure if yours is sea or whitewater.

Anyway, mine feels a lot more stable than a canoe so get out there and try it. Just do it with capable friends around in a calm area with quick access to shore.

Be careful but GO PADDLE!

Me too
Same to me. I’m self-taught on most things, but I’ve always read some good books and started to rescue and re-entry in flat, warm water before. I can’t do a roll yet, but with my new kayak I’ll start learning it. I think this is the hardest thing, if possilbe, to learn alone. Anyone here learned to roll without help?

About other things than upright…
There are kayaks in which a new paddler will find themselves upside down in a heartbeat, as there are very tender canoes. But staying upright, especially on flat water, is not necessarily the problem.

The issue with kayaks is learning to handle problems. Between things like skirts, their various designs - and especially how easy it is to get a kayak out further from shore than people often go with a canoe - the solutions to problems a beginner may face can be a lot less intuitive and require more thought than you would realize.

Agree you can learn on your own - but if so incorporate safety skills as soon or sooner than paddling technique.

lol, definitely depends on the boat!
I’ve been in plenty of sea kayaks that are extremely tippy if you haven’t developed a good sense of kayaking balance. For example when I first began kayaking not too long ago, I couldn’t sit still in my Perception Sonoma 13.5 without fear of going over. After some time, I was practically able to sleep in the thing. Try the Current Designs Slipstream out some time. For guys with a higher center of gravity, this can be a rather sensitive boat as well. Like all things, it gets easier with practice and you start looking for “tippy” boats as they tend to have more secondary stability, speed, and responsiveness.

What does this mean
"but if so incorporate safety skills as soon or sooner than paddling"?

Saftey skills like knowing how to exit the kayak or understanding hypothermia and the proper clothing to wear, or do you mean carry a whistle and a compass all the time?

possible but probably not the best idea
You can definitely learn to roll on your own but it probably isn’t worth the hours/days/months/years of frustration as the whole rolling motion is totally counterintuitive. A good instructor can have most people rolling in as little as a day (or 15 minutes in some intstances) as they can give tips, critique form, etc.

Safety Skills
I think if you do more reading and mull over the conditions where you expect to paddle, the priorities will emerge.

for answering the question with another vague statement.

Nathan - some advice about PNET

– Last Updated: Apr-14-05 4:48 PM EST –

The average poster here is >47 years old, fairly uptight and spends a lot of money on kayaking. It's perfectly fine to teach yourself how to paddle, there are folks here who are fixated on the "perfect style or technique or boat" and believe that there is one true path that leads to edification as a Kayak God. Others of us started paddling on our own, made lots of mistakes, lived through them and have tried to learn from our mistakes. Some people here are very knowlegable and very helpful, most are pretty friendly and have your well being as a concern. A sub-population here are very much into instruction for everything. There are some here that I would call Safety Sirens who want to take all the risk out of kayaking. To be honest many people who enjoy kayaking enjoy taking some risks, many of my kayaking friends are certified adrenaline junkies who would scare the h3ll out of the safety sirens. I would suggest taking some classes and trying out some different kind of boats but its perfectly fine to take your boats down to a lazy river and start paddling. See if you can find some friends who are already experienced. If you are more in the do it your self mode I would check other links on the internet. Like ...
Have fun.

Oh yeah and try posting on the getting together and going paddling forum to see if you can find people in your area to paddle with. I've met lots of realy nice people and excellent paddlers here.

Read some books
Try going to the book store, get a book (or browse it in the store), probably a good place to start. It’ll give you some basics about what things are called, at least, so you’ll be able to phrase some questions a little bit better.

Safety is a big issue with kayaking/canoeing in general. If your car breaks down at the side of the highway, your not going to die in the next few hours. In a kayak, things are a smite different - you are on your own, with hours/minutes/seconds ticking away: learning how to deal with such a situation is extremely important (for YOU, not for us - you’re the one freezing your *** off in 50 degree water).

I think you are doing the right thing by going to a pool: capsize and see how easy it is to escape. Get a feel for the balance of the kayak. See how easy (hard!) it is to get back in by yourself (Self Rescue). Try and get comfortable ‘hanging out’ upside down. Do all this in shallow water, and have a friend standing by to help you out.

Or, get an intro lesson. For $30/$40 bucks you could get a half day lesson teaching you the basics. They’ll teach you about boat fit (how it should ‘feel’, how your knees/thighs brace against the inside of the cockpit), equipment (don’t wear cotton - man-made fibers are preferable) PFDs (Personal Floatation Device, or Life Jacket - it’s a must!), Paddles (sizing, nomanclature - power face/back face, which way is ‘up’), ‘wet exits’ - getting out of your boat when you tip over and are upside down, basic paddle strokes, as well introduce environmental concerns (water temperature, sun, rocks, etc.)

More advanced courses will teach all the above plus add a few more strokes and also teach rescues (both solo and with a partner).

You don’t NEED to take lessons, but you certainly NEED the skills they teach. I find lessons fun to both teach and participate in: working with other people gives you another aspect and appreciation for the sport.

Just take the boat and go try it. Your first trip you may be a bit apprehensive and that will keep you out of trouble if you use your head. I wouldn’t be hitting any class 3 rapids, but a paddle on quiet water shouldn’t require you to mount a major offensive. You’ve got a wetsuit and buddies to help so go for it. Kayaking isn’t rocket science. I’ve never taken a class in my life and I do fine, so can you. Just realize there are limitations. If your gut tells you to get off the water then heed your instincts.