How to introduce a newcomer to kayaking?

I would like for my girlfriend to try to get into kayaking with me. She is always been scared to go into the kayak if the water get a bit deep. I tried to show her that I really have to try to tip the boat and that the boat wont just flip. But still she does not want to venture into open water. Another thing I am afraid of is that if we do end up going anywhere she might run out of steam half way and then what? How do you judge what someone is capable of??

Can she swim?

– Last Updated: Mar-19-08 11:19 PM EST –

I can't tell from your post if her issue is the kayak or being in anything on water that is over her head. If it is the latter, I suggest that for the sake of your relationship you don't even try to get her out in deeper water. It isn't worth blowing a relationship by forcing someone who has a true fear. Nor do you want to get someone like that out by assuring them they can't tip - you can't assure that, and if she flips under those expectations it'll be even worse. Plus you'd have to do the rescue - do you know how to handle a panicked swimmer?

If she is a confident swimmer and it's the trapped in a kayak thing, try a SOT.

that’s an easy one
tell her: you drown in only the first two feet

I’m faced with the same situation.

– Last Updated: Mar-20-08 12:28 AM EST –

My wife doesn't swim, so I'm going with a used tandem-with rudder-to start, and our first paddle will be in the Keys, where the average depth is 2-3 feet. Also, if she poops out, I'll be able to get us back to the beach...

Her greatest fear is that she won't be able to get out of the kayak if it tips, so we'll spend some time getting used to that. I think it's VERY important for non-swimmers to spend time in the water floating around in their PFD. This should instill some confidence that if they get wet, they'll float. In any event, it'll definitely be a learning experience for both of us...

I'll be interested to read some more advice in this thread...


Encourage - don’t push
I’m your basic scared-of-water, can’t swim (despite lessons) person who happens to love kayaking, so I can relate to your girlfriend’s discomfort as well as your desire to get her involved in this fun sport. Bottom line: She’s not going to enjoy it if she’s uncomfortable. Is there any place you can take lessons together? I know practicing a wet exit in a pool situation first made me more comfortable with the potential of being in an upside-down kayak. Plus – no offense – sometimes it’s better to be taught by a “stranger” than someone you are close to, whether it’s a boyfriend-girlfriend situation or parents teaching their kids to drive. Notice, I suggested both of you taking lessons, that way you can learn rescue scenarios together. As for judging distances to travel, my suggestion is to learn by doing … building up distance and putting together trips where there are bailout options. Since you referred to open water, I’m assuming you are talking about lake or ocean paddling, not point to point on a river. If I’m correct, do multiple loops that return you to your staring place, not just one big out and back paddle. When figuring distance, don’t forget to factor in problems with the wind hurting endurance.

if you have a tandem
you can put her in the front, paddle her out show her the sights, then start rolling, always good for a few laughs!

actually that might only be funny, years later over beers, so don’t do that. slow and easy is the ticket, and maybe she won’t ever be comfortable with it, and that’s ok too.

If I were a smart alek
I’d say let her try out a canoe first. But then you’d never get her in a kayak! Just kidding, I don’t know the answer to your question.

The only person…

…who can judge what she is capable of is her.

If you force her, she will likely be nervous and

hate it.

I’d probably get a new girlfriend so

– Last Updated: Mar-20-08 10:13 AM EST –

I wouldn't have to hassle with the current one's phobias. Try these:

Find a different girlfriend.

– Last Updated: Mar-20-08 11:38 AM EST –

Easier in the long run.

Seriously it's OK to develop different interests.

introduce her to swimming first
it’s such a basic skill, and fun.

It’ll also tame her fear of water. And, when the kayak tips - as it surely will - she will handle it better. If she freaks out, you may never get her to try again, and it’ll just reinforce her fear of water.

It’s great to share your love of paddling. And you do love her, too, so give her the chance to feel confident in the water using her own body before you put her in a boat.

Why would you push someone who is
scared. Go mountain biking.

Intro to Kayaking
Encourage her to take a class, without you, if necessary (don’t know if you have to deal w/competition issues). Let someone else take care of introducing,encouraging and helping her get over any fears she may have.

Your profile indicates you are a beginner, if you’ve not taken an intro class, take the class at the same time.

Time and money well spent!!!

Good Luck!

Which brings up a good idea- have

– Last Updated: Mar-20-08 12:25 PM EST –

one girlfriend for each activity:

One for paddling, one for biking, one for sushi, one for ice sculpting, one for Tuesdays, ad infinitum.

A wise old Viking saying which I'll translate for you professes:

"There are many smoked herring in the sea".

Sign Her up with a Hunky Instructor
I prefer girlfriends who do not want to go paddling. That is my thing to get away from the home scene.

But if you think you really want her to join you paddling then I strongly suggest you sign her up for a lesson with a reputable instructor. Same is true for skiing and other technique-heavy sports. Significant others will learn faster, have more fun, and your relationship might be better off if someone other than you are their instructor.

Ease them in slowly if they choose!
My daughter was absolutely terrified, in fact she told me that she could not even feel her legs when we were standing on the beach for her first paddle. But she slowly overcame her fears and now loves the sport. But… she always has a few moments of trepidation before every paddle.

Basically, she told me that the desire to try the sport helped her overcome her fears. So if your girlfriend truly does not have to, then I recommend not forcing her. My wife is another who has huge issues about getting in the boat. She is very comfortable in a Pungo 120 because of its large cockpit… maybe big boat?


Geez- just have her sit on a rock
until you finish kayaking:

Sorry if the above comments appear
flippant and facetious. How about pulling the kayak around on a bicycle with her in it until she develops a comfort level. Perhaps you can ride through a few puddles on a rainy day so she has the sensation of being on the water:

Seriously- sometimes the only
solution is Darwinian in nature but it will ensure that future generations will have the ability to withstand and flourish in a liquid environment.

Throw her in the water with a PFD and watch how adaptable the human psyche and body can be.

Good thing you’re already married
Or you just won’t let go of the joke.

There are several possible solutions, some above, that are much less Draconian than most of what you have posted. And more likely to succeed.