My first excellent adventure

I got a Tsunami 145 a few weeks ago and have been waiting for the water to warm up a bit. I’ve never been on the water in a kayak before. Took the day off and headed for the lake (12,000 acre water surface area). Almost 70 and windy.

I have obsessed for months about getting into the kayak without mishap. Watched all the videos . . . today, I’m launching from a boat ramp. And . . . it was completely uneventful. Textbook. Yawn. Nothing to this. Took a few strokes and WHOA . . . I felt like I was going over. VERY tippy feeling. Lasted about five minutes . . . after that it was very stable . . . like I’d been doing it for years.

I go about 1.5 miles with the wind and chop to the feeder creek/river (?) (about 75 - 100 yards wide for miles) and then up the river a few miles . . eventually calm and smooth. As was my video-learned stroke.

Coming back was a different story. Now I’m against the wind and the chop and it was exhausting. Real work. My stroke completely broke down. My hands were all over the paddle . . . narrow, then wide, then narrow again, off-center, and so on. A real mess. Finally got back to the boat ramp after four hours on the water and I was exhausted. Hmmm . . . did I watch any video about getting OUT of the kayak? Guess not. Couldn’t get myself properly parallel to the ramp, tried to get out anyway . . . and plop . . . there I went. Of course, the first thing I did was look around to see if anyone saw it. Reflex. No one did.

Got up, got out, got home, and got online . . . a great day!

It get’s easier each time out. My first time in a kayak was the one that took me 6 weeks to build. I plopped over while getting in it for the first time. Then I remembered to use the paddle as an outrigger.

Seat time is the key.


Might fit better on Paddlers Discussion

Forum? great story though
Yep, this might have been a better fit on another forum, but I really enjoyed reading this story. Thanks!

Sounds like you’re off to a great start.

Happy Paddling!

Oops . . . sorry, wrong forum
Sorry, not only am I new to kayaking but I’m also new to this site.

Mods, please feel free to move this thread to the proper forum if need be.

Or . . . perhaps I could turn my little adventure story into a plea for advice. My stroke. Is it really a matter of water time? Should I get lessons? It was fine going out but really deteriorated under duress. How do you all maintain proper form through thick and thin?

Not bad at all
First time in a kayak on a windy day and you didn’t fall out until the end. Not bad at all.

Paddling into a headwind is where the efficiency of your forward stroke really counts. Torso rotation is key to harness the power of the larger muscle groups. Those muscles don’t tire as quickly as your much smaller arm muscles.

Unfortunately, when getting blown backwards by a stiff headwind, you tend to lock up and loose all torso fluidity, but that is something that you can work on in calm conditions.

Interesting. I did notice that when I stopped to rest I was literally being blown backward. I think your advice is great. I need to find calm protected waters and groove a stroke that won’t crash and burn under duress.

And I need better getting OUT technique.

Off to a Good Start!
Sounds like a real nice start to an addiction to paddling.

I keeping with the “advice” idea you brought up, you wanna know what I think about your stroke falling apart on the way back? I think you have the makings of becoming a very good paddler, because very few beginners have any awareness of their hand position on the paddle shaft. I can’t tell you how many people I have met who will paddle for miles with the paddle more than one foot “longer” on one side because their hands are off-center, yet it appears that you want to be aware of such details. I bet you will do fine.

You’ll also learn to use your boat edges and lean to lock in on crossings or cross winds. Don’t let the wind blow you all over the lake, use your boat to your advantage.

Wonderful recap !
All of the work will become play the longer you paddle, so keep it up.

If you think getting out of a kayak is hard at a ramp or a beach, try it at a two foot high dock or a chickee down in the Everglades !



Most excellent recap!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your trip report. Yes, taking a lesson or two will make your learning curve easier. Or, if you can join a local paddling club and paddle with others that are more experienced, that too will help immensely.

Four hours on a windy day for your first time out is rather impressive. The technique that I use for getting in and out of my kayak is by using my paddle as an outrigger held behind the cockpit. Works like a charm.

Best of luck to you as get out and enjoy the wonderful world of paddling!

how cool!
I’ve got a Tsunami 140 (my first REAL boat) and for my first paddle in it I went out on Lake Lanier where my inlaws live on a freak sunny January day.

I remember all the wonderful happy feelings - similar to what you described. And some of the frustration.

I’d actually been paddling a fair amount previously, but never had a boat that nice that belonged to me.

Anyway, yes I think your post does belong here. But I’m not a mod or a senior member, so what do I know?

What I do suggest is that you get some lessons in your new boat. You can learn on your own, but a certified instructor can point out things you cannot see and guide you to doing them right.

My plan was to learn how to efficiently perform a forward stroke, backward stroke, various directional moves, edge, deal with wind and current. I’ve spent time in moving water both fresh and ocean, learning how to read it, how to eddy out (more of a river skill), how to ferry across current, brace when needed - all helped me enjoy my boat more and be a safer paddler.

Learning how to fall out and get back in - also very helpful as well : )

The thing that I struggle with the most, is that I had just paddled for a really long time without learning how to do things right, or efficiently. Muscle memory is something that is hard to relearn.

Don’t expect to get all your learning in one lesson. Absorb some, practice, read or watch video, practice some more. I’ll go out with a group, paddle and have fun and go off and practice edging a bunch. Or paddle down river being really conscious of torsional rotation, then paddle upriver to the end of the group doing the same.

I find I can paddle much longer and feel better and my boat control is getting better all the time.

Have fun though!

Yes…How DOES one do that,
anyway? (Exit onto a two-foot dock.) I’ve managed only by backing up perpendicular to the dock (i.e., my back is facing the dock), putting both elbows on the dock behind me,then pushing myself up using ALL the arm strength I have (I’m female)–exhausting and somewhat precarious. There MUST be an easier way…isn’t there? Would love some advice.

BTW, XTGDan, thanks for your story–it made me feel not quite so silly for making no-dump trips, then plopping while exiting. Enjoy, and good luck!

Most people fall out while getting
in or out of the boat. Good start.

Most people, and their vehicle, also get hurt loading or unloading, not paddling.

Kayaks and Docks
Entering and exiting a kayak from a dock is probably the easiest way to accomplish these tasks, and probably will be your preferred method once you know the ‘rope trick’. Tie a 3-6-foot length of rope to the balance point of your kayak, which is usually right at one of the fittings on your seat or seat support. Leave this length of rope attached to your boat for future use; just coil it up and tuck it under your seat for storage.

Put you boat in the water alongside the dock and tie the other end of the rope to a cleat on the dock. On entry, you need to leave a few inches of slack in the rope because your weight on entry will cause the kayak to ride lower in the water and tilt away from the dock. Just step into the boat in any manner that is comfortable to you. The boat will be very stable - I can stand in all my boats attached to the dock in this way.

When you want to exit the kayak, pull up to the dock and tie up to a cleat as tightly as possible – leave no slack in the rope since the boat will rise and the rope ‘get longer’ as you exit. Simply pull yourself up onto the dock without worrying about capsizing or your kayak floating away. This technique is absolutely ‘bombproof’, maybe idiot proof assuming that your knot holds.

I have used this method to enter and exit my kayak from high docks (3-4-feet above the surface of the water) on Table Rock Lake in Branson, MO. I also use the rope trick to launch and retrieve my boat from high docks. I just raise and lower my boat using the rope, but wear gloves to protect my hands.

Next time, go upwind first.
I always like to buck the wind when fresh. Muscles are stronger, attention span has not faded yet. You can really get downwind fast and comfortably, but when returning home, you may find it just too much. I have mistakenly paddled an hour downwind to find it took four hours to return. If you have not budgeted the time or find out you don’t have those muscles trained well yet, it can be a bit exhausting.

Getting out is my toughest part too. I look like a walrus stuck in a pipe when trying to get out, but have never swam in 12 yrs.

careful with that method
The worst position for your shoulder is to have your arms both high and behind you. Getting out at a dock takes some practice. Basically it’s about being careful to keep your center of gravity over the center of the boat even while reaching for the dock. You quickly will get the hang of using your legs to pull the boat closer to the dock (when you accidentally let it drift from the dock) as you hold on the dock. Entering from a beach is generally much easier.

Welcome to the swim club 2009
You are not the first or last member for this year’s club.

After one trip, if you can hold your paddle the right way and move generally the direction you want to go, you are doing just fine. More than anything you need to put some miles on the boat. Get comfortable with it in various conditions and as you get more confident, start leaning and bracing to see where the limits are. If you have nice calm conditions, you might want to really consider and work on your stroke. If you are out in heavy chop, it’s kinda difficult to build technique and a good rhythm because you are constantly having to adjust/corect your direction.

Find some big water, some easy moving water and just have fun for a few weeks or months. Then when you feel like you are not progressing, is the time for a lesson or to learn to roll, or whatever.


Paddling is an unpredictable and adventurous activity, and that’s why I love kayaking. Once you are in the water you are expose to many elements that are usually “wild” and can change at any moment; depending on your geographic latitude these elements can become very tricky. I live in Florida, and weather is always in my mind when I go out. Some times I start on calm waters and return with strong winds and choppy waves, some other days is pure calm, and some others just pure hell. Always check the weather forecast, but never trust it 100%. It is hard to find weather conditions in the water that are stationary for more than 60 minutes. Always save extra energies for your way back. I have been paddling for 4 or 5 years and I’m on my 4th kayak, and to tell you the truth, I’m still learning and appreciate all the advice I can get.

Thanks for reminding me of my first paddling experience and motivating me to hit the water again this weekend.

Thank you. I assume
that when you say “pull up to the dock,” you mean to pull up perpendicular (not parallel) to the dock. Is the right? Thanks for the suggestion!