December 9, 2023

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With thousands of miles of open water to explore, it can be tempting to jump straight into ocean kayaking. Besides, how hard can it be, right? You are just paddling in a different body of water. but it’s not like that.

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Ocean kayaking is more physically demanding than flat water kayaking. Plus, you need the right gear to follow safety protocols and re-learn the basics of kayaking.

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This article will provide a detailed guide as you prepare for your first ocean kayaking adventure.

What is Ocean Kayaking?

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As its name implies, ocean kayaking involves paddling in large, open water.

Unlike lake kayaking, where the surrounding mountains protect you from the wind and the water is relatively calm and flat, you have to deal with other ships on the ocean, waves, tides or currents, and wind. In short, you are more exposed when kayaking in the ocean.

This can be discouraging to some, but many kayakers paddle out to sea for leisure, sport, exploration, experience, and fishing.

What you need for ocean paddling

Before embarking on a kayaking trip, you will need the proper ocean kayaking gear.

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:


Ocean kayaks are typically between 28″ to 34.5″ wide. The wider width allows for better stability in the water and room so you can ride or sit in a kayak comfortably. The length depends on whether you prefer to paddle alone (solo) or with a partner (tandem sea kayak).

A sea kayak also has a V-shape. This feature provides better tracking, which means the kayak can stay in a straight line while paddling. Having a kayak with a V-shaped hull also means that you cut through the sea water with a minimum of drag.

sit-on vs. sit-in

Sit-on-top kayaks like the Malibu to Ocean Kayak have an open cockpit. As its name implies, you will sit on top of the pot providing a better view as you sit above the water level. Fishing kayaks usually have this design.

On the other hand, a sit-in kayak is the opposite. Instead of sitting on a kayak, you sit inside the enclosed cockpit. Sit-in kayaks also keep you below the surface of the water instead of above it.

Between the two, many ocean kayakers prefer seated kayaks because the vessel’s lower center of gravity provides better stability and control. As a result, it is easier to proceed. Having an enclosed cockpit also means you can stay dry.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to register your kayak. States such as Ohio require kayakers to register their ships before exploring public waters.

kayak paddle

You need a suitable paddle to make your sea kayaking experience seamless. Unlike paddles for canoes, those used in kayaks have blades at both ends and a middle grip.

Before taking on a kayaking paddle, you should consider:

material price weight and length shaft and blade

We recommend lightweight pedals for new kayakers who haven’t built up their arm strength and stamina. The lightest option you can find is a pedal with a carbon shaft. Plastic pedals with aluminum shafts are a great option if you’re on a budget.

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In addition to weight, you should also consider pedal length, which is usually based on two factors: the width of the kayak and your height.

For example, if your kayak width is 23″ to 27.75″ and you are over 6′ tall, the recommended paddle length is 230cm. On the other hand, if your length is between 5′ and 5’6″ and your kayak is 23″ to 27.75″ wide, a 220cm paddle is perfect.

For paddlers, low-angle blades are better suited for a long day of paddling at sea. However, if you want to cover more area in less time, get a high-angle pedal; They are designed for speed.

If you’re going to kayak in the ocean, make sure you have a spare paddle with you in case someone travels in between.

paddle strap and float

Although all kayak paddles float, problems arise when you drop one on the water and it floats. This is where the paddle strap comes in handy. Most paddlers attach the other end of the leash to their kayak, while others attach it to their personal flotation device (PFD).

Speaking of paddle accessories, you’ll also appreciate having a paddle float. If your boat capsizes, you attach your paddle float to the end of the paddle and inflate it. This helps increase stability during re-entry of the kayak.

wet suit

Although there’s no hard and fast rule on what to wear during your ocean kayaking adventure, we highly recommend wearing wetsuits.

The human body requires a stable core body temperature (CBT) of approximately 98.6°F. So if you fall in cold water, your body will do double work to maintain its temperature.

Since water draws heat up to 25 times faster than air (water molecules are more dense than air), you can immediately feel the effects of immersion hypothermia, especially when kayaking in 0 degree water.

A wetsuit uses several insulating layers to trap body heat. These layers let water in, hence the name. Your body heats the water when it is trapped in layers. Hot water keeps you tastier.

Wearing a wetsuit, having safety gear like a PFD, and a way to signal an emergency (whistle or radio) means you have a greater chance of being rescued before you experience hypothermia.

kayak spray skirt

A kayak spray skirt goes over the opening of the sit-in kayak. Its purpose is to prevent water splashes and rain from getting into the enclosed cockpit, getting your feet wet and swamping your kayak. It also prevents cold air from reaching your lower extremities.

bilge pump

If your kayak capsizes the water will go into the cockpit. Therefore, most expert paddlers have a bilge pump in their gear instead of using their hands to get the water out of their kayaks.

A bilge pump is specially made to remove water from kayaks, canoes and other water vessels. This creates a suction that pulls the water from the kayak to the pump’s exhaust hole (under the handle) and pulls the handle down.

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Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Sea water is deeper than lakes and rivers, averaging 3.7 kilometers (2.3 mi) deep. So, imagine if you drown and the sea is rough – your chances of keeping your head above water are very slim, even if you consider yourself a good swimmer.

That’s why you should always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket.

dry bag

As their name suggests, dry bags keep your valuables dry and safe from water. They are made of vinyl and nylon, usually with a waterproof polyurethane coating.

Most dry bags have a roll-top enclosure, which you roll around three to four times to create a seal, depending on the size of the bag. You then clip the plastic buckles together to lock the seal.

Dry bags come in various capacities, expressed in liters. A 5-liter dry bag is an excellent choice for a short 1-2 hour morning kayak. For extended kayaking, half day or full day, we suggest a capacity of between 10L and 30L.

head lamp

If you go out into the water after dark, having a headlamp can give you enough light to go back to shore and be visible to others.

When shopping for a headlamp, make sure it’s dimmed. Bright light can create a beam with a lot of glare that will disable your vision beyond your kayak. Bring extra batteries too.

signaling whistle

You may want to pack a signaling whistle in case you need the help of other caretakers. You can use the whistle to get the attention of others or ask your kayaking group to stop.

Here are three essential whistle signals:

Whistle one: Attention Whistle: Stop whistle Three: Emergency VHF radio

All ocean kayakers require a Marine Very High Frequency (VHF) radio in order to communicate with other ships and the Coast Guard. If you have a problem and need to call for help, you can switch to channel 16 VHF (156.8 MHz), which is the frequency of annoying calls.

A VHF radio is not only for emergencies; You can use it to communicate with nearby ships.

We recommend reading the updated US VHF Channel Information.

repair kit

Ocean kayaks are made from tough materials like high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and carbon fiber. But they are still susceptible to damage, especially when you accidentally hit a sharp rock.

An emergency repair kit with a multitool, repair patch and sealant allows you to make minor repairs at sea, large enough for you to return to shore safely.

First Aid Kit

You should also bring a kayak with a first aid kit. Most kits include everything you need, including a gauze pad, antiseptic toiletries, and more. You can prepackage a kit or have one made per piece at your local pharmacy.

Maps and Nautical Charts

A map and nautical charts are essential for safe navigation, whether you are a beginner kayaker or an experienced paddler.

Some kayakers opt for a GPS device when kayaking. Although incredibly beneficial, we always suggest carrying a good ol’ map and compass with you in case your GPS device fails.

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how ocean kayak

Now that you have the right gear, you need to learn to kayak. Luckily, you are not alone in this journey. Statistics show that kayaking participation in the United States grew by 87.3% from 2010 to 2021.

Learn the Basics of Kayaking

If you’re a novice kayaker looking to take ocean kayaking more seriously, consider taking a kayaking course.

Most classes cover admiring, navigation, kayak rescue, safety, rafting and canoeing. Duration and cost may vary from one course to another.

For example, if you register for a class with ACA Paddle Sports, they offer:

A Free Online Course Days Kayaking Workshops in Various States

If you’re in Alaska, you can take a class with Alaska Sea Kayaking:

Classes last 7 to 12 days Class costs $1,850 – $2,950 Join a kayaking trip

Once you have completed a course, the next step is to get real life experience. Local paddle shops usually run full-day or half-day practice during the weekend. Alternatively, you can join kayak tours.

Find an Ocean Kayaking Spot

Before putting your water pot on a kayak’s roof rack and traveling across the States, make sure you find a spot for paddling first. There are many ways to find kayaking spots near you through paddling forums, groups, the national park website or through a paddling app.

Ocean Kayaking Tips and Safety Precautions

Ocean kayaking can be unpredictable; Therefore, you must take some safety precautions when you step out. Here are some of them:

Build Stamina: Kayaking is tiring and difficult, especially while exploring the ocean. Begin your kayaking journey near the shoreline to build up your strength before you go away. Always check the weather: Generally, when the wind is less than 10 knots, or 11.5 mph, it is considered safe to kayak at sea. Don’t forget to check the water temperature, tides and ocean currents. Inform others about the trip: If you’re traveling alone, notify a friend or family member of your plans. Tell them the time and date of your return. Bring a paddling buddy: It’s always a good idea to tag along with a more experienced kayaker during your first few trips to the ocean. Getting Ocean Kayaking Rights

Ocean Kayaking is an exciting experience that every kayaker must try at least once in their life! But remember, as tempting as it is to venture into the ocean right away, having the right skills and gear can make a huge difference.

This article originally appeared on Savoteur.

Bobby Kania is a full-time blogger who has several blogs on the topics of education, music and mentoring. He currently resides in Seattle with his wife and cat. Learn more at Capitalize My Title. If you’re a fisherman, you’ll want to check out Bobby’s other site, Fished That, where you’ll find everything you need to know about fishing.

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