The great thing about kayaking and paddleboarding is how beginner-friendly these activities are. Manufacturers have made equipment that is so stable and comfortable that nearly anyone can grab a paddle and a lifejacket and hit the water with no previous experience. In fact, for people completely new to the sport, we recommend doing an hour rental first just to make sure they are comfortable and enjoy it prior to taking a lesson. And who doesn’t fall in love with paddling immediately?!
But once a person decides that paddling is a sport that they want to pursue, we strongly recommend taking a lesson. Lessons are beneficial for a number of reasons:
1) A short cut to proper technique: Instruction will teach you the correct way to paddle and more importantly, will prevent you from picking up bad habits.
2) Go further faster and more efficiently: The forward stroke is one of the hardest to do properly. But once you learn how to disconnect your upper body from your lower and to use your core instead of trying to muscle your boat through the water, you will be amazed at how much easier the distances slide past. Covering a lot of ground isn’t the goal of many paddlers, however, paddling efficiently and knowing all of the strokes for maneuvering your craft will make any outing more enjoyable.
3) Prevent injuries: Learning proper paddling technique will not only make you a more efficient paddler, it will also lessen the chances of injuring yourself. Knowing how to protect vulnerable joints, how to fit in and outfit your craft, which major muscle groups to use, proper grip – all of these important elements go together to equal years of injury-free on-the-water enjoyment.
4) Take away the fear factor: Anyone venturing out on the water should be aware that things sometimes go wrong. Knowing that you can get yourself back into your boat or on your board after a capsize is a huge factor in feeling confident on the water. An experienced instructor will walk you through all the steps, teach you different self and assisted rescue techniques, and work with you to feel more comfortable getting back into your boat. A healthy respect for the water is very wise. But fear of the water, in most conditions, is unwarranted.
5) Be prepared for changing conditions: Many paddlers prefer to paddle when it is sunny, warm, and calm. And although it may start out that way when you launch, Mother Nature sometimes likes to change things up – quickly! In our area of coastal Delaware, the wind can get very strong and afternoon thunderstorms pop up out of nowhere. Knowing how to paddle in wind, how to read the conditions, what to do in a storm are all things you can learn from an experienced instructor.
6) Opens up a world of paddling opportunities: You may think you’ll always be happy paddling the shallow protected waters of the Little Assawoman Bay. But once you take a more advanced class you’ll start looking at Google earth differently. You’ll begin to discover more and more places to explore by water. For example, learning how to handle tidal currents will allow you to paddle the north end of Assateague Island, an incredibly unique spot where you can look to the south to see thirty miles of uninhabited beach, wild horses, and dunes stretching to the horizon. Or turn towards the north to see the Ferris wheel spinning on the Ocean City Boardwalk, hear the laughter and shrieks from the people on the rollercoaster, and even smell the Boardwalk fries and cotton candy. Or maybe you’ll see how learning open water skills will allow you to paddle the Maine Island Trail or how learning navigation will allow you to find deserted white sand beaches off the Florida coast. The possibilities are truly endless.
7) Stay Young: Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” Researchers are finding that active learning stimulates memory and high-level thinking in the brain. So learning, adding to, and improving your paddling skills will not only keep you in the great outdoors, pushing yourself, and exploring your world –it will also keep you young!
by: Jenifer Adams-Mitchell