Sea Kayaking 101

Getting Ready
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Hudson River waters are much gentler of course — no sharks, no killer waves, just the occasional floating blob of unidentifiable garbage — but Eric explains that this isn't exactly prime beginner territory: The tides pull hard, and wakes from passing ships can send waves several feet high scuttling across the water's surface. So the first part of our lesson takes place on dry land, sitting on benches with paddles in our hands.

Actually, the first part of the lesson involves stretching. We hold our paddles as close to the ground as possible, twist them this way and that, lift them above our heads, turn them from side to side. If it's starting to feel more like a yoga class than a kayak lesson, all well and good. "People ask what sort of workouts they should be doing to prepare for kayaking. I recommend yoga," Eric tells us.

Okay, sure, stretching is important. But isn't kayaking mostly an upper-body, arms-and-shoulders sort of sport? At least, my arms and shoulders are saying that's exactly what it is after a mere 10 minutes of holding the paddle up at shoulder level. I'm feeling a little achy, and it's not for lack of flexibility. I have an excuse, I tell myself: I'm a long-distance backpacker. All long-distance backpackers have arm muscles like wet noodles, backpacking not being exactly a heavy-duty workout in the biceps and shoulders department.

"Sure, swimming is a good workout for developing arm muscles," Eric confirms later in the day, when I'm wondering how I'd ever manage to get in shape for a longer kayaking trip. "But there's another trick, too."

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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