By August 31, 2020 September 7th, 2020 No Comments

Beginner’s guide to kayaking, everything you need to know before heading out on the water!

Brecon Beacons kayaking, Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal


How to choose the best kayak to purchase.

Sit On Top kayaks

Sit On Top kayaks are perfect for beginners and recreational use. They are incredibly stable and easy to paddle. They can be used in the sea and on lakes and rivers. Destination Downtime recommends this type of kayak for beginners looking to build their experience and confidence on the water.

Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks have cockpits where you position your legs inside the kayak, they are easy to get in and out of and have plenty of space for your legs. Traditionally longer than Sit On Top kayaks, touring kayaks have more storage space, and are generally faster on the water. Although touring kayaks have many benefits, for beginners they are easy to capsize and harder to manoeuvre, for this reason they are a good choice for more experienced paddlers.

Inflatable kayaks

A fantastic choice for beginners who want to paddle short distances and don’t have the storage space for a rigid kayak. Inflatable kayaks are made from hard-wearing nylon and can handle slightly rougher waters, however, they are lightweight which makes them difficult to paddle in high winds. Destination Downtime recommends this type of kayak for beginners purchasing a kayak for occasional short distance use.


Should I purchase or hire a kayak?

If kayaking is an activity you have tried before and love, purchasing your own kayak could be a worthwhile investment. You will have the opportunity to explore more places as you will be less restricted to staying within the parameter of the kayak hire company. If kayaking is a hobby you enjoy occasionally it could be more cost effective to hire a kayak at your chosen destination.

Kayaking in bath the Kennet and Avon canal

What should I look for in a kayak hire company?

The best kayak hire companies offer a range of different kayaks to best suit your needs and ability. Some kayak hire companies have safety boats on standby whilst their equipment is being used, this provides peace of mind in the unlikely event that you would need to be rescued when out on the water. If you are receiving lessons, make sure they are taught by a qualified instructor.

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New lifejackets sold in the UK, Ireland and Europe are required to meet the international Standards Organisation standard ISO12402. For kayaking you need a buoyancy aid at level 50. Make sure the lifejacket is a good fit, comfortable and non-restricting. (available in red and blue) £28.99 – £32.99

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Waterproof Duffel Bag

To ensure your personal belongings are kept dry on your kayak consider investing in a good quality waterproof bag. This bag is constructed from commercial-grade materials and features thermo welded shut seams, storage pockets, cushioned shoulder strap and padded double handles. £46.00

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Water Shoes 

It’s a great idea to purchase a pair of water shoes to ensure you don’t ruin your trainers form submerging them in water. These water shoes are quick drying, lightweight and feature an adjustable toggle to prevent shoe loss. £16.99

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Where are the best places to kayak in the UK for beginners?

River Thames

You will be spoilt for choice on The River Thames when scouting out your perfect kayaking location. From the water you will have panoramic views of some of the most impressive riverbank properties. There are plenty of places to hire equipment along The River Thames.

Beginners guide to kayaking River Thames

Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads is home to more than 125 miles of lock free waterways, with dramatic landscapes and endless horizons. There are plenty of kayaking locations to choose from depending on your desired trip and activity duration. The calm water with little to no tidal movement is perfect for beginners seeking a new adventure, whilst enjoying this tranquil location.

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

The Monmouthshire and Brecon canal offers 50 km of placid water, which is perfect for kayaking. Following the contours of the hillside the canal provides lovely countryside views, as it passes through the pretty villages of Pencelli, Talybont and Llangynidr, before reaching the town of Crickhowell. There are plenty of pubs with beer gardens backing onto the water providing a great spot to stop for lunch.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere is the biggest lake in England at 10.5 miles long, it is popular with watersports enthusiast and famous for its beautiful scenic location. One of the best ways to Immerse yourself in Cumbria’s glacial ribbon lakes is to explore the water by kayak. There are plenty of places to hire a kayak in The Lake District, many offering tours so beginners can build up their confidence on the water before setting off on a solo adventure.

River Wye

The River Wye was voted the public’s favourite river in England and Wales, awarded by Our Rivers. The river meanders through the beautiful lower Wye valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty. This is a great location for a peaceful and scenic trip. There are plenty of opportunities to hire kayaks and canoes along the river, as well as adventure days and tours.

Beginners guide to kayaking River Wye


Can you kayak against the current?

Yes, you can kayak against the current, although your speed will be a lot slower and it will be much more strenuous on your upper body.

Do you need a license for a kayak?

The short answer is yes, you do need a license to kayak on Canal, River Trust and Environment Agency waterways in the UK. A license is fairly easy to obtain online and works out as a worthwhile investment if you are frequently using the waterways. You will receive a digital copy of your license which can be accessed on your smartphone should you need to display it.

License FAQ

Did you find this beginner’s guide to kayaking useful? Please leave a comment below. 

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