Designed to remain stable, a kayak does not easily tip over. However, while floating on calm waters may not seem threatening, keeping control of the kayak on rough waters may well pose a challenge. Waves, poorly adjusted or inadequate equipment, and fatigue are all elements that can provoke capsizing.
Before launching onto the water, take the time to feel comfortable in your position, to become accustomed with the movement of the kayak and to make all the required adjustments. The following tips will help you to make sure that you are ready to start out. However, we caution that THIS CHAPTER IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A COURSE.
Begin by adjusting the rudder pedals to the length of your legs. When you are comfortably seated with a straight back, your feet on the pedals and knees braced under the deck, you become one with the kayak. Beginners often have the uncomfortable sensation of being "trapped" in the kayak. The first step is to get in and out of the kayak several times (on the water) to see if you can get out in the event of a capsize. If conditions allow, try capsizing with the assistance of someone who can help you if need be. This exercise should always be done at least once with the sprayskirt in place. It is important to test your ability to get out of a capsized kayak.
The next step involves getting back into the kayak on your own. Get used to using the paddle bladder or float (see Chapter 1, Kayak, Equipment and Clothing). Practicing this technique will helpyou better understand the consequences of capsizing far from shore and being in cold water for extended periods of time. It is also a reflection of reality—you must learn how to get back into your kayak without assistance.
Once you have practiced these techniques, you are ready to go. However, getting to know a few other simple techniques will save you a lot of energy and greatly increase your enjoyment. The main techniques you should be familiar with are forward strokes, sweep strokes, draw strokes, paddle bracing, Eskimo rolls, and rescue techniques.
Remember, nothing can replace a course given by a qualified individual or accredited organization. However a number of excellent technical manuals are available for reference purposes.
Sea kayaking associations exist in most Canadian regions. Often representing both kayaking and canoeing clubs, their mandate is to link the various kayaking clubs and to offer courses as well as information on places to kayak. Aside from these associations and clubs, kayakers can consult specialists from tour guide associations, outfitters, companies, as well as independent guides. Especially when exploring a region you have never been to before, professionals advice from these different fields can prove very helpful for planning a safe trip. When searching for these contacts, do not hesitate to consult your provincial tourism office that will be happy to orient you to your resources. Our chapter on each region will also provide you with references in this regard.
Excellent technique manuals also exist in addition to guidebooks on specific regions.