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Get Your Paddle On: A Guide to Flatwater Kayaking 2023

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kayaking destinations

Abigail Scott

Abigail Scott
Mother, Professional Kayaker, and Software Engineer

Updated on 1/28/2023

Do you remember the first time you heard someone mention they enjoyed "flatwater kayaking" and weren't quite sure what they meant? You'll know exactly what they mean by the end of this post, which covers one of the main types of kayaking.

How does flatwater kayaking work? Kayaking on flatwater occurs on bodies of water that are protected from waves, excessive wind, and currents. It usually occurs on quiet bodies of water, such as marshes and swamps, as well as small lakes and ponds. Flatwater kayaking is a great choice for beginners since there are fewer obstacles.

Flatwater kayaking may sound intuitively familiar to you if you're like me. Ah, so it's on flat water? It's that simple. That's right. You'll find everything you need to know about flatwater kayaking in this post.

Getting Started with Flatwater Kayaking

If you're looking to dip your toes into kayaking for the first time, flatwater kayaking is a great option for you. It's affordable, easy to learn, and a great way to spend a day.


Kayaking Types: What Are They?

It's helpful to take a few minutes to understand how flatwater kayaking fits into the world of kayaking before getting into the nitty gritty details. Whitewater kayaking and flatwater kayaking are the two main types of kayaking, although there aren't necessarily formal definitions.

In contrast to kayaking, flatwater kayaking involves navigating a tranquil body of water with a kayak. A small lake, pond, marsh, or swamp typically experiences this. In spite of their unique challenges, these bodies of water rarely present a person with external forces that can affect their kayak's direction or stability.

In contrast, whitewater kayaking involves navigating a body of water that does not fall into the flatwater category. There are a wide variety of bodies of water where this can occur, and it tends to be a much broader category. While paddling a small river or sea is very different from kayaking on the sea or ocean, both fall under the category of whitewater kayaking.


What You Need to Get Started Flatwater Kayaking

There is nothing better than getting on the water after finding a great flatwater kayaking location. Do you need any special equipment or gear? The following are some of them:

An inflatable kayak or a hardshell kayak

Paddle for kayaks

(Usually a life jacket) Some type of personal flotation device

Even though choosing the right kayak, PFD, and kayak paddle seems simple, millions of words have been written about it. It's a good idea not to get too involved in the details of kayaking if you're just getting started. Don't forget to have each one. The PFD is included as well. Each of us has been the cool kid once or twice in our lives thinking "Life jacket?" No problem. Wear The PFD.


Where You Can Go Flatwater Kayaking

The best place to start flatwater kayaking is usually a small to medium-sized lake. The shorelines of these lakes are usually densely-forested, which makes them great windbreaks. Getting away from the shore increases your chances of running into higher gusts of wind, as you may have noticed. A paddler will encounter wind no matter where they are on a lake, but sustained winds on larger lakes will exhaust them more quickly and present additional challenges. Kayaking is best learned on small lakes (less than a few hundred acres in size) if you're inexperienced.

There are a number of great flatwater kayaking options in marshes and swamps, but they are generally less popular and harder to navigate. The launch points may be harder to find, since they are less popular. Rental shops with access to swamps and marshes may be difficult to find if you don't own a kayak. It is obvious that much depends on the bodies of water around your location, with places like the Everglades offering easy access to kayak rentals. Getting up-close to an undervalued ecosystem is one of the best things about kayaking a swamp or marsh. There is never a way to predict what you'll encounter!


How to Get Started Flatwater Kayaking

In order to begin flatwater kayaking, there are two easy steps to follow.

Rent a kayak and paddle around a nearby lake

A small or medium-sized lake is the best place to start flatwater kayaking. You can rent a kayak for a reasonable price and get first-hand experience on the water without having to spend hundreds of dollars or figure out just how to store your new 12-foot kayak.

The majority of kayak rentals charge by the hour, and full day rentals often offer a discount. Starting flatwater kayaking with an hour is a good option if you're just getting started, but you might want to extend it if you're enjoying it. Generally, it is best to build your strength slowly when kayaking, since kayaking works specific muscles.


Do You Need a Specific Kind of Kayak for Flatwater Kayaking?

It depends on the situation. Recreational kayaks are the most common kayaks used by people who get into flatwater kayaking. In addition to sit-on-top kayaks, there are also sit-inside kayaks that are aptly named.

Don't worry too much about the kayak you choose if you're just getting started with kayaking and won't be spending a lot of time on the water. You're best off renting a kayak or borrowing one from a friend, as what they have will probably be more than sufficient for what you need. In the event that you enjoy flatwater kayaking and want to get your own kayak, you can always build on your previous knowledge.

When you decide to make the plunge into kayak ownership, working with a local kayak shop is likely to be the best option, especially if you plan on using your kayak regularly. If you're lucky, they might even let you test a few kayaks right there on the water. They'll be able to show you the wide variety of options available.


Get a spare kayak from a friend

Do you have a friend who posts neat pictures of themselves kayaking on a lake? Those outdoorsy types who love granola and remind you of Subaru commercials? See if they can help you get on the water by getting in touch with them. Almost everyone in the kayaking community enjoys helping beginners out and would be happy to share their knowledge.

Paddlers remember the confusion of kayaking as beginners, and many might even have an extra kayak available for loan.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is flatwater kayaking?
What type of kayak is used for flatwater kayaking?
What is the difference between flatwater kayaking and whitewater kayaking?
What is the skill level required for flatwater kayaking?
Are there any safety concerns for flatwater kayaking?
Can flatwater kayaking be done alone or with a group?