Sea kayaking: A workout for mind and body

Marilynn Preston

Kayaking, like canoeing and rowing, can give you a terrific workout on the water. No wonder it’s becoming more and more popular especially on open water.
A sea kayak is much more stable, than a river kayak and is designed for long-distance touring, not speed.
More sensual. Paddling a sea kayak is similar to canoeing, but I find it how can I say this? a much more relaxing and sensual experience. You can actually feel the water all around you and every stroke, every turn of your hip and shift of your weight puts you in immediate and intimate contact with the water. Also, because you’re riding so low and cruising so quietly, you feel much more in touch with the beauty of your surroundings.
Interested? To make your first or next kayaking experience more pleasant, less perilous, consider the following:
Kayaking tones as you travel. The constant, rhythmic paddling gives your arms, shoulders, back and stomach muscles an intense workout, and the torso-twisting action involved in proper stroking can help trim a sagging middle. It’s a good idea to prepare for kayaking with a smart land program that involves stretching and strengthening.
Learn proper paddling. A poor technique short, choppy strokes can cause you undue pain and muscle soreness. A proper stroke is not powered by the arms, as you might think. It’s more a move that involves your shoulders and the big muscles of your torso, making it an excellent way to develop your obliques.
A good forward stroke involves pulling back with your lower hand but very important punching forward with your upper hand, punching and pulling in a smooth, fluid way. As you relax and breathe, you also need to turn at the waist with every stroke, almost as if you’re trying to look over your shoulder but actually keeping your gaze straightforward.
River kayaks are smaller and more maneuverable than sea kayaks, allowing you to navigate moving water, tricky rapids, etc. Sea kayakers seek out calmer waters, trading quick thrills for quieter exploration. In sea kayaking, learning to “Eskimo roll” – bringing the kayak upright after it’s rolled over-is nice but not necessary. For river kayaking, it’s practically a must.
Though kayaking is a relatively safe water sport, you need to take proper precautions. Always wear a lifejacket. (River kayakers need helmets, too). Learn self-rescue techniques. Carry water and drink lots. Never get into rougher water than you can handle. Don’t paddle alone.
Remember: You’re never too old to learn a new trick.