5 Ways to Not Look Like a Moron in a Kayak

by Gigi Griffis

On my fourth and fifth days in Thun, I took to the open water, sitting awkwardly (and, later, I discovered, incorrectly) in a long-nosed kayak. In the past, I’ve done some sea kayaking—in Mexico, in Italy. And I absolutely loved it. A great upper body workout. The feel of the water splashing on my arms and face. The way the kayak slices through the water…

This time was different, though. Because lake kayaking = not the same as sea kayaking. Who knew?

So, as usual, here are a few things you should know about lake kayaking. Brought to you by my many mistakes:

1. Your knees are supposed to touch the top of the kayak.
In a sea kayak, you sit on top of the vessel, but river kayaks are different. You sit inside them and you’re supposed to adjust the seat so that your feet are pressing against the foam/plastic at the end of the kayak while your knees are bent upward and tucked into the sides of the kayak opening. When you do this incorrectly (e.g. not having your knees up), you have much less control over the kayak. When you do it correctly, you have really sexy bruises on your knees.

2. Going straight isn’t always an even process.
In sea kayaking, generally you’re working with (or against) ocean currents and wind to propel your kayak forward. Because you tend to know where the currents or wind are coming from, steering isn’t terribly hard. Not so with lake kayaking, people. Wind, boat turbulence, and any other motion are, as far as I could tell, totally unpredictable. So when you paddle, pay attention. You might need to put more oomph into one side than the other. Unless, of course, you want to veer into that cruiser and/or spin in circles like me.

3. If there is a spider in your kayak, don’t flail wildly while screaming and throwing your paddle.
In case you didn’t know, throwing your paddle is always a bad idea. Also flailing.

4. Being soaked to the bone and accidentally spinning in circles is way more fun if you have a handsome kayaking instructor.
It might be more embarrassing, but at least you have something nice to look at.

5. Even if you do everything wrong, keep on smiling. 
What you lack in grace, poise, and athletic skill, you’ll at least make up for in enthusiasm.

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Shawna Newman May 15, 2018 - 3:09 pm

lol, I kinda think looking like a moron in your kayak the first time you go paddling is part of the fun of it! Though I must say that I’ve never had the spider in the kayak experience! yikes

Jared James March 8, 2020 - 1:18 am

The spider… Oh.. I can relate… girls really need to come down on that part… :)


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