Sit on Top Kayaking for Beginners

Sit-on-Top Kayaking for Beginners

There’s a good reason kayaking is one of the world’s fastest-growing water activities. But, just like any new sport or hobby, learning how to kayak might leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed, confused, or even scared. You’ve got to learn the basic techniques and safety precautions to stay safe as you paddle. Keep reading to start on your journey in sit-on-top kayaking for beginners.

Looking for an exciting hobby in the great outdoors? If you love the water and know how to swim, I recommend sit-on-top kayaking. It’ll get you in great shape and you’ll have a chance to connect with nature.

Types of Kayaks

Start out by choosing the right type of kayak for you. There are several kinds of kayaks out there.

Kayaks differ in the number of people they can accommodate.

Types of Kayaks

If you’re more comfortable paddling solo, you may opt for a single kayak. But, if you want to travel with a partner, go for a tandem kayak.

Some kayaks are more useful in certain types of situations. For example, a folding kayak or an inflatable kayak may be a good choice if you need to save space or would have trouble transporting another kayak type.

If you’re going fishing or if you plan to take photos of nature and wildlife, a pedal-powered kayak is a convenient option for keeping your hands free. Instead, you simply use your feet to propel you instead of a paddle.

Another popular kayak type is the sit-inside kayak, the one with an enclosed cockpit. It’s a good choice if you want to keep your legs dry or if you’re bringing extra gear and would like to keep them from getting wet.

But I strongly recommend a sit-on-top kayak for beginners. It is stable, easy to paddle, and less likely to tip over. Since a sit-on-top kayak doesn’t have a cockpit, you can get on and off it whenever or wherever you like.

It is also more comfortable to use if you’re kayaking in warm weather.

Features to Consider Before Buying a Sit-on-Top Kayak

In some cases, you might not have to purchase a kayak right away. For example, you could rent your kayak.

Renting a kayak is a cost-efficient alternative if you’re a beginner. Alternatively, if you know someone who owns a kayak, you might also consider borrowing it.

Kayaking Alone on a River

It’s a good idea to try renting or borrowing a kayak first, to make sure you enjoy the activity. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to make the investment of purchasing a sit-on-top kayak.

Buying your beginner sit-on-top kayak is an exciting experience. There are certainly many options available. That’s why I recommend thinking about a few factors before you make your big purchase.


A kayak’s length and width influence its performance on the water. Recreational kayaks are typically 8 to 13 feet long.

Meanwhile touring kayaks are about 14 to 18 feet in length.

A Touring Kayak

Keep in mind that a longer and narrower kayak may go faster, but it is less stable. If you prefer stability over speed, a wide and short kayak is a better option.

Also, consider your height in selecting the length of your kayak. If you’re at least 6 feet tall, you may feel more comfortable sitting on a 12-foot long kayak than on one that is 8 or 10 feet long.

You might also want to check if the kayak has adjustable footrests that can help accommodate your height (or the height of other family members who will use the kayak).


The hull, or the bottom part of the kayak, also affects its stability and performance on the water. You may opt for a kayak with a flat hull since it is more stable and works better on flat water conditions.

Borrowing a Kayak

Other hull types are also available. A kayak with a rounded hull increases speed, while a V-shaped hull enables the kayak to travel in a straight line.

A pontoon hull also offers stability, but it tends to move more slowly.

Load-bearing Capacity

An overloaded boat will sit too low in the water and make it hard for you to paddle smoothly.

The higher the weight capacity of a kayak, the more items you’ll be able to bring along with you. Examples include safety essentials and survival gear, as well as items such as snacks and refreshments.


Most kayaks come with seats. But others don’t, and you have to buy seats as an additional accessory.

Kayaks with Seats

A seat with a taller backrest provides better lumbar support, but it limits your ability to twist your torso.

This seat type works well if you’re just cruising or relaxing. If you prefer to cover a greater distance, consider going for a seat with a shorter back.


A kayak made from lightweight material is easy to carry and load onto your car.

It moves faster on the water, and it usually allows you to bring more gear. Of course, you’ll still have to check the weight capacity.

Kayak Materials

Keep in mind that the lighter the material, the more expensive the kayak is.

A boat made from polyethylene plastic is abrasion-resistant, but it is heavier, and it can wear out after long exposure to the sun. ABS plastic is a slightly more expensive option, but it is more resistant to UV rays.

Fiberglass and carbon-fiber kayaks are more costly than plastic, but they offer better water performance and resistance against UV- rays.

Tips Before Setting Off

Considering the features mentioned above, let’s say you’ve gotten yourself a new kayak. Now, what’s the next thing to do?

Kayaking for the First Time

Before you go on your kayaking adventure, here are some tips that you should keep in mind.

1. Take a Kayaking Lesson.

You might think that you won’t need a kayaking lesson, but it wouldn’t hurt to attend one or a few classes. Professional instructors will teach you the correct way to paddle, so you won’t go in circles once you’re paddling on the water.

Lessons will also cover proper paddling techniques and self-rescue and assisted rescue techniques. They will also prepare you for changing weather conditions.

2. Prepare and Bring the Essential Equipment.

In addition to your boat, you will also need a few other things before you can start kayaking. Examples include:


Paddles come in different types and sizes. Ideally, your paddle should complement the size of your kayak.

Paddles for Kayaking

You may also consider the width of your torso when choosing a paddle.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

Wearing a lifejacket or PFD is a must when kayaking. This is true no matter how strong of a swimmer you are.

You might be paddling on calm waters at the start of your journey, but conditions may change, and the next minute, you might find yourself in the middle of rougher waves. Should the kayak capsize, or you happen to go overboard, a PFD will be your best friend and keep you afloat. It also may be the law (you can check the life jacket laws in your state here).

The Life Jacket I Use and Recommend

In most states, wearing a life jacket or PFD is the law when you’re out on the water.

If you’re like me, you want a safe, effective PFD that doesn’t limit your range of movement when paddling. That’s why I highly recommend this one from Onyx. 

It offers great range of motion, can keep me afloat in the water (I’m 6’2″), and it is very comfortable. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Bilge Pump

A bilge pump is helpful if you encounter choppy waters or rainy conditions. This device helps you remove excess water from your kayak, keeping your vessel dry and stable.

3. Choose the Right Place and Time

As a beginner, it is best to go kayaking in a lake or pond where the water is calm.

Kayaking on Calm Water

Stay away from oceans and rivers. Those choppy and turbulent bodies of water should be reserved for expert kayakers.

Choose a day where there is a stable wind forecast. It is also crucial to check the wind direction as it may affect your paddling destination.

For safety reasons, paddle when winds are less than 10 knots.

If you’re getting into your kayak from the shore, choose a calm, smooth, and rock-free area. There should be a gradual slope from the shore going into the water. Sit down quickly but carefully, putting your feet in last.

Also, check the water temperature so you can dress appropriately for your safety and comfort.

4. Know What to Wear

You can wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is anywhere between 55-59 degrees Fahrenheit, or a dry suit if the water temperature is below 55 degrees.

4. Maintain Correct Posture

Learning the proper way to sit in a kayak, including the correct position of your legs, will let you paddle easier and feel more comfortable. Sit with your back straight and your knees bent slightly.

Rest your feet on the footrest, with toes pointing upwards. This position will give stability and help you avoid straining your muscles.

5. Hold the Paddle Correctly

Grab the paddle just like you would hold the handlebars of a bicycle. Let the paddle rest on top of your head and bend your elbows at a 90-degree handle.

How to Hold a Kayak Paddle the Right Way

Then, observe the blades of your paddle. The concave side, the one which looks scooped out, should always face in the opposite direction.

Additional Tips

As an experienced sit-on-top kayaker, I’ve got several other tips to offer, too.

Position Your Kayak for Stability for Entering

If you’re getting on from a dock, lower the kayak to the surface of the water and make sure the kayak is parallel to the dock. It is best to do this at the lowest point of the dock, so the kayak is within easy grabbing distance.

Sit on the edge of the dock, lower your feet, and then lower yourself into the seat.

Stay Visible

Have someone accompany you, especially if its your first time to kayak.

Kayaking with Friends

If you’re kayaking alone, paddle close to shore where you can be seen by others.

Check Your Gear for Damage

Always check your gear for any holes, tears, or dents, and take care of them before getting on the water.

Bring the Essentials

Bring essential items, such as a change of clothes, electronics, your wallet, sunscreen, water bottles, a first-aid kit, insect repellent, a map, and a compass. Store them in a waterproof bag.

The above information will help ensure that your first few experiences as a beginner kayaker are safe, successful, and enjoyable. The key is to keep on practicing until you grow more confident in your kayaking skills.

Final Thoughts On Sit-on-Top Kayaking for Beginners

So, there you have it! The right sit-on-top kayak for you is a great choice as you get started on the water.

Here you’ve learned about:

  • Types of kayaks
  • How to choose your sit-on-top kayak
  • Tips for safe kayaking

Use everything you’ve learned here as you choose your sit-on-top kayak and go on your first adventure.

It’s time to get excited about your new watersport hobby!