How Difficult Is Kayaking? [Easy or Hard]

If you haven’t kayaked and hear exciting stories about kayaking, it might be tempting to give it a try. However, not everyone will tell you it’s that easy to kayak. Besides that, you might hear voices telling you that kayaking is demanding and dangerous. Whatever is playing in your head doesn’t have to be what you experience.

However, is kayaking so hard that people want to avoid it? Will you allow your fears to refrain you from experiencing the fun and adventure of kayaking? Are you willing to ignore those voices and face your fears? If you have these struggles within you regarding kayaking, this carefully written article is all you need to change your orientation. Without further ado, let’s get practical answers on how challenging kayaking is.

Man struggling to kayak

How hard is kayaking for a beginner?

Human beings naturally tend to run away from anything that seems hard. We are wired that way to take the easy route in everything we do. However, most things are not as hard as we always thought. Interestingly, it’s easy to kayak if you understand the tricks and techniques of kayaking.

Nevertheless, for someone trying out kayaking, it can be challenging. It is even frustrating when you have aquaphobia and find yourself in the middle of the river without any land in sight. You don’t have to allow this to intimidate you, as it depends on your approach. If your goal is to face your fear and kayak, it will be hard. However, if you want to spend time relaxing on a calm lake, it is not challenging as you think.

Furthermore, is kayaking more difficult than paddle boarding? Whatever way you look at it, it all depends on how you see it. Kayaking is physically demanding, and paddling against a strong current can be challenging. Besides this, kayaking can be mentally difficult as you have to navigate and coordinate your movement on the water.

How Difficult Is Kayaking – What Beginners Should Know

To answer how difficult kayaking is, we have outlined some important tips for new paddlers that could make their experience dreadful. Most people who consider kayaking challenging have tried it once, especially in the wrong way, to come to such a conclusion.

Everything begins with selecting the right kayak for your kayaking. The right kayak size, shape, and design play an important role when kayaking. It will make your kayaking either enjoyable or horrible.

Surf, recreational, racing, touring, sea kayaks, and whitewater. The options are limitless as they all have different environments, kayaking types, and skill levels.

Besides this, you have to decide if you want a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak. You should start with a sit-on-top kayak for recreational purposes as it is best suited for a beginner. However, the sit-in kayaks are suitable for advanced paddlers. Overall, when choosing a kayak, you should consider the following:

For more beginner tips, you should check out this article I wrote in which I discuss all of the tips that I wish I knew when I was a beginner.

  • The kayak dimension
  • How stable and wide the kayak is
  • How easy to come out of it
  • The materials used for the kayak

Choosing the right paddle

The choice of paddle you use can affect your kayaking. Besides this, the paddle style, design, and size play an important role in affecting your overall kayaking experience. It can make a difference between fatigue, blisters, and reduced efficiency. At times, the wrong paddle can make your kayaking difficult. Therefore, choose a good paddle that will make your kayaking trip enjoyable.

Check out this guide I write on Choosing The Best Paddle For Kayaking.

Overall, you should consider the following when choosing a paddle for your kayaking.

  • Your kayak width
  • Your torso length and height
  • The type of kayaking you want to do
  • Your paddling style and stroke angle

How to make kayaking less difficult

Nobody ever starts a thing without practicing. Even athletes have to undergo a strenuous process to become top. This same applies to kayaking when you want to start. The truth is kayaking is not difficult because you will see how easy it can be if you follow the process. Let’s look at how you can make it less difficult for yourself.

Take a kayaking lesson

Do you remember the first time you went for your driving lessons? How was the experience after a while? Now, you can comfortably use a single hand to reverse your car, which wasn’t possible when you started. It is not different from kayaking.

If you are a beginner, you need to invest in a kayaking lesson to understand the fundamentals of kayaking. Doing it yourself might complicate issues and make it harder when kayaking because you don’t have the required skills and knowledge to navigate your way.

Therefore, take lessons on how to kayak. You can hire a professional instructor or register in a kayak school when starting. You can understand the basics of holding a paddle, paddling techniques, and balancing your body before hitting the waters. Some things are rocket science, and paddling stroke is one of such. There is a safe and efficient way of doing that, and going for a practical lesson is the best approach.

Go for fitness training

It’s not to scare you from kayaking, but you need some fitness level to kayak. Even the regular sweep or forward stroke repeated over time can put weight on your body. Undoubtedly, kayaking is a workout. Essentially, it is low-impact cardio, even though it doesn’t require much fitness and strength.

Regrettably, if you haven’t been visiting the gym lately, you will feel the burn when you start kayaking. Fatigue will set in once you start. However, you don’t have to forgo your kayaking because of this. With a bit of effort and push, you will become used to it. It’s like an exercise routine that becomes used to you after some time.

Choosing location

Another reason why many think that kayaking is difficult is because of the location they choose. Strong waves and current aren’t the best if you are a beginner. You need to get acquainted with paddling before hoping in such a harsh environment. For a beginner, it is advisable to begin with the simplest environment that doesn’t have any obstruction. You can start with calm waters like a pond or lake.

Let’s face reality; if it’s your first time kayaking, conquering rapid upstream or fighting the strong currents isn’t something you want to face. Remember that a still lake can become a choppy nightmare because of changes in weather conditions.

5 Common misconceptions and myths about how difficult kayaking is

 At times, people think that kayaking is difficult because of the several myths and misconceptions they have heard about it. However, once you navigate through these misconceptions, you do discover that kayaking is easy. Let’s look at some of these misconceptions and debunk them as to why they are not valid.

Misconception 1 – You must be physically fit and strong to kayak

The idea that you have to be physically fit makes kayaking less demanding. However, it is not a requirement for kayaking, especially when starting out. Interestingly, the low-impact nature that comes with kayaking makes it suitable for anyone, irrespective of their fitness level. Furthermore, age, gender, or pre-existing conditions aren’t necessary factors to stop you from kayaking.

Perhaps, you have heard people talk about how important your upper body strength is when kayaking. However, the truth is that the forward stroke you make during kayaking comes from the core muscles. Nevertheless, your arms help you to maneuver the paddle when riding. Therefore, it is a misconception when you hear that you have to be physically fit and strong to kayak else things will be difficult.

Misconception 2 – Women can’t kayak appropriately because they are weak

This misconception also stems from the idea that you need your upper body strength, and most women don’t have such strength. According to research, men have more skeletal muscle mass in their upper bodies. However, it doesn’t mean that women can’t kayak. Kayaking is more than strength but about efficient strokes and proper techniques.

Therefore, if you still think women can’t kayak because they don’t have many skeletal muscles, you are in for a long ride because nowadays, you will find women who can compete with their male counterparts.

Misconception 3 – It is easy for your kayak to tip over when kayaking

Fear is a critical element that makes many beginners think that kayaking is difficult. While we won’t say this is clearly a misconception, it has a two-fold answer.

Besides the design technicalities, most average kayaks are more stable than you can imagine. It doesn’t mean that a kayak can’t capsize because it will if you don’t paddle properly or take the wrong turn.

Some kayaks have a narrower hull that makes them unstable. In such a situation, you can hop into it like that. Therefore, getting a kayak that suits your skill level is preferable.

I’ve written an article in which I answer the question ‘Do Kayaks Flip Easily?‘ You should give it a read if this is something that interests you.

Misconception 4 – Kayaking during cold and winter is difficult

Although the best time to kayak is during a sunny afternoon, it doesn’t mean that the weather will remain that way for a long time. The perception that you can’t paddle during winter or cold weather is a fallacy. It is doable as long as you have the skill and techniques to navigate the water. It requires adequate planning and preparation than when kayaking in a normal condition.

If you find that you have no choice but to kayak in harsh conditions then I recommend you check out this article on Tips For Kayaking In Cold Weather.

Besides this, it will be less difficult to dress for the water instead of the weather. You can take spare clothes on board to change. In addition, take a wet suit, spray, gloves, and a light wind-proof jacket for your protection.

Misconception 5 – It is expensive kayaking

Getting your kayaking equipment can indeed increase your cost over time. It’s like any outdoor sport; it requires a huge investment, and kayaking isn’t exempted. If what is holding you or making you realize that kayaking is difficult, you need to rethink it because it doesn’t cost a fortune.

Today, you can see different budget-friendly kayaks on the market that perform optimally well like those expensive ones. All you need is a reliable life jacket, paddle, and a kayak to get your journey started. In addition, you can invest in a good protective item to ensure your safety while you kayak.

Safety when Kayaking – What you need

For beginners, it is advisable to prepare for your safety when kayaking. Here are a few things you need to ensure you remain safe during kayaking.

Personal flotation Device

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, you need to have your personal flotation devices. These devices are lightweight and allow you to paddle correctly. Besides this, they keep you safe on the water.


You will need a helmet if you are kayaking close to whitewater or rocks. It protects you from any unforeseen event that might result in to head fracture.


As a beginner, you might feel concerned about the state of the water. A wetsuit comes in handy for colder weather as it keeps you dry and warm. In addition, good kayaking gloves can keep your hand warm, especially in an icy environment. It can also help you have a firm grip on your paddle when kayaking.

Conclusion – How Difficult Is Kayaking?

We believe that after going through this article on “how difficult is kayaking?” you will understand that it is not as difficult as flagged outside. Overall, it is easier to learn the basics of paddling. However, the hardest part is perfecting your technique as you practice over time. Besides this, you don’t have to rush things; start slow, follow your pace, and take breaks after riding a while.

So if you are ready to kayak, don’t go with the mindset that kayaking is difficult. Peradventure, it is difficult for someone you know; your case might not be the same as such an individual may not have the information contained in this article. Let go of your fears and start your kayaking journey now.

Suppose you have gone through kayaking after hearing different things about how difficult it can be. We do love to hear about your experience and how you were able to navigate your way.

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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