Paddlers...need some help please

First of all, if you popped in to talk about spankins, sorry, wrong thread.

I am going on a Kayaking trip in the Bay of Fundy and am very excited but for one thing - I have never kayaked. ever. The closest I have come is canoeing. So, I would like to train, but I live in a very landlocked place (serious lack of lakes or anything of the sort), and recognizing that actual kayaking will have to wait - what dryland/weight exercises can I do in the meantime to prepare myself for the experience?

well paddling is paddling, think of it as cross training.

cable weight machines will have pulley stations for the pulling and pushing actions.

the motion for kayaks is much different than paddling a canoe. I would think a rowing machine might be close to kayaking.

I’ve kayaked the Bay of Fundy (St. Martins area - not too difficult) and have also used a rowing machine as a workout. Kayak paddling, when done properly, isn’t about the arms. Its about the trunk. If you paddle with your arms as the primary propulsion you won’t last very long. I’m not sure what they are called but there are machines at the gym that involve twisting at the waist to move the weight. You might want to try one of those. Rowing machines, while a very good workout, don’t simulate the kayaking motion at all. Also, depending on where you are going and the wind conditions, any large body of water can be dangerous. It would be worth getting some experience under your belt even if its just in a pool. Did you ever think about how you are going to get back into the kayak if you fall out? There are definite techniques involved and the Bay of Fundy isn’t necessarily the best place to learn.

Since you’re practically there (well, not really) - check out White Point/Aspy Bay, Cape Breton, NS. Awesome paddling at the bases of cliffs. Google images does it no justice at all. Have fun and remember, the tide changes 1" per minute in places. Its amazing!

There’s a guy that has been practicing in his kayak in the deep end of our not-that-big local Rec Center pool. You should see if you can get in on that sort of thing.

The guy isn’t doing much paddling but rolling, like MikeF says.

[semi-hijack]If you’re all gung-ho for your new kayaking hobby and want to read of other kayaking adventures: I had a friend who was and is all gung-ho into kayaking and he has blogged his extensive kayaking adventures, complete with lots of photos, maps, and lots of information. He also has a lot of links to kayaking information, NOAA informational pages, other weather services, tide planners, etc. (mostly focused on the California coast) – scroll down to the bottom of the page for all that.

Mike’s Kayak Journal

Most kayaks have you sitting much lower than a canoe. I’d be working at sitting on the floor with your legs extended to make sure you have some good flexibility and strength in core of your body.

You’re going to go kayak in the ocean having never kayaked before? :eek:

Please tell me you’re going with a group, and you’ll wear a PFD, and a wetsuit. Kayaking in big water ain’t no walk in the park. If you don’t know how to get back into the kayak if you fall out, learn. Take some pool classes. Maybe rethink this whole vacation.

That said, to prepare, MikeF is right; kayaking is a core workout. If your arms are getting tired, you’re doing it wrong. Situps are your friends, as is anything that works your core.

Again, be careful. I’d only do the Bay of Fundy except right next to the beach if it were calm, and I’ve taken the classes, have all the gear, and have been kayaking on and off for 10 years or so.

Do remember that you will be cold.

You can’t have your kayak and heat it.

I would concur with everything that Athena said save that sit-ups are not a good exercise, either for preparing for kayaking or in general, as it tends to strain the muscles of the lower back (and if done incorrectly, the upper neck). Since kayak paddling primarily uses the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboid muscles (those connecting the thorax to the scapulae and lower back) the best strength training exercises are those which use those muscles directly, e.g. chin-ups/pull downs, bent over rows and dumbbell/kettlebell RDLs, get ups, and other exercises. A rowing machine will provide some degree of conditioning for this as well but the motion of that machine, which most resembles crewing, is not anything like the motion of kayak rowing. You don’t actually need a lot of strength to kayak, but strength will help also build up endurance.

More importantly, you need to learn the various techniques of sea kayaking, especially self-reduce and aided rescue, as well as how to perform different paddling strokes, braces, and wet exit. There are a number of different books on the topic but you won’t learn these skills from reading; you actually need to perform them. A one or two day “first strokes” class at a kayaking/canoeing facility will give you the basics for this. You also need the correct gear for safety; in addition to the PFD and wetsuit, you also need signaling devices (a flashlight at a minimum), tow line, compass, and chart, with the navigation skill to be able to locate yourself in case you get separated from your group (which can happen quickly, especially in any kind of current or inclement weather). If this is just a coastal tour you can probably get away with just that. If it is a bay crossing route, you should probably reconsider your plans. The ocean–even inlets like Fundy–is no joke, and it is easy for someone who is not experienced to go from a fun paddle to panic and hypothermia if not prepared and experienced.


I snorted. <golf clap>

Boy, as a new kayaker myself I’ve got to confirm what everyone’s said. I wouldn’t go out on that bay without a lot of back up. Sea kayaks can be pretty unstable - I know from personal experience - and it’s likely you’ll go over at least once your first time out there.

When I’m on my own I restrict myself to a large local lake which is generally flat as a pancake and I never go out in bad weather. Otherwise I stick to groups.

I am going with a group (Outward Bound) and they are aware that I have no experience. I have been trying to find a paddlers club or group, but so far, it’s not a big sport in this area (due to the extreme lack of lakes).

Shelley Johnson’s The Complete Sea Kayaker’s Handbook is my favorite basic guide on basic sea kayak skills and preparation. However, as I noted before, you can’t learn these skills from a book, nor can you be mentally prepared for rolling over and doing a wet exit without actually simulating the event. At a very minimum, you need to have someone demonstrate and drill you on the basic strokes and braces, and make sure you are comfortable with a wet exit (egressing from a kayak that is inverted and the occupant upside down in the water) and being in water deeper than you can stand in. All of the extra assistance in the world isn’t going to help you if you can’t get out of an inverted kayak and no one can safely help you with this.

Also–and this goes even for experienced paddlers–you should never go out in conditions that are significantly beyond your skills or preparation. Since you have no experience, anything beyond light seas and within swimming distance from shore should be your limit. Just because other people are experienced doesn’t mean they’re experienced or prepared to rescue a disabled or panicked paddler, and it is surprising how quickly the situation can go from an energrtic paddle to an emergency.


Play on a lake or swimming pool first. I’m all for risk taking, but don’t put other paddlers at risk.

Plus, lakes are awesome. Mine has otters!

Awesome and relaxing. Last year I was paddling a local lake and startled awake. No idea how long I was sleeping.

You should definitely take heed of all the safety advice, as well as the advice to at least get some sort of beginner training before tackling Bay of Fundy. I’ve never been there, but have heard plenty enough about the conditions and tidal actions to know that it ain’t no joke.

But, in order to better gauge your current level of greenhorn-ness, I’m wondering if you could elaborate more on the extent of your canoeing experience. How much paddling time do you have under your belt, and on what sort of waters? Do you even know the most very basic strokes for when you want to go straight and when you want to turn? Also, who’s providing the kayak and gear, and are you aware of what the kayak is equipped with? Will it have a skeg or rudder?

If they are putting newbs in kayaks and turning them loose they are probably going to besit on top kayaks. Much easier to manage and to get back on if you fall off.

I have taken courses in canoeing, and gone on several trips. I’m by no means an expert, but I have the basics. I have no idea on equipment yet, only that they do this kind of trip yearly with people with no experience.

That said, I am trying to find a basic kayak course in the meantime. The trip is not until August. At least I’m a strong swimmer, yes in open water too.