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Canoeing on Lakes: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Canoeing on Lakes: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Canoeing on a lake is a great way to experience nature and the outdoors. Lakes provide a quiet, peaceful environment, free of boat traffic, waves, and other distractions. Additionally, there is no need to paddle back upstream or catch a ride back to the starting point. One can explore all areas of the lake and quickly return to shore.

Despite the peaceful environment, there are still hazards to consider when canoeing on a lake, such as rocks and downed trees. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings. Additionally, it is wise to check for wind and weather warnings prior to heading out and always wear a personal flotation device (PFD).

Lake Canoeing Tips for beginners

Choose the right canoe

Choosing the right canoe is an essential factor for the beginner canoeist. The type of canoe should be suited to the body type, strength, and size of the canoeist, as well as the type of water they will be paddling in. Flatwater canoes tend to be longer and narrower than whitewater canoes and are ideal for paddling on calm lakes and rivers. On the other hand, whitewater canoes tend to be shorter and wider, making them more maneuverable in fast-moving water. It is also essential to consider the type of paddle you will need. Beginners should look for a lightweight, durable, and budget-friendly paddle.

Choose the right lake

The best kind of lake for canoeing is a small and serene lake located in cottage country. These lakes are ideal for canoeing, free of boat traffic, waves, and other hazards like rocks and downed trees. It is essential to be aware of your surroundings, check the weather forecast prior to canoeing, dress appropriately, wear a PFD, and know how to self-rescue.

Learn Getting in the Canoe and Launching

The best way to learn how to get into a canoe and launch it is to start by understanding and respecting the basic natural laws that apply. Before getting into the canoe, it should be carried to the water and lowered onto it. With the canoe floating free and parallel to the shore, you can enter it by placing one foot in the center of the canoe, then crouching low, grasping the opposite gunwale with one hand. As you transfer your weight to the foot in the canoe, swing the other foot on board. Once in the canoe, you should crouch to keep your weight low and hold onto both gunwales.

When you are ready to launch the canoe, position your paddle blade at a thirty-degree angle in the water and push your left hand straight forward to bring the blade to a near vertical position. Pull back with your right arm and shoulder until your right arm reaches your hip. Reverse for paddling on the left side. This will pull the canoe, rather than the paddle, through the water.

Learn the basic paddling techniques

Learning the basic paddling techniques for kayaking is essential for staying safe and enjoying the sport. Knowing how to hold a kayak paddle, orient it correctly, and maintain the so-called paddler’s box is essential. Additionally, one should be aware of how to perform the basic paddle strokes, including the forward, reverse, sweep, and draw strokes. Furthermore, learning how to perform basic turns and maneuver your kayak is essential.

One can take a class, get instruction from an experienced paddler, watch instructional videos, or read instructional books to learn these techniques. Additionally, one could find a friend who paddles and have them show the basics and give tips. Finally, it is essential to remember the basic tips, such as ensuring the paddle blades are around the right way and having the brand’s sticker on the front of the blade. 

Keep a low center of gravity

Canoeing can be intimidating for beginners, but the proper technique and knowledge can be a great way to explore the lake or river. One of the most important advice for those new to canoeing is to keep your center of gravity low. This helps to ensure that you maintain your balance and avoid tipping over. When you’re kneeling in the canoe, your weight rests on the bottom of the boat, below the waterline. This keeps your center of gravity low and makes it more stable. When you sit in the canoe, your weight is on the seats, raising your center of gravity and making it more difficult to maintain your balance. Additionally, keeping your body relaxed and loose will help you to react quickly to a tipping canoe and counteract it with your upper body. This simple tip can distinguish between an enjoyable outing and an embarrassing one.

Wear a life jacket

It is important to wear a life jacket while canoeing on a lake for the safety of yourself and others on the water. Wearing a properly fitted life jacket is legally required in many jurisdictions and should be considered non-negotiable for anyone on the water. Additionally, even experienced swimmers should wear life jackets to protect them in emergencies. A life jacket can also help you maintain balance while canoeing and protect you if your canoe tips over unexpectedly. It is essential to test a life jacket before use to ensure it is properly fitted and that it provides adequate buoyancy.

Check the weather conditions

It is essential to check the weather conditions when going on a lake canoeing adventure to ensure the safety and enjoyment of the trip. Weather conditions can quickly change and can bring unexpected hazards and challenges. Strong winds, rain, fog, and lightning can make a safe, simple paddle into a dangerous situation. Checking the weather forecast can help you adjust your paddling route and clothing accordingly. Additionally, it’s essential to check the water conditions, such as water temperature and tide, which can also affect your experience. Taking the time to check the weather, water conditions, and potential hazards will help you plan a safe and enjoyable trip.

Check the condition of the canoe

It is important to check the condition of your canoe before using it, as it can affect your performance and even your safety. To check the condition of your canoe, you should inspect all of the materials to ensure that it is watertight and that the hull is free of any cracks or leaks. You should also make sure that the canoe is evenly weighted from the bow to the stern. An improperly trimmed canoe will be unbalanced and could become unstable in the water. Additionally, you should check the canoe for any damage that may have occurred while in transport or storage. Taking the time to check your canoe’s condition will help you ensure that you remain safe and secure while out on the water.

Wear appropriate clothing

When it comes to canoeing, it’s essential to consider what kind of clothing to wear. The rule of thumb is to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature, as hypothermia can be a real concern if you’re continuously getting wet while canoeing. Avoid wearing cotton, as it will absorb water and dry very slowly if wet. Instead, opt for fleece or materials that dry quickly when wet and dress in layers, so you can shed a few if it gets too warm. When it comes to kayaking, it’s best to choose quick-drying, moisture-wicking fabrics and a wetsuit or dry suit for colder temperatures. If it’s chilly or windy, it’s a good idea to have a lightweight rain jacket or windbreaker. Sun protection is also a must, so be sure to bring a sun hat and polarized sunglasses.

Canoeing Loch Lochy, part of the Caledonian Canal, Fort William, Scottish Highlands, Scotland, Unite

How do I maintain a good paddling technique when canoeing on a lake?

Maintaining good paddling technique when canoeing on a lake is essential for an enjoyable and safe experience. To do so, it’s important to start with the right gear. Make sure you have a paddle of the proper length and keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the shaft. Ensure that the concave side of the blade is facing you.

To begin paddling, sit in the canoe with a straight back and legs in front of you. Put a slight bend in your knees and rest them against the side of the canoe. If your canoe has a pair of footpegs, place your feet on them and adjust them if needed.

Next, use the proper technique to paddle forward. Begin by tightening your core and leaning forward to twist your torso. Place the paddle blade into the water near your feet, keeping your knuckles pointed upward and maintaining a relaxed but firm grip on the paddle shaft. Pull the paddle back toward you and remove it from the water. This should look like one swift motion from your feet to your seat in the water. Make sure to repeat this technique on both sides to move forward efficiently.

If you want to turn your canoe to the left, then paddle only on your right side. If you want to turn your canoe to the right, then paddle only on your left.

Finally, if you want to stop your canoe, simply put your paddle in the water and hold it there. This will drag against the water, and your canoe will slow down and eventually stop.

With these steps, you can maintain good paddling technique when canoeing on a lake and enjoy your time on the water.

Couple friends canoeing on a wooden canoe during a sunny day


What is the difference between canoeing and kayaking?

Canoeing and kayaking are popular water sports, but they have some distinct differences. Canoes are wider and longer than kayaks and generally more stable in the water. Canoeing is often done in tandem, while kayaking is typically a solo activity. Furthermore, the posture and paddle strokes used in the two activities differ. In a canoe, you sit or kneel, and the paddle has a blade on both sides. For kayaks, you are seated, and the paddle only has one blade.

What do I need to know before I go canoeing?

Before you go canoeing, there are some essential things you need to know to ensure a safe, enjoyable experience. You should always have someone else hold the canoe steady when getting in and out of it, crouch low, grab the sides for balance and try to keep your feet on the centerline. Never stand up or walk in your canoe; always wear your life jacket to stay safe. Be aware of currents in the water, stay away from low-hanging tree branches, and avoid sudden or jerky movements while canoeing. It’s also essential to bring all the necessary equipment, including sun protection, a first aid kit, food and water, life vests, a map, and a waterproof container with extra clothing.

What type of canoe paddle should I use?

When choosing a canoe paddle, it’s essential to understand the various types of paddles available and what type is best suited for your specific needs. For beginners, you don’t have to invest in a high-end, expensive paddle made from carbon fiber. Instead, look for a durable, budget-friendly paddle that breaks down into pieces for easy travel.

What type of gear do I need for a kayaking trip?

When planning a kayaking trip, it’s essential to make sure you have the right gear, supplies, and clothing. The essential items you’ll need include a kayak, paddle, lifejacket, bilge pump, maps/compasses, whistle/signaling device, helmet/hat, water, snacks, sunscreen, reusable water bottle, paddling gloves, snacks, dry bag, supportive swimsuit/sports bra, board shorts, water shoes, sun hat, and polarized sunglasses with a retainer. Optional items include a spare paddle, extra layers of clothing, and a lightweight rain jacket or windbreaker.

What type of canoe should I buy as a beginner?

As a beginner, you should look into getting a recreational kayak. These are usually wider and more stable, making them ideal for beginners. You should also look for a durable and budget-friendly kayak from a reputable brand. If you are on a budget, the Ascend Kayak product range offers some well-equipped kayaks at reasonable prices. Additionally, you’ll want to invest in a good, durable, and budget-friendly paddle. Finally, consider the type of kayaking you want to do, as certain kayaks are better suited for specific types of trips. For example, touring kayaks are better for those with more experience on longer trips, while sit-on-top kayaks are great for beginners.