‘You’ll get a six-pack’: a beginner’s guide to kayaking

‘You’ll get a six-pack’: a beginner’s guide to kayaking

Bertin Huynh, still remembering the soreness of his arms from summer camp, learns to maximize propulsion with minimum effort.

I was initially nervous about kayaking Australia’s most busy waterway. Sydney’s streets can be a nightmare to cycle on – so why should the harbor be different?

Although I’ve kayaked in the past, I consider myself to be a beginner. I remember paddling until my arms fell off at school camp or capsizing friends in a lazy stream as scouts. As an adult, I found that it was easier to “fake” it until you made it.

Sophie Morgan’s company, OzPaddle, offers kayaking tours in the city. Morgan claims that kayaking and cycling are similar in many respects. One key difference is that there’s less traffic.

She says that there are only a few places in Sydney where she would not recommend kayaking. The waters get more crowded and narrower after the Harbour Bridge.

The city appears to vanish behind a canopy as we paddle out of the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, located on the eastern side of the Botanic Gardens. As we float around the curve at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and towering skyscrapers are revealed.

Even up to the Opera House, the waters are mostly empty. Only the occasional ferry will create a wave. Morgan has been kayaking on Sydney Harbour for the past 12 years and is still inspired by the view. “I don’t get bored going to the same spot every time.”

She is a great advertisement for the fitness benefits of her sport. She jokes, “You’ll have a six pack,” as she corrects the way I paddle.

It is important to paddle forward while holding the paddle at a 90-degree angle. This will ensure that only the fin touches the water. Having the paddle correctly and not pulling beyond your body will give you maximum propulsion with minimal effort.

A class like hers that lasts two hours at a cost of $125 per person is an excellent way for beginners to learn. Once you know how to paddle, however, you can rent a kayak for as little as $20 per hour on many large flat water bodies around Australia.

Morgan warns beginners to avoid double kayaks. “Even if you’re planning to paddle with someone else, the divorce rate is lower for singles.”

Morgan believes that you get what you pay for when it comes to equipment. A good paddle will make a big difference.

Gear that is longer, lighter, and stronger helps save energy but comes at a price. A kayak can be as low as $200 or as high as $5,000. Paddles are available for as little as $15 or as much as $400. Life jackets and paddles are an additional cost. Morgan says that cheaper equipment is usually shorter and heavier. This means kayakers have to work harder.

She says that “early morning is always the best.” The middle of the afternoon is hotter and more windy, but the dawn tends to have a “more peaceful” feel.

After our paddle, I was surprised to discover that the feeling of school camp had disappeared. My arms aren’t falling off, but I feel energized and ready to tackle the day. Technique is more important than timing.

  • Sophie Morgan, OzPaddle Sydney, provided the activity for this article. Destination NSW sponsored it.

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