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If you’re a white water lover looking for a new challenge, we recommend trying our Inflatable Kayaking course. The inflatable, two-man kayaks we use at CIWW have been lovingly nicknamed ‘hot dogs’ (hence the name of the course), and are quickly becoming a preferred way to pick up some exciting white water thrills.

If you’re new to the sport, you might want to learn a bit more before diving into your next adventure. Below, we’ve compiled our top Inflatable Kayaking tips for beginners:

What is an inflatable kayak?

Also known as airkayaks, inflatable kayaks have come a long way since they were first introduced to the world of watersports. Airkayaks share an identical design with their hardshell counterpart, the only difference being that the inflatable kayaks are made using a woven fabric coated in rubber or PVC.

Nowadays those slim paddle boats boast similar sturdiness and driving characteristics as traditional kayaks, their speed and ease of manoeuvring making them a popular choice for white watersports. An additional advantage to inflatable kayaks is the fact that they fit easily in a backpack, so you can travel anywhere with your trusted paddle boat.

Is Inflatable Kayaking safe?

Contrary to what many people think, inflatable kayaks are classed as very safe. The risk of punctures is low, especially if proper care is taken of the paddle boat. Thanks to the three separate air chambers which make up every inflatable kayak, paddlers are protected from serious danger. After all, even if one of the chambers has a leak, the remaining two will be more than sufficient to keep the boat afloat until you get safely to shore.

All that’s required to stay safe when navigating an inflatable kayak is some common sense. Stable and easy to manoeuvre, airkayaks shouldn’t cause you any trouble on the water. That being said, we recommend only taking your paddle boat into white water if it’s suitable for the purpose, and wearing a PFD whenever you go paddling.

What’s more, you should always check the weather conditions and tides before Inflatable Kayaking to make sure you don’t get stuck in strong winds or get carried away by unpredictable currents. Unless you’re heading out on an official Inflatable Kayaking course, we also suggest letting someone know your route and when you plan to return.

Types of inflatable kayak

The most common type of airkayak is the recreational inflatable kayak. It requires no paddling experience, and it’s perfect for some relaxed enjoyment on flat water. This type of inflatable kayak is the most stable one thanks to its considerable width, which makes it the perfect choice for beginners. Plus, the paddling technique required to navigate this paddle boat is simple to pick up.

But there are also other, more specialised types of inflatable kayaks, such as:

Inflatable kayak for fishing

One unexpected hobby inflatable kayaks are fantastic for is fishing. Fishermen don’t need to go long distances, which means an airkayak is a perfectly suitable solution for their water travel needs. With boats usually moored at the same place for extended periods of time, inflatable kayaks make for the perfect alternative to fishing boats in flat water areas where motor boats are banned.

Plus, airkayaks are more affordable than boats, and can be easily transported to remote locations which you wouldn’t be able to access on a full-size boat. As we mentioned above, inflatable kayaks are also very compact when deflated, and thanks to the materials they’re made of, allow for easy cleaning and drying.

In theory, you can take any inflatable kayak fishing. But if you want to amp up the customisation, you can invest in an airkayak designed specifically to meet the needs of fishermen, complete with extra reinforcements and special features.

Inflatable touring kayak

For the keener paddlers, there’s also the option of roaming the waters in an inflatable touring kayak. Purpose-built for going long distances on rivers and lakes, these inflatable kayaks are longer and faster. Rest assured, the majority of touring airkayaks will still be wide enough to keep you stable on the water and leave you sufficient room to store your bags.

Inflatable kayak for sea and ocean

Inflatable kayaks for sea (or even the ocean) are classed under touring kayaks as well. The distinctive slim outline of these airkayaks makes them perfectly suited for withstanding the strong waves and winds at sea. Plus, the longer inflatable kayaks for the ocean boast incredible speed on the water.

White water inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks designed for white water have a very recognisable shape. Shorter and wider than traditional airkayaks, these paddle boats are tailored to provide maximum stability and allow paddlers to easily navigate the rapids. With speed taking a back seat to great maneuvering, Inflatable Kayaking on white water requires a specific paddling technique, so we recommend starting with dedicated courses before giving it a go on your own.

Essential Kayaking skills

In fact, even if you’re not heading straight for the white water for some freestyle Inflatable Kayaking, developing some skills in a safe environment can make a world of difference. Here at CIWW we offer dedicated Inflatable Kayaking courses, which will teach you the correct paddling techniques and arm you with all the necessary Kayaking skills to effortlessly navigate the rapids.

Getting in an inflatable kayak

Boarding an inflatable kayak is a very particular skill which deserves a dedicated section. There are several different ways to get into and out of your airkayak – we suggest trying these out away from the water first!

Luckily, inflatable kayaks are very stable, which makes them accessible to all ages and abilities, especially if you’re boarding them from the shore. Having a fellow paddler along for the ride is definitely helpful for getting into an inflatable kayak from a dock, as they can easily keep it in place for you. Hopping back on board gets a bit trickier if you’re already in the water, and it often requires some undignified shuffling, but with some practice you’ll get the hand of it!

Once you feel confident in your technique, take your airkayak to a riverbank or the outskirts of a lake and practise, then make your way into still waters and have a go at boarding there, so you are prepared in case of emergencies. 

What should I wear Kayaking?

The key thing to remember when choosing what to wear Kayaking is that you’ll be fully exposed to the weather. We recommend planning ahead and taking your environment into consideration. Also, don’t forget to account for the fact that watersports often result in splashes – always bring a towel and a dry bag!

In fact, dry bags are an Inflatable Kayaking essential. Great for keeping your change of clothes and valuables dry, as the name suggests, dry bags are very affordable and extremely popular with paddlers. You can tie one of these to your kayak, and rest assured that your belongings are safe, as they’re designed to float in case your airkayak overturns.

Another must have for every inflatable kayak enthusiast is a pair of kayak paddling gloves. Designed with comfort in mind, these gloves will keep your fingers from chafing while you paddle, allowing you to go for longer trips along the water without having to suffer blisters.

Slightly more unconventional but just as essential is wearing sunscreen and bug repellent. You’d be hard pressed to spend an extended period of time on the water without encountering some creepy crawlies, or having to battle with the unforgiving sunshine.

Bringing food and drink along on your Inflatable Kayaking adventures is also a good idea. Maneuvering an airkayak can be challenging, especially if you’re navigating faster rapids, so if you’re going out for the day, we recommend packing some water and a couple of protein bars to help you refuel.

Inflatable kayak vs hardshell (regular) kayak

As watersport connoisseurs, we often get asked which one is better – an inflatable kayak or a hardshell one. The truth is, they’re both fantastic, and which one you enjoy more depends on your paddling preferences.

Hardshell kayaks are still more robust when it comes to performance and durability, so if you have the budget to buy one, the facilities to transport it and the room to store it at home, you should definitely consider investing in the real thing.

Inflatable kayaks are very convenient if you like to travel light and want to take your paddle boat with you without extra hassle. Investing in an airkayak saves you storage space, and allows you greater freedom of movement, since you (or your kayak) are not tied to a car.

Find out more about Inflatable Kayaking.