How to Overcome the Fear of Kayaking

The fear of capsizing in the middle of open water can scare us to death, especially if you are using a sit-in kayak. How do you get out of your boat and swim for the top while submerged under water?

To find yourself in a paddling situation outside of your comfort zone can be one of the worse feelings for someone who has had terrible experiences in the past. The scary feelings and thoughts we have may never go away.

Fortunately, we can take action and do things that make us all the braver and wiser. Let’s take a closer look at the best ways to overcome the fear of kayaking, and become brave for the open water.

The 7 Essential Tips to Becoming Braver Than Your Fear of Kayaking and the Water

It takes a little bit of effort and a lot of energy and time to break fears that we have, especially when it comes to the large bodies of water that we aren’t looking to spend every day of our lives on.

Go through these tips with an open mind and let yourself fantasize on finally conquering your fears by becoming a braver version of you.

1. Take Kayaking Lessons From a Certified Teacher

Getting the right training from the right person is essential. Safety in any water sport is vital, and learning from the best is step one of overcoming your fears.

How do we find the right instructor to learn from? Ask them what their credentials are, then ask to watch them teach other students.

We want to hear certain things from our potential instructor:  “I am an ACA certified instructor.”

This tells us they have the technical know-how, a keen understanding of safety and rescuing, and can teach individuals and large groups of people effectively.

Do you want to make sure ACA indeed certified them? Take a look at the database of certified instructors in different water sports, including kayaking.

You can learn how to paddle correctly, how to roll a kayak, and how to stay safe and apply self-rescue techniques when you are in the water.

2. Join an Experienced Group of 3 or More Paddlers for Support

There is strength in numbers.

If two brains are better than one, we can only imagine how awesome it is to have four. When you first start out, it can be essential to join up with a local group of paddlers to venture out into the wilderness.

You can do it alone, but if you find yourself frightened and unable to take action when the time matters, we want to be around good people for help.

After your kayaking lessons, ask around to see if anyone wants to take part in a kayaking group. You can also ask the instructor for suggestions on people you can connect with.

What if you can’t find anyone? Take to the digital web and try searching on Facebook and Twitter. You can use search terms like “kayak,” “kayaking” and “paddlers” along with your local town, city, or area name.

Introduce yourself, meet up with them for the first time, then see if you can put your kayaking lessons to the test. Don’t forget to ask for everybody’s phone numbers and emails for contact afterward!

3. Come Prepared With All the Right Safety Gears

Safety is no joke. We want to make sure we have everything we need to prevent any catastrophe from happening during an innocent day out in the water.

Capsizing, falling overboard, and drowning are all serious scenarios that should be respected and prepared for. The right gears can help mitigate the risk to any serious catastrophe from happening to you.

For starters, wearing the proper personal flotation device can help reduce your risks of drowning or other incident that we might not have thought about beforehand.

How do you ensure to come prepared the next time you go kayaking? We recommend carrying a checklist. We wrote a brief guide on things you should wear here. It should serve as a great starting point on important things to bring with you and the proper attire to wear.

4. Explore the World Wide Web and Find Videos of Other People Kayaking

Since we have access to the Internet and its entire glory, we can probably try to make use of it!

Doing a quick search on Google or YouTube can bring up search results of videos other people post of their trip venturing out onto the water. You can use search terms like “river kayaking,” “kayaking trip” and “kayaking lessons” can give you a greater insight to paddling in your boat thanks to the collective experiences of other people.

For example, check out this video on how to front ferry while kayaking:

5. Pace Yourself by Starting Small and in Easy, Calm Water

It might be a no-brainer to suggest starting your kayaking adventure in easy, calm water, but we’ve heard stories of people going straight for sea kayaking or river kayaking and getting caught up in a terrible situation.

Nobody got seriously hurt though! But sometimes we forget to set aside our ego, our embarrassment, our desire to prove that we can kayak and start off in a place that is way above our skill level.

If you find yourself afraid of the icy waters, crashing into fellow kayakers, or capsizing, give yourself time to take in all the little nuances that make up each danger and the overwhelming emotions that come with them.

By the way, there is no rush. The water will be there next week or the week after that. Even if you have to walk away, you can come back next time. Talk with your kayaking pals, instructor, or your partner.

Then, when you are back onto your feet, keep the pace up until you become a pro paddler.

6. Slowly Increase the Amount of Time Spent in Your Kayak Seat and the Water

For those with severe terror to the water and kayaking, it can take a lot of time, patience, and baby steps to becoming braver than your fears. Learning how to take baby steps can become an essential skill not only for kayaking, for other challenges we might face in our lives.

One key baby step is to monitor how much time you spend seated in your kayak while in the water. You can track this with a pen and paper, or chart it on your monthly calendar.

As you find yourself spending more and more time training, learning, and becoming brave, you can look back at your past successes with pride.

Pat yourself on the back for us because you were a better ‘you’ than yesterday!

7. Tap Into Your Imagination and Commit to Learning Visualization

We promise this isn’t some mumbo-jumbo technique pulled out from thin air. The art and science of visualization has been well-documented and can be seen used by world-class sports professionals.

The great thing about visualization is that you can do it wherever and whenever. All you need is some peace, quiet, and some time alone.

How can you start visualizing? There are two ways you can go about overcoming your fears.

The first method is to visualize the way you perform. Take note of the step-by-step process when it comes to kayaking. We want to envision all the things you can do as you imagine climbing into your boat and going out in the open water for the day.

The act of visualizing the course of actions we take help us anticipate and emotionally prepare for what is to come. It makes the situation known to you and the fear familiar.

The second method is to visualize negatively. This is where you spend some time looking at all the things that can go wrong and the consequences of the worst-case scenarios.

Whether it is drowning or capsizing because of a wave or while in a river, or finding yourself struggling to stay afloat in the water, we want to become again aware of the fear that drives our emotions and critically think about what it is we can do when we are in those situations.

Visualization gives us a chance to solve problems before they even happen. It allows us to recognize the fear for all its detail, break it down into specific problems, then let you to tackle the challenges one by one.

Armed with the right knowledge, some experience from your lessons, and the chance to watch videos of other people’s experiences, you can practice making the right decisions and judgment calls. This can give you self-confidence in your ability to kayak well.

Over time, as we continuously practice visualization, we become more aware of what is going through our minds and heart. That way, we can find it in us to brave the water and enjoy kayaking for what it can be: a sport and leisure fun.

Our Closing Thoughts

It can be difficult to break through the fear that holds us back from kayaking. Understanding and trying to follow the methods we listed above can help you find courage to brave the water.

Do your best to not take things so hard on yourself, don’t forget to breathe, and always look forward to all the fun you can enjoy. Good luck!