Kayaking Tips

Kayaking Tips

Hi Guys, here is a list of important kayak tips. Please read these before your next kayak session. We recommend that you always take the necessary time to prepare for all your water sessions. Try to understand all the different factors that go into making a successful session. Always respect the elements and prepare yourself for the common risks of this activity. let us know if you do not understand anything, we will be happy to explain. Also if you have any more tips that you think we should list on here then please let us know and we can add them.

Read the information below or use one of these quick links:
Prepping your kayak What to do in your kayak What not to do in your kayak Who can use the kayak
Where to kayak About ocean kayaking Marine life Launching a kayak
While kayaking Landing an parking General kayaking tips Do not kayak if windy
Exit strategy Blown away from shore Loading a kayak Falling overboard/ capsizing
Reentering the kayak Know your setting: What is Broaching? Using the paddle-to-hull leash
Coming ashore through shorebreak If you get separated from kayak Emergency distress signals Trimming the Kayak:

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Prepping your Kayak: When you are kayaking you are the captain of your own little ship. you will need to take everything you need with you. If you are going for a short time, you will just need the basics, if you plan to have a longer session, you will need to bring more items. you can make a check list of what you want to bring with you, and double check before launching, it is not always easy to come back to shore to get a forgotten item.Essential Items: All kayaks must have leashes to the paddles, and lifejackets must be onboard and worn at all times. Take seats, clipped in, and be sure that the bung plugs are properly inserted before entering the water. Remember that leashes, and lifejackets are safety items that must be used at all times.

Short Sessions: Bring kayak, seats, paddles, leashes, bung plugs, hatches, life jackets. Phone in a waterproof pouch, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a bathing suit and rashguard shirt, booties.

Longer sessions: bring all of the above items, plus; water to drink, a snack, any medications, maybe a camera (waterproof), etc.

What to do in your Kayak: kayaks are good for cruising along the inside reef area and getting some exercise. We do not recommend catching waves, and we do not allow fishing from our kayaks. We do not recommend going far from shore, or any type of voyaging or touring. Only tour with an experienced kayak guide.
What not to do in your Kayak:  Kayaks are not to be used in the surf zone, stay away from surfers and SUPers. Avoid swimmers and stay out of all swim zones. Kayaks should not interfere with any commercial (powerboat) traffic. Kayaks should not be used in offshore winds. Kayaks should be used as intended, they are not diving boards or jungle gyms to be abused on the beach. They are not to be used for anything other than kayaking.
Who can use the kayak: Any person using or riding on a kayak must be able to swim, all persons should sign the waiver, all persons must wear the lifejackets. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult (on the kayak) or supervised by an instructor.

Where to Kayak:  Not all beaches on Maui are suitable for kayaking. We only recommend our local beaches (Kalama park), and a few others. Please Note: Many kayakers each year get into trouble because they launched at the wrong beach. Make sure that you ask someone knowledgeable before attempting to kayak at a new location. Please note that kayaking at La Perouse bay not allowed. We do not recommend kayaking at any surf beach, Only launch and land at sandy shorelines. Stay close to shore, and do not go farther than you can swim.We recommend that you;

  • Do not go past the reef line.
  • Stay out of the blue water.
  • Do not launch where waves are breaking, or over rocky ledges.
  • Stay back from Whales at least 300 feet.
Know your setting: Maui is an island


surrounded by the ocean, it is not a lake or a pool or a river. So your situation could suddenly get serious if you are not paying attention. We do not recommend ocean kayaking  for young children or non swimmers. Kayaks will tip over and then your swimming skills will definitely get called upon. Participants must also have the physical ability and strength to get back onto the kayak after a capsize. This is not just a matter of strength, it is also a skill that should be practiced in shallow water before venturing out.

About Ocean kayaking: Always remember that we are on an island surrounded by water. We are entering the big ocean. And if we want to return to the island after our session we should try to stay close to the island at all times. Do not go too far from shore. Our kayaks are designed as recreational “inshore” craft to be used close to shore. they should not be used to go any distance from shore. These kayaks are not “offshore voyaging” kayaks, and should not be used as such.
Marine Life: We are going into the home of all of the sea creatures large and small. We are guests in their home so we need o show some respect. surfclubmaui.com blue whale drawingWe need to avoid coming in contact with marine life. do not get close to whales and other marine mammals they are protected. do not attract marine life. Do not engage monk seals, do not chase or harass turtles or dolphins. “Stay back in your kayak”, from whales etc.
No fishing allowed from kayaks: We do not allow any type of fishing, or collecting. Do not take any coral, shells, sea creatures, or fish. Fishing also attracts unwanted attention from the marine life (sharks, and even eels) so don’t do it.

Launching a Kayak: Never launch over rocks, find a sandy beach instead. Do not launch kayak over rocks, rocks may be just under the water, make sure that the water is deep enough to float the kayak. Avoid shallow water, and do not kayak over shallow reef. Never drag the kayak, always carry it (or use wheels)..

Procedure To launch:

  1. Always enter over sand, never over rocks.
  2. Do not launch through breaking waves, enter where it is most calm.
  3. Put kayak in thigh/waist deep water so it floats
  4. Point kayak perpendicular to shore, and nose towards the oncoming waves.
  5. Wait till after a wave, then front person gets on first.
  6. Place paddle across the hull, in front of the seat well.
  7. Turn your back to the kayak, and sit backwards into seat, put your legs in afterward.
  8. Turn to face front then start paddling to keep nose of kayak pointing into waves.
  9. Do no allow kayak to go backwards into beach.
  10. Second (rearward) person gets in next by, pushing the kayak out from shore, then jumping in.
  11. Quickly start paddling to get away from the shore break.

While Kayaking:

  • Kayak around wave areas, not through them.
  • If you have to cross some whitewater point directly into  the oncoming wave.
  • Do not get sideways to the wave.
  • When paddling try to get a rhythm going.
  • When tandem try to paddle in unison. the front paddler sets the pace and the back paddler matches the front paddler.
  • Do not argue, it takes practice and patience.
  • If you do not paddle in sync, you will clash paddles.
  • It may be necessary to paddle backwards at times.
  • You can usually steer by making a harder stroke on one side and a lighter stroke on the other.
  • Sometimes you want to paddle in a wide arc, but other times it is better to pivot and turn in place.
  • To turn in place you might want to paddle forewords on one side and backwards on the other side.
  • Kayaks do not have brakes, so paddling backwards might be necessary to slow or stop.
  • Stop well before any object.


Landing and Parking:

  • Stop before coming ashore and get out.
  • Do not ride the kayak onto the beach.
  • When coming ashore be careful of waves that can push you into the shore.
  • If you fall out in the waves, do not get between the kayak and the shore, or the waves will push the kayak over you.
  • In the waves get on the ocean side of the kayak and push it to shore.
  • Be careful crossing any shore-break, enter and exit through the shore-break zone quickly
  • Do not spend any more time here than you have to.
  • Keep the kayak perpendicular (90°) to the beach and to the waves.
  • Do not let the kayak get sideways (or the waves will pound it)
  • Pull the kayak up above the reach of the waves.
  • Park the kayak on the dry sand, well above the high tide mark.

General Kayak Tips:

  • Kayak with a friend.
  • No kayak surfing allowed
  • Kids under 12 must wear PFD (Personal Flotation Device) at all times inboard.
  • Adults must take PFD (Life Jacket) with them, strongly recommended that you wear PFD.
  • Take a cell phone with you.
  • Offshore can get blown away from shore, caught in channels etc.
  • Aggressive marine life farther from shore.
  • Replace bung plugs before entering water, check bung plugs before going out.
  • Use paddles correctly, flat side of blade to water.
  • Kayakers should avoid waves, kayakers should avoid surfers, and avoid swimmers, and fishermen.
  • Do not use the paddles to push off the sand. Paddles can break.
  • Make sure paddles are leashed into kayaks.
  • Put seats clipped into kayaks, facing forward.
  • The thin end of the kayak faces forward, the thick end is the back.
  • Generally the lighter person rides in the front and the heavier person in the back.
  • Kayaks are easily affected by wind, they gave a large surface area that can be caught by the wind.
Trimming the Kayak: It is important to distribute the weight on the kayak evenly. Do not take bulky items with you. Everything you carry with you must be attached to the kayak, and be ready to get wet. Putting cameras in waterproof bags, and tying them securely onto the kayak is important. When the kayak tips over, any unsecured items will get wet and sink. If you have heavy items you should try to secure them low and close to  the waterline as possible. if you have a high center of gravity from too much weight up high,the kayak will become unstable and will want to tip over more easily. Some kayaks have storage hatches to allow you to store some items inside the hull. Any items inside  the hull will get wet because there is usually some water inside  the kayak. The storage hatch lid must be secured, or too much water may get into the hull and sink the kayak. The kayak needs to have a watertight hull that has an airspace to keep the kayak buoyant and afloat. Putting too much stuff inside your kayak will make it float less, and reduce its stability. Do not overload a kayak, and only take the necessities.

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Keep in mind anything that you put inside  the hull could slip forward or backward inside the hull, this not only makes retrieving  the items difficult, it may also cause an unwanted weight shift that could make the kayak unbalanced and unmanageable.After you have your load bagged, balanced, and secured, then you will need to trim the kayak to balance the people. A heavy person especially will need to be correctly placed in the kayak or the trim will be off. If you have a heavy person, they must move forward enough so that the bow is not lifting up too high. On a tandem kayak if there are two people on the kayak, the heavier person is usually in the back, and the lighter person is sitting in the front, but that does not mean that you want the nose of  the kayak high in the air. If there is too much weight toward one end of  the kayak, it will be every difficult to steer. Kayak seats are adjustable, and can move forward and backward a few inches. This is helpful for trimming the kayak. If  the tail of the kayak is too heavy, then the seat should be moved forward. In a tandem kayak both seats can move forward. Also it might be necessary to relocate the payload (other items) forward or backward to help you trim the kayak.

Trim for going upwind: If there is too much weight in the stern,  the kayak will be difficult to control especially when going upwind. this will make the bow light and cause it to sway easily away from  the wind. In this case the kayak can be trimmed slightly nose heavy to reduce  the swaying effect.
Trimming for waves/swell in rough seas:  The nose of  the kayak may tend to dip too deep into  the water, this is dangerous especially when riding down swells. so in these conditions it is better to trim  the kayak slightly tail heavy to keep  the nose up, and the aft part of  the hull deeper in the water,  the kayak’s keel acts like a surfboard fin, which will help to steer the kayak when surfing down a swell. If the kayak is nose heave and surfs down a swell it will nosedive, and broach.
What is Broaching?: Any kayak, boat, or board will broach if the nose digs when going down a swell. broaching is when  the nose digs in and  the boat gets turned sideways, and usually crashes. When going down any swell  the weight should be moved back to keep  the nose light and free of the water. keep in mind most kayaks are not designed for big waves and will broach almost every time. This is especially dangerous when coming ashore in a swell if you try to surf into  the shallow water you can get broached and turned sideways and get rolled over sideways in  the surf. People sometimes get run over by their own kayak, and can also get stuck between the hull and  the seafloor. A kayak getting smashed sideways through the surf carries a lot of weight and has a lot of force, So it could be very dangerous. It is best to avoid this situation entirely. This is why we recommend never launching through any shorebreak, or coming ashore in  the waves.
Coming ashore through shorebreak (not recommended): If you must come through a shorebreak to come ashore, then it is best to disembark (get off) before the shore break and walk the kayak in through the surf. After getting off, stay to the side of the kayak, point the bow straight at the shore. Keep the kayak perpendicular to the waves, to reduce its surface area to the wave, then hold the side handle if there are two people or hold the tail handle if you are alone. Be prepared to let go of the kayak if it gets caught by a big wave, you don’t want to have  the handle ripping out of your hand and damaging your fingers. Take care because as a wave passed  the kayak can suddenly buck upward and take you by surprise. Do not put your arm over the kayak or put your face close to  the end of  the kayak, because it could buck up with speed and force enough to cause serious injury. Make sure that there is no one anywhere near the kayak when you bring it ashore just in case you have to let it go or it gets ripped away from you. if your kayak gets away from you it will probably get pushed in towards the beach, so is is usually simplest to let the waves do their work. Take care as you approach the kayak in the whitewater zone, always stay to the side, or stay on the ocean side so of  the kayak so that the kayak is not pushed onto you or over you by  the wave. Do not make the mistake of standing on the “beach side” of the kayak in the surf, because it will get shoved sideways forcefully by the shore-break, and could easily smash into your legs, like a huge rolling pin. If you do accidentally do get pushed under a kayak in a wave, you must protect your head and neck with your arms and try to get away from  the kayak. If you get hit in the head by the kayak you could get knocked unconscious and drown.
Using the paddle-to-hull leash: When you lose your kayak in  the surf you should have a paddle leash to  the hull,  the paddle should be connected to  the front of  the kayak, and if you are still holding the paddle you will have some control over  the kayak. Just like a surfboard leash helps a surfer control a surfboard after a wipeout. Even if you are not sitting in  the kayak, you can still control  the kayak, if you have a hold of  the paddle and leash. Let the weaves pull the kayak towards the shore, and keep the bow pointing toward the waves by holding onto the paddle and leash. Be prepared to release the paddle if the force is too great. Only try to come ashore at a sandy beach, do not try to come ashore into a rocky shoreline when there are waves,  the waves will smash the kayak and its contents into  the rocks, and  the occupants as well.
CAUTION: A kayak Hull leash is not to be used the same way as as a surfboard leash, (we sometimes use surf leashes as kayak leashes), but we use it differently. Never attach the kayak to yourself. Do not put  the kayak leash onto your ankle or wrist because the kayak is far too heavy if it gets caught in the waves. We attach  the leash to  the paddle, and you hold  the paddle, until you cannot. Also please remember that it is your responsibility to not hit anyone with your kayak. Kayaks can be extremely difficult to handle in the waves, so do not get close to the surf, or swimmers or surfers or rocks,  Your job as captain of your ship is to not hurt yourself or anyone else with your boat. You are responsible for whatever it does, even if it gets away from you in the surf. There is no excuse for bad planning and making avoidable mistakes.
Report Lost Kayaks: On that note: If you do lose your kayak while offshore, for example; say it blows away from  the beach or you fall out and it blows away, It is your responsibility to report your lost kayak. Otherwise people may find it floating unmanned, and start looking for the occupants. Call the shop immediately and/or call 911 if you lose your kayak at sea. And then the lifeguards and coastguard won’t waste their valuable resources searching for you unnecessarily.

Do not kayak if it is windy:

  • It is always advisable to anticipate some wind.
  • Wind makes the kayak difficult to steer, and it makes the kayak difficult to paddle.
  • The side of the kayak above the water acts like a sail and will catch  the wind. Also your body and any part of you or your equipment adds to your “sail” this is called “windage”.
  • To reduce the windage, try keep the kayak pointed almost directly into the wind.
  • When traveling upwind (towards the wind), you should keep the kayak’s bow (front end) pointed into  the wind.
  • When traveling downwind try to keep the kayak’s stern (back end) pointing into the wind.
  • When traveling upwind, the wind will try to turn  the kayak sideways.
  • some assertive and directed paddling is required to counteract the wind’s effects.
  • Good cooperation between tandem kayakers especially is required to coordinate  the paddling effectively.
  • The goal of  the paddling should be to steer  the kayak directly into  the eye of  the wind.
  •  if some angle across  the wind is required to get to your destination, then some serious paddling will be required to stop the kayak from turning too much away from the wind.
  • Especially of  the person in  the front of  the kayak is light and the aft person is heavy, the kayak will seem to want to turn away from  the wind.
  • At the beginning of a kayak session it is advisable to head into the wind, and travel upwind.
  • Then if you get tired you can return to your starting place more easily, as you will have made some ground upwind.
  • Kayaks travel faster when traveling with the wind, so you might want to spend 2/3 of your time going upwind and then 1/3 of the time coming back downwind.
  • In stronger wind you might want to spend 3/4 of the time going upwind, and 1/4 returning downwind.
  • In strong wind you might have to keep paddling into the wind constantly just to maintain your position.
  • If the wind gets too strong you should return to shore.
  • Avoid getting  the kayak sideways to the wind because you will get pushed downwind faster.
  • If you need to travel to a point across the wind, then angle the kayak into the wind and just slightly to the side you that you are traveling toward.

Exit Strategy:

  • It is not always possible to return to the same starting point.
  • Be prepared to find an alternative exit point.
  • Get familiar with the area, and identify several optional exit points prior to launching.
  • If you cannot make it back to the starting point do not panic, Just try to make it back to land.
  • Do not come ashore on rocks, there is usually a sandy beach around each cove.
  • Exiting over rocks is only for emergencies and not recommended.
  • If you have difficulty paddling into the wind, angle the kayak slightly towards shore and come back to shore.
  • If you cannot keep the bow of the kayak pointing into the wind, then point it towards shore and come in, even if it is at some point downwind from your starting point.
  • If you have a shallow sandy bottom, you can get out of kayak, and walk it to shore. But do not stand on the reef, and beware of sharp rocks.

Blown away from Shore:

  • If you ever find yourself getting blown away from shore, do not panic, stay with the kayak.
  • Call 9-1-1 and tell them your situation. Even if you are having difficulty, call before it becomes an emergency.
  • Remember that it is easier to be rescued during daylight hours.
  • The kayak is your lifeboat, and you can stay in the kayak and wait for a rescue (You might have to stay overnight if necessary).
  • People who abandon their kayak and attempt to swim to shore often drown.
  • Always tell someone where you are kayaking, and when you expect to return, give them instructions to call for help if you do not return by a specific time.

Loading a Kayak:

  • Do not take too much gear on board the kayak.
  • Extra weight slows the kayak and makes it difficult to control.
  • Weight load should be kept low as possible in the boat, to keep a low C.O.G. (center of gravity).
  • Loads should be tied onto the kayak so that they do not shift and unbalance the kayak.
  • Do not take expensive cameras or other electronic equipment unless it is waterproof, and unless it floats.
  • Kayaks often capsize (turn over), so expect that everything you have taken with you will get dumped overboard.
  • Anything taken on board a kayak, should be tied on, or attached to a float.
  • Waterproof pouches are available for phones.
  • The paddles are leashed onto the kayak so that they can be recovered.

Falling overboard/ capsizing:

  • If you lose a paddle overboard, you can swim the kayak to the paddle.
  • If you fall out of a kayak, quickly swim back to the kayak before it blows away.
  • Kayaks can blow away faster than you can swim, especially when windy.
  • If you fall out of the kayak, hold onto your paddle.
  • The paddle is attached to the kayak’s hull (with the leash), then you can pull yourself back to the kayak with the leash
  • But more importantly when you hold onto the paddle the kayak is being anchored in place by you.

Reentering the Kayak:

  • If the kayak turns over, you can right it by holding one end and rolling the kayak like a log.
  • Get the kayak into the upright position. If necessary you may have to reach across the center of the kayak and pull it towards you. be careful no to pull in on top of yourself.
  • It is usual to reenter the kayak in the center. Then try to get your upper body onto the kayak. to do this, reach across the kayak to the opposite side, and get up by by kicking with your legs, as you pull up onto the kayak.
  • Try to get your belly onto the kayak first then wriggle into the seat,
  • If there is another person with you (tandem) the front person gets in first and counterbalances as the second person gets in.
  • The stronger person may need to get in first and then help the weaker person to get in.
  • If there is a second kayak available they can come alongside and stabilize your kayak as you get back in.
  • If you cannot reenter the kayak, then stay with the kayak, and hold onto it.
  • You can hold the bow handle and swim the kayak to shore without reentering it.
  • If you are too tired to swim to shore just stay with the kayak.
  • Signal for help by waving your arms, or waving your paddle.
  • Shout or whistle loudly to get attention.
  • Stay calm do not panic.

If you get separated from your kayak:

  • If you get separated from your kayak, swim to it if it is close.
  • If the kayak blows away towards shore, swim after it.
  • If the kayak blows quickly away from shore, Do not follow it.
  • If you lose your kayak, slowly swim towards shore.
  • Slow swimming is better than no swimming.
  • Swim slow and steady and try to conserve your energy.
  • If you are too tired to swim, float on your back face up, conserve energy.

Emergency distress signals:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Try to attract attention by waiving or raising one (or both) arm(s).
  • Wave your paddle or a towel to attract attention.
  • Do this periodically, and as necessary.
  • Make a emergency call on you phone to 9-1-1
  • Whistle loudly or shout at any other water users nearby.
  • Stay calm do not panic.
Have fun, stay safe and happy kayaking.