If you haven’t tried Florida Keys kayaking and you love the outdoors, then you’re in for a real discovery. Kayaking through mangrove channels, or out on the flats, you will experience the water in an intimate way that is never possible in a power boat. If you love hiking, then chances are you’ll like kayaking too. It’s a very different activity, but the sense of treading a pathway, open to discovery, never knowing what’s around the next corner or the next mangrove, is the same idea. Traversing a mountain or the backcountry flats, it’s the same feeling of testing your body, how far will it take you. Can you reach your destination, your summit, before your arms give out? Just as in hiking, you can always stop and rest while kayaking as well. Just stop paddling for a minute or two, and enjoy the silence of the natural world around you. Let your arms rest, sit back, adjust your seating, sip some water, or take some pictures. Then continue on your way once you’re rested. It’s Florida Keys kayaking…not a race!
Types of Kayaks
FIrst of all, there are two types of kayaks: sit on top and traditional kayaks. In a sit on top kayak, you sit higher and water runs through scuppers, or holes in the bottom, when a wave washes over you. With the other type of kayak, you sit down inside the shell, and sometimes you see these types of kayaks with a seal, which goes around the paddler’s waist and attaches to the rim of the cockpit, sealing the cockpit from water. In the Florida Keys, you will find both types of rental kayaks with the outfitters, and often you can choose which type you want.
A sit on top kayak, or SOT, is going be easier to get in and out of, which makes beginners feel more comfortable. When you learn to use a traditional kayak, you must learn to do an Eskimo Roll, which is very scary for most people. The sit-on-top kayak is also mroe open and less confining than the traditional kayak, so it’s more comfortable for beginners.
The wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. That makes beginners feel much more confident, since one of the scariest things about learning to use a kayak is the tippiness you feel at first in the water. The only drawback of the wider, stable kayak is that it will be harder to paddle, since it doesn’t cut through the water as sharply. They even make really wide kayaks that you can stand up in, for fishing or just to get a good look around you. These will cut through the water like a bathtub, however, so you have to think about what you’re going to be doing in your kayak, where you will go.
Getting Ready for Your Florida Keys Kayaking Adventure
Bring lots of water. Most kayaks have cup holders, and if there isn’t one, you can stash water at your feet. Wear a hat that won’t blow off. Wear sunscreen. Consider wearing longer shorts, since the tops of your thighs will be laid up facing the hot sun all the time you’re kayaking, especially if you rent a sit-on-top kayak, where there’s no inside cockpit. For Florida Keys kayakingwear a shirt or rashguard because your shoulders will be facing the sun for hours, and the sun’s rays get magnified because you’re inches from the water, and water acts as a magnifying glass. Plus, this is Florida and the sun is probably stronger than where you’re from.
If you bring a camera, get a waterproof camera bag or case, because sometimes you get wet, and every once in a while, people tip their kayaks over while holding onto a mangrove branch, for example, and the current takes the kayak from under you and whoops. If you have them with you on vacation, bring our binocs if you like spotting birds. Chances are, you’ll be kayaking through some backcountry where birds like to hang around either fishing in the flat water, or resting in the mangrove branches. Last but not least, have fun, keep your wits about you, and enjoy discovering the Florida Keys by kayak.