Kayaking is a great way to connect with nature and get some exercise in the process, but it can be intimidating and downright confusing to get started in. Which boat do you need? What gear is essential and what are good brands? Where do you go and how do you learn the necessary skills?

1. Join a Club.

Almost every major (and smaller) metropolitan area has one if not several kayaking clubs. These give you a chance to meet other paddlers, learn how to roll a kayak in a pool, and try out boats. Once you feel confident to try your new skills on a river, you can join the club for your first outing.

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2. Test Drive Kayaking In An Inflatable Kayak.

Several rivers and outfitters rent duckies or inflatable kayaks to use to try out whitewater and see how you like it with a skilled guide to explain hazards, techniques, and keep an eye on you.

3. Sign Up For Private Instruction.

Learn everything from how to roll to what boat is best for you at your own pace with private instruction. Most larger rivers have an outfitter that provides private instruction.

4. Take a Clinic.

Not a fan of one on one or trying to save a few pennies to buy a boat? Several outfitters also offer clinics ranging from one day to a full week. Enjoy meeting other people new to the sport and trying out a variety of boats.

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5. Attend a festival.

Several outfitters and organizations host festivals every year. These are great ways to meet people in the sport and find deals on used gear. Some of the bigger ones, like Nantahala Outdoor Center’s GAF and American Whitewater’s Gauley Fest, are large weekend events centered on rivers.

6. Volunteer.

Volunteering with a paddle or outdoor focused organization, even if you just stuff envelopes or drive a van of stinky, wet gear, gets you in contact with people in the sport who have a passion for the way it changes lives.

7. And Finally, Facebook.

Facebook is full of groups for everything: certain areas, specific sections of river, types of boats, etc. Find a group on Facebook that fits what you’re looking for (i.e.: whitewater canoes, called open boats) and chances are there will be tons of people with advice to help get you started!

A bonus tip for starting out: kayaking uses your core muscles more than anything else. If you’re really thinking about picking up the sport this summer, start out with a little yoga that focuses on shoulders and core strength. Having loose, flexible shoulders will also help protect them.

Good luck, have fun, and be safe out there!