Anna LevesqueAnna Levesque has a bronze medal from the 2001 Freestyle Kayaking World Championship, and was a member of the Canadian National Freestyle team for five straight years. She’s worked as a whitewater guide across the globe and currently devotes her time to teaching women how to kayak with her North Carolina based company Girls at Play: watergirlsatplay.com.

I really want to learn how to kayak, but I’m terrified of drowning. Any tips for helping me get over that?
One of the best skills that you can develop in kayaking is the ability to work through fear. Although fear can be healthy because it helps to keep us alive in certain situations, if we let it, it can make us so conservative and safe that we don’t live life to the fullest.
First, take professional instruction. A good, experienced instructor has tools and progressions to help you feel more confident and comfortable on the water. Second, practice the wet exit in calm flatwater near shore over and over until you become comfortable being underwater and getting out of your kayak.  Once you know that you can get out of your kayak easily, flipping over becomes less scary. The wet exit is the most overlooked skill in kayaking to help build confidence.

What sort of cross training can I do during the off season so I’m in good kayaking shape when the rain starts to fall?

Most paddlers in this area love to mountain bike and trail run.  It keeps them fit and strong.  Working on your core strength is important because for paddling, your power comes from your core.  Personally, in addition to cycling, swimming, and running, I like yoga and salsa dancing as additional cross training activities.

Sea kayaking looks so easy and peaceful, but when I tried one on my local lake, it was exhausting. What did I do wrong?

You were probably using your arms instead of your core. Proper paddling technique harnesses torso rotation. Instead of pulling with your arms every time you take a stroke, try planting your paddle in the water and then rotating with your core. Think of your arms as an extension of your core. Twist from your belly button for the most power.