What could better than slipping soundlessly through clear, sparkling Hawaiian waters, skimming over the open Pacific accompanied by dolphins and sea turtles? Imagine passing close to a humpback whale and her calf as they winter in warm Maui waters. Taking an ocean kayaking tour is the perfect way to experience this wonderful aspect of Hawaiian island life in a way that’s not only completely harmonious with the surroundings, but also gives you an intensely personal connection with the ocean and all its wonders.
Sea kayaking trips range from a few hours to a many weeks. Developed for the active sport of paddling on lakes, bays and the open ocean, most ocean kayaks are made for one or two paddlers. Size and configuration of the kayak are determined by the type of trip you want to make; for example, specialized kayaks such as surf skis are narrower than the typical open-water ocean kayak. Some may have upturned bows, providing better performance into ocean waves and better wave-shedding properties. The length of the ocean kayak affects both its cargo capacity and the ease of staying in a straight line in the water–its “tracking” ability. Very long ocean kayaks are easier to paddle straight, but are harder to turn and maneuver, so they are used mainly for long, open-water trips. The width of the ocean kayak also affects the cargo capacity, the size of the cockpit and overall stability.
Recreational Sea Kayaks
Most recreational sea kayaks are molded in one piece with a “cockpit” to sit in, “foot wells” to brace the feet in a comfortable position with the knees slightly bent and a backrest to provide support and comfort. Hooks along the side and top secure accessories and gear for snorkeling. Some fishing kayaks have rod rests for open-ocean fishing. The one-piece construction eliminates any need of bailing or clearing out water from the hull in rough water or after an overturn. Modern molded sea kayaks are light and easy to transport, as well as easy to use.
Ocean kayak paddles for recreational use are usually made of aluminum, plastic or wood, with high-performance paddles formed of lightweight materials like carbon-fiber. Ocean kayak paddles are made of two spoon-shaped blades on the ends of a shaft, usually “feathered” or set at right angles to each other. As one blade pushes through the water, the other passes through the air at a right angle, reducing wind resistance.
The paddles are attached to the kayak with a tether, so you can’t accidentally lose it–no chance of being up the proverbial “creek without a paddle.” A few practice strokes in calm water will give even the rank beginner at sea kayaking a feel for how easy it is to move, turn and control the kayak. If you are a beginner, stick with short sea kayak trips for starters. Sea kayaking tour guides and rental businesses will be happy to show you just what to do. And remember, you can do this!
Ocean Kayaking Techniques
If the kayak overturns or if you have been enjoying open-water snorkeling in one of Maui’s secluded bays, you can get back into the kayak by following a few basic steps.
- If the kayak is upside down, reach across the bottom of the boat and grab the scupper holes or accessory hooks. Bring your knees up and onto the bottom of the boat. Lean back and the boat will roll over. Lighter kayaks can be flipped over easily.
- Position yourself near the cockpit area facing the kayak. Let your feet float to the surface behind you by floating on your stomach.
- Reach across the boat to the far edge and swim up and on the kayak so your bellybutton is across the centerline of the boat.
- Roll over on your backside, swing your feet into the foot wells, and you’re up and ready to go. If you miss the first time, just line up in the middle of the kayak again until you make it. Easy does it, and you’re ready to paddle again.
Of course, you shouldn’t forget the basic safety rules to prepare for that long-awaited kayaking trip onto Hawaiian waters. A little preparation can mean the difference between having a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip on Hawaii seas or a disappointing experience.
Follow These Simple Kayaking Tips:
- Always wear a life jacket. Coast Guard regulations require a lifejacket on all kayaks. Wearing the lifejacket will keep your head above water in case of an upset and add insulation to your body.
- If you are a beginner, seek qualified instruction to learn paddling and water safety techniques unique to ocean kayaking.
- Be aware of weather conditions and ocean water temperatures present in the area of Hawaii you plan to kayak. A wet suit or dry suit will keep you comfortable in cold waters, and a simple, long-sleeved shirt can provide protection from intense sun in warm conditions.
- If you are striking out on your own, tell someone your paddle plan, including: where you are going, what you will be doing, how long you expect to be gone and how many people are in your party. Then, do not vary from that plan.
- If you are taking an ocean kayaking tour in a new area on your own, check with the locals regarding currents, shoreline conditions and usual weather patterns. Have an escape route and an alternative place to get off the water if environmental conditions make it necessary. And remember to let someone know your alternative plan as well as well as the original one.
- Always have water and some food with you.
- Be aware of offshore winds that may make it difficult to return to shore.
Hawaii Ocean Kayak Tours
Fortunately for the casual ocean kayaking enthusiast and occasional visitor to Hawaii, ocean kayak tour operators can and will provide just the right kayak for whatever kind of kayaking tour you have in mind, along with life jackets, snorkel gear, reef shoes and fins. Kayaking tours provide instruction in basic ocean kayaking, lead groups to the best local spots for snorkeling, ocean fishing, wildlife observation and out-of-the-way Hawaiian beaches and coves. Local kayaking tour guides have a huge store of information to share about local Hawaiian landmarks, native traditions relative to the area, and all wildlife unique to Hawaii. Get out there on the water. Ocean kayaking tours are fun! Hanalei river kayaking on Kauai is also a blast.