CANOEING/KAYAKING ACTIVITY CARD
Parts of the Body Worked
Shoulders & Neck
Just what does it take to canoe or kayak?
You’ll need a kayak (boat that’s almost completely closed on top with space for just one person) or a canoe (open boat that can fit you and a friend or two) plus the right kind of paddle. Kayak paddles have a blade on both sides, but canoe paddles have one blade. Be sure to pick the right size paddle—the stick part of a canoe paddle should be about six to eight inches longer than the length of your arm with your fingers out. Don’t forget another essential: the life vest! Water shoes or sneakers —not sandals —that grip on the bottom will help your feet stay put when you are pulling the paddle through the water. Keep a whistle attached to your life vest so you are always ready to get attention if trouble strikes.
Play it Safe
You need to be a strong swimmer because you might have to swim underwater, or in moving water. Always go paddling with another person—not just for times of trouble, but because someone should help you carry, load, and launch your boat, right?
Make sure your life jacket fits. Since paddling is an activity that you can do all through the year, leave enough room to put clothes under it when it is cold out. Be prepared to get wet! Take along extra dry clothing, just in case. Remember to keep sun proof with sunscreen.
Save paddling for good weather days. Since you don’t know what mother nature will throw at you, know where your float trip will take you, spots where you can get out or camp for the night, and different ways to go in case unexpected trouble strikes your route. Avoid whitewater rapids, dams, and falls—only experienced whitewater paddlers should take these on.
Sure, you want all your friends and their stuff to come along, but don’t put too much weight in the boat—you should have more than six inches of side between the top of the fully loaded boat and the water. Spread out the weight (including people) so the boat will stay balanced.
Take lessons to help you learn ways to get yourself back in your boat if it tips over—before you take your first trip. And then practice them. The main thing to remember is… Don’t panic. If you can’t get back in, stay with your boat and flip it back over—it’ll float—and try to swim the boat to shore. (Remember, you’re wearing a life jacket, right?!)
How to Play
Paddlers (people who canoe or kayak) really know how to have fun on the water — just a boat, a paddle, nature, and you!
Canoeing. Hold the paddle with your inside hand on top and your water-side hand two to three feet down. Your knuckles should be facing out. Without stretching, insert the blade of the paddle all the way in the water as far forward as you can reach. Push your top hand forward and pull your bottom hand back, turning your shoulders to move the paddle blade straight through the water to your hip. Keep the top of the paddle handle lower than your eyes and don’t follow the curve of the canoe. Again! Have a friend paddle on the other side of the canoe, or switch sides as you paddle, to keep the boat gliding along straight.
Kayaking. Kayak paddles have a blade on each side. Lift your paddle with both hands and hold it across your chest. Place your hands the same distance from each blade, just outside your shoulders. Hold the paddle out in front of you, just a few inches above the kayak. Keeping your left elbow straight, bring your right hand straight back, letting your right elbow bend back toward your body. Your body will twist to the right a bit. Paddle. Now, use the other arm. You’re kayaking!
Kayakers and canoers follow these tips so they don’t annoy other people…or the environment!
Only get to the water through marked paths — not through someone else’s property. Take your paddling breaks in public places too.
Keep your lunch spots and campsites clean — don’t leave garbage in the water or lying around. If there’s nowhere to put your trash, take it with you and dump it when you get home.
Give people fishing plenty of room and try not to disturb the water too much where they are — it’ll scare the fish off.
Keep away from the wildlife — even if they are as cute as pets!
A Greek mathematician named Archimedes figured out that when something is in water, the force that keeps it afloat is equal to the weight of the water that it pushes aside. Light objects (like a leaf) float because they push aside more than their own weight in water, but heavy objects (like a rock) sink because they push aside less than their own weight. A canoe pushes aside more water that its weight, which means it can carry heavy stuff inside and still float.
The word “kayak” is a palindrome (PAL-in-drohm). “Racecar,” “radar,” and “Too hot to hoot” are too! A palindrome is a word or phrase that is the same whether it is read left to right or right to left. What other palindromes can you think of?
Native Americans used animal skins and a variety of tree barks to make canoes. The very best canoe covering was made from paper birch bark because it was lightweight and very strong.
Thirty thousand years ago, canoes helped ancient people move to new places along the Pacific Ocean: first in Asia, then along the coasts of Canada, the U.S., and South America.
- Page last reviewed: May 9, 2015
- Page last updated: May 9, 2015
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