You may remember when you were a kid learning to ride a bike. At first, it seemed like something that would be impossible to do but over time we learned and probably got pretty good with it. In the end and after much practice, we probably could do things on a bike that seemed impossible for us when we were first learning. For me, learning to stand in a kayak is kind of like learning to ride a bike. The problem is most people never take the time to learn to stand in a kayak, they just expect to be able to jump on that bike for the first time and go speeding down the hill. It doesn't work that way on a bike and it doesn't work like that on a kayak either.
This brings me to my first tip. In order to learn how to stand in a kayak, we need to practice standing in a kayak. Before I ever attempted to stand while fishing, I spent time on the water in swim trunks and with a bare kayak. That way if I fell out or flipped the yak, I wouldn't lose anything and wouldn't worry about getting wet. Once on the water, I began to practice standing. After learning to maintain my balance, I then started testing both my abilities and the kayak’s capabilities. I would stand on one side, move forward and backward, wobble it back and forth, etc. etc. Yes, I pretty much performed my very own circus act on the water. In this way, I learned what I was capable of and what the kayak could handle. I gained confidence in myself and even in the stability of the kayak. Eventually, I could do some balancing acts in the kayak that I would probably never need while fishing. After all this, I came to the conclusion that there is more of a chance of me falling out due to loss of balance rather than the kayak's stability or lack thereof.
This brings me to my second tip. The greatest danger of taking an accidental swim will be our reaction or should I say over reaction to the kayaks movement. So, we have to learn to properly react to the movements. Awhile back, I was the passenger of a vehicle which was involved in an accident. The driver and I were traveling down the interstate and another car moved into our lane. The driver of the vehicle I was in, jerked the steering wheel to the left, then to the right to compensate for the first jerk and at this point the vehicle began to lose traction. The driver then gave what would be the final jerk to the left to compensate for the second. The driver lost total control and the vehicle slammed into the guard rail. This is similar to what occurs to us when we lose our balance and take the plunge from the kayak. The kayak moves, the wind blows or a wave hits and we then react to the movement. The danger lies in the overreaction or over correction to the movement. This is why the first tip is so important. If you have practiced, gained experience, and have confidence in yourself and the kayak, there is less of a chance you will over compensate for any movements.
Recently, I was fishing when it was still very cold, well at least Louisiana cold. I was of course standing and fishing. At one point, I went to move my left foot but quickly realized it was hung on something, which I believe turned out to be my paddle leash. So, I just pulled my foot with some force, not realizing it was going to come free so easily. The rapid release of my foot from its snag caused me to lose my balance. It was the first time I felt I was actually going to take an unwanted drink. However, my immediate reaction was to quickly squat down as low as I possibly could. This was not a planned reaction but natural, after much experience with standing in a kayak. Later, I reflected on the incident, as it could have proved dangerous. I was amazed at my natural reaction which probably kept me from falling into the cold water. I did not throw my body around or begin to flail about but instead I calmly and quickly squatted to lower my center of gravity, allowing me to regain my balance.
I have learned that with practice comes confidence. The more practice, experience and confidence a person has, the less of a chance there is that they will actually lose their balance. However, if they do lose their balance they are more likely to take the appropriate action instead of over reacting or over compensating. Once you practice, gain confidence and experience, you will be amazed at what you can actually do. Before long, you will be standing in a kayak with winds, waves, and even boat traffic without even realizing it. So, go grab your swim trunks, kayak, and hit the water. Get out there and start your very own circus act.
NOTE: I always wear my PFD.