Kayak sailing is a not-so-new innovation, actually. However, it has picked up quite a lot of steam during the past few years, and we’re seeing more and more solutions that enable us to further enjoy kayak sailing in a few different ways. When you combine all the benefits of paddling, and add to that the benefits of having a sail, you’ll find that you can go further, you can go faster, and not get as tired.
Modern kayaks let you use the wind in your favor, and you’ll learn to love and enjoy it. The issue with wind-propelled vessels is that when the wind dies, the speed goes away with it. But with kayak sailing, you can just pick up your paddle and keep moving!
There are many benefits of opting for a kayak sail, and not just a regular kayak. First of all, speed and distance. Exercise is good for you, and kayaking is a great way of exercise. However, you can only go so far, and you can only go so fast if you’re limited to a paddle. If you’re a person who’s in great shape, you might be able to go a bit further than others, or a bit faster, but not without limits. Get a kayak sail, though, and you’ll find that this changes dramatically. The wind will propel you to go much faster than you normally would, and you can cover greater distances without the fatigue you would expect. If you’re a person who likes fishing from the kayak, you can also leave the sail open and pack your paddle inside. This lets you coast at slow speeds without you having to do anything.
Kayak sailing, and kayak sails in general, aren’t really complicated. However, there are a few things that you should know as far as kayak sailing goes. We’ll take a look at some of the more important ones. You’ll see what decisions you’ll need to make, how to make them, how to make things easier, and most importantly, how to love and enjoy kayak sailing.
Let’s kick things off with the basics – how do you choose the right kayak sail?
Just like there are different kayak types, different paddle types, you will also find quite a lot of different kayak sail types. They vary in shape, attachment, and performance, and choosing the correct one for your needs might make a world of difference. Now, if you really fall in love with kayak sailing (and chances are, you will), you’ll most likely end up with more than one sail. However, it is important that the first one you buy is suitable, so let’s take a look.
First of all, you’ll need to honestly answer if you’re a beginner sailor, or an already experienced one. If you’re the second category, you might already know this, but for a beginner sailor, having something that is simple and easy to use is a priority. You don’t want infinite adjustments, as you’ll most likely end up not using most of them, and they’ll just be confusing. Experienced sailors know how to take advantage of all those adjustments and get the most out of their sail.
Sail size is another great factor. Beginners are best off with something that’s one meter square or less. A larger sail is much more difficult to control, and this is especially true when you have winds that are getting up to 15 knots, or more. However, if you’ll be learning to sail during the summer months, you could maybe get away with something slightly bigger. For example, a 1.5 meter square size is decent. And last but not least, if you have either very light winds, or you’re an experienced sailor who has speed as his highest priority, a 2 square meters sail is a great option. It’s also a great option if you intend to use it on a tandem kayak that’s heavily loaded. You should know that even though that there’s an ACA standard sailing rig with a 4 meter sail, that’s the standard for a canoe, and it is absolutely too much for a kayak.
Let’s talk shapes
When you’re getting your first kayak sail, you might very well be confused by all the different shapes of sails available. Until you know what each shape’s pros and cons are, and what you need for your specific purpose, you can’t really make an informed decision. There are four general shapes of sail, and they’re usually suitable for different skill levels. Let’s take a look at all of them.
Circle shaped sails are the most common ones, and they’re ideal for beginners. They’re usually made out of a type of plastic, and they have a transparent visor in the middle. The visor is tricky, because the bigger it is, the better you can see, but the material can be damaged by the sun. The rest is a circle parachute that has hooks. These hooks are used so you can attach the sail to your kayak. The best thing about circle shaped sails is that you can use it on just about any kind of kayak. They’re also very easy to install and set up, all you need to do is clip it on and prop it up. The wind will take care of everything else. However, one potential downside is speed. Circle shaped sails aren’t really very fast, and this is more or less their only bad thing.
V-shaped sails are the next option, and they’re an overall improvement of circle sails. They weren’t popular until a few small manufacturers such as Falcon Sails decided to use higher quality materials and make them much better. This resulted in high-quality sails that perform similar to circle shaped sails but are in a different shape. The material is also different, and v-shaped sails are generally made more durable. You still get the visor in the middle which allows for visibility up front. Their biggest con is the size, as they’re generally smaller than circle shaped sails, and therefore grab much less wind. They compensate for this by adding high quality materials, so it’s a tradeoff some would think is very much worth it.
Our next shape is the v-shaped parachute sail. Also good for beginners, they’re a mix between a v-shaped sail, and a circle shaped sail. This means that they have the best of both worlds, coming with the shape, and usually materials, of a v-shaped sail, but they have the parachute abilities of a circle shaped sail, which ensures they move a bit faster. You can drape this sail over the kayak and it will actually grab a sizeable amount of air. These sails aren’t really popular, except for some inflatable kayaks such as models by Advanced Elements.
Last but not least, we have the tall, L-shaped sails. These are for advanced users, as they’re fitted directly on the kayak and aren’t really easy to maneuver with. They’re large, and the sailing rig lets you change directions depending on the direction in which the wind is blowing. You can grab wind and move at very fast speeds. These sails are also made to be higher up on the kayak, which greatly improves the visibility and dismisses the need for a visor. Even though complex to install and use, these are the soundest types of sails. Their downside is, as mentioned, the complexity. First of all, you’ll need to figure out how to install it to your kayak. With some models, this may also include drilling holes and installing rigging that will be used to support the sail. Next, you will need to understand wind, and how to grab it with this sail. Tipping over is easy with this kind of sail, so you will need to know how to control it pretty well. This is why they’re best for advanced users.
A few tips for beginners, and a few reminders for advanced users
Regardless of whether you have just bought your first kayak sail, or you have a collection of them and are already an advanced sailor, there are things that you should keep in mind at all times. Advanced users may already know some of them, but it’s always useful to remind yourself.
Kayak sailing isn’t a difficult thing to get into, but if you don’t pay enough attention to some things, you may have problems at some point. Therefore, read a few tips that will make things easy, and help you when you need it most!
Make sure your sail is in good condition, and make sure it works well with your kayak. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know these things. However, for someone who just bought a sail, finding out that it doesn’t work very well when you’re out on the water isn’t a good thing to happen. Check it, set it up, see how it works, and see if there are any potential issues with it. Also, make sure that you get a kit that is high quality, and made to be durable. If you have a problem with it, if it either breaks or fails, you’re in trouble. First, you need to paddle the rest of the trip, and you also have a cumbersome sail that you need to drag with you. If you’re building the kayak sail kit yourself, make sure that you really know what you’re doing. Asking for help from an expert is also an option if you aren’t sure about something, and it’s always preferred to being stuck out in the water because your sail failed.
Know what you’re working with. It might sound repetitive, but hear me out. You must know your sail, and your kayak. Above I mentioned that you should be absolutely certain that your sail works with your kayak, but that’s not all. Make sure you do a few short trips, see if there are any potential downsides to the gear you’re using. See if there are any things that you need to do in a specific way. Failing to do so may mean that you’re stuck with a sail you don’t know very well out on a long trip. You don’t want this to happen, do you? Also, you should be honest about what you and your kayak are capable of. Don’t overestimate your abilities, and don’t head out into waters you know your kayak can’t really handle well.
Be prepared for the area you’re sailing in, and bring supplies. Lots of them. When you’re going out in your local area, chances are you know what you’re dealing with. You know the water, you know what the wind is capable of, and you know the surroundings. But when you’re going on a trip in an environment you don’t know that good, you should check it out before you head out in the water. You should be informed of any potential hazards, you should know if there are any swimmers (and where they are). And, it’s always a good idea to know about the surrounding terrain – not just the water. And when you’re packing your supplies, make sure you have more than enough. A small problem with your kayak can turn your two-hour trip into a full day out on the water, so you don’t want to get stuck out there without any food or water. Be selective with what you take with you, this can save you space and weight!
Wrapping things up
All things considered, kayak sailing is a very fun sport. It takes everything that’s good with kayaking, and fixes a few of the things that aren’t that great. The end result? A sport you’ll really enjoy doing, that won’t exhaust you, and will give you more options than you’re used to with just a kayak!