You’ve seen the Instagram pics, watched a video, and are ready to get on a bellyak for the first time! But what should you expect? Here’s a five of the most common things to expect when you pop your bellyak cherry:
1. It’s easier…and harder than you may expect
Since there are no straps or a sprayskirt, a bellyak is much more accessible than a traditional kayak. In this sense, it’s much easier to get started. Most people master the bellyak roll within the first 15 minutes, and if you do come off self-rescue is very easy. However, it’s much more physically demanding than you would expect…the bellyak requires driving as opposed to just hanging on and riding. On whitewater, it’s as physically demanding as jogging or swimming. The key is to work with the water, and not against it. The bellyak is designed to glide efficiently across the water, and will teach you how to work with the subtleties of the current.
2. You’ll never get bored
Bellyaking is fun to do because laying down and “swimming” is intuitive for almost everyone. There is also a long life of skill progression because there are so many variations and subtleties to paddling the boat, from just getting down the river, to surfing waves, to performing more advanced freestyle tricks. Since your hands are in the water while paddling prone, you are able to feel the nuances of the river in a way unmatched by any other watercraft. Your paddling will become incredibly precise as you find the most efficient ways to move downstream. Since you are not attached to the boat or stuck in one position, variety is the name of the game.
3. Your first time doesn’t have to be long
The ideal length of time for someone’s first trip is approximately 1-1.5 hours. This equates to 2-3 miles, or approximately 5km if you are moving downstream (and European). Steady moving water with a little flatwater is best since it allows the user to experience flowing with the river and experiencing edge control in a safe environment. Small water seems big because you are at face level. If you are trying it on flatwater, you will soon master the skill of going straight and you can paddle it as long as you want.
4. Dress for Success
You must dress for the water temperature when paddling a bellyak. You will get wet! If it’s chilly outside, make sure you dress appropriately with a good drysuit. In the summer time, bike tights work great for reducing the dreaded ‘calf burn.’ Another great option in warmer months is a 3/2 wetsuit for surfing, which will give you give you options for a wide variety of water/air temperatures.
5. Don’t Underestimate the Bellyak
If you already kayak, keep in mind the bellyak will add one degree of difficulty and challenge to a familiar run. Before your first time, make sure you eat a breakfast of pancakes and sausages and get a good nights sleep. You will be wet and tired. But most likely wet, tired and smiling, which is the goal!
Think you want to try one out for yourself now? Check out our bellyak sale page for some sweet, dollar saving deals!