Kayaking is a water sport that can be beneficial to the mind and body. Just about anyone willing to spend a day on the water can benefit from learning about kayaking and how to get started with this rewarding activity.

The history of kayaking is interesting. The word kayak means “hunter’s boat,” and the Inuit used to rely on these small vessels to catch food by sneaking up on their prey from the water’s edge. Some people still hunt and fish from their kayaks, but many are happy to use them for sightseeing and exercising.

“Paddlesports are increasing in popularity among Americans who desire to connect with the outdoors,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. The Outdoor Foundation and The Coleman Company, Inc., found in a Special Report on Paddlesports that 21.7 million Americans enjoyed paddling on rivers, lakes, streams, and other waterways in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Paddlesports include canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and stand-up paddling.

Learning how to kayak does not involve a significant initial financial investment. The outdoor experts at REI say there’s a good chance a novice kayaker will not go out and buy a boat immediately. It’s important to first get a feel for the sport and then go from there.

Although it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s recommended that novices take paddling lessons to hone their kayaking skills. Learning the proper technique can help people avoid strain on their neck and back and safeguard their arms from fatigue.

Novices should practice on calm waters until their technique is honed. Lakes are a great place to learn, as rivers and places with mild currents can overwhelm those new to the sport.

One of the easiest ways to get introduced to kayaking is to go with an experienced paddler or tour company. Such companies charge a set price for an excursion that will provide transportation to the drop site as well as the equipment needed for the voyage. Tours may include travel down several miles of a relatively calm waterway, allowing novice kayakers to get a feel for paddling and take in the scenery.

Getting in and out of a kayak can be challenging for beginners.

The resource Kayakpaddling.net offers helpful illustrations and animated tutorials about entering and exiting kayaks as well as paddling techniques and safety.

Kayakers should bring some essentials along. A dry pack can keep electronics, food and equipment dry. Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat to keep safe from the sun. A life vest also is essential.

Exercise, fresh air and enjoying the open water are just some of the many draws of kayaking.