Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, it’s important to know the basics of kayak safety before hitting the open water.
We’ll go over everything you need to know to stay safe on your next kayaking trip, from proper paddling techniques, safety precautions, to what to do in an emergency.
Keep reading for nine essential kayak safety tips, whether you’re just getting started or looking for a refresher course.
Kayak Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life
1. Kayaking Specific Life Jacket
One of the most important safety gear while lake or sea kayaking is to make sure you always have on a personal floatation device (PFD). Coast guard regulations require that all boats carry enough PFDs for their passengers, but kayakers should always wear them when out on the water.
The type of life jacket you need depends on where and how often you plan to be in your boat. You can find more information about choosing the right PFD here.
If a person is not wearing a personal flotation device when they capsize, the cold water may cause their body temperature to drop quickly, even if it’s just for a minute. This can be dangerous and life-threatening because hypothermia occurs faster than most people realize – often within minutes.
The right type of PFD will help keep you afloat and protect you from the cold water.
When choosing a PFD, make sure to get one specifically designed for kayaking. Great PFDs designed specifically for kayaking will have more padding and insulation to keep you warm in case of an accidental swim. They will also typically have clips or loops attached to your kayak, keeping you close at hand if you go overboard.
It’s also a good idea to make sure your PFD is Coast Guard approved and has all the proper markings on it before using it out in cold water.
You should know how to properly fit your life jacket since an improperly fitted vest can cause chafing or even come off during an emergency.
It doesn’t matter what skill level you are in when kayaking; this is one of the most important yet basic safety tips.
2. Dress Appropriately
Whether your next kayaking adventure consists of calm bays, quiet lakes, or extreme sea conditions, it’s important to wear appropriate clothing for the environment and your skill level.
If you’re a beginner, wear bright clothing that will help other boaters or people onshore to see you more easily.
Wearing a long sleeve shirt will also provide sun protection, especially for those multi day excursion trips. Wearing a helmet is also a good idea if there are rocks or motorized boat traffic in the area that you may be paddling around.
In colder weather, it’s important to wear layers of clothing and a waterproof hat that will help keep you warm from off shore winds.
It’s also important to remember how the water temperature affects your risk for hypothermia, which can happen even in warm weather if the air is cold enough or there are strong winds present. Be sure always have some spare clothes with you just in case you get wet.
And the most important thing is to wear footwear that can get wet and have a good grip on it—wearing sandals or flip-flops while kayaking can be very dangerous as they may come off your feet when you’re paddling, which could lead to accidents like foot entrapment in shallow waters.
In cold or cooler water, it’s worth investing in a wet suit or a dry suit to wear under your kayak PFD.
3. Follow Local Boating Rules
Another kayaking safety tip is to follow local boating rules and regulations.
Each body of water has its own set of rules, and it’s important to be familiar with them before heading out on the kayak.
This includes knowing the speed limit, no-wake zones, areas where you’re not allowed to paddle, and any other restrictions that may apply.
Not following local boating rules can lead to fines and put other boaters at risk.
4. Check The Weather Before Heading Out
It’s important to check the weather before heading out on a kayaking trip, especially if you’re going alone or with friends who don’t have much experience paddling in that particular area of water.
Key an eye on weather patterns because wind and wave conditions can quickly change, making it difficult or even dangerous to paddle.
If there’s a storm headed your way, wait it out or reschedule your trip for another day.
Being prepared for poor weather and water conditions is one of the most important kayaking safety tips that everyone should follow before heading out on the water.
You can check the National Marine Forecast at: https://www.weather.gov/marine/
Be sure to also check with your local weather station for information on wind speeds, wave heights, tidal charts, water temperature, and other conditions that may affect your kayaking trip.
5. Practice Re-entering Your Kayak From The Water
Once you’ve found a suitable kayaking location, you should practice re-entering your kayak in shallow water with someone to assist you if needed.
If you’re alone or paddling in an area where there aren’t many boaters around, this is especially important because it can be difficult for one person on their kayak when trying to get back into the boat after capsizing.
You may also want to practice self-rescue in case you are by yourself. This is done by using the paddle as a brace while getting back on your kayak.
How to re-enter a Kayak:
Re-entering your kayak after capsizing is one of those things that may seem like common sense but can be difficult in real-life situations.
There are a few different ways to re-enter a kayak, but the following is one of the easiest:
If you’re in shallow water and your kayak is stable, have your helper hold the boat steady while you get back into it.
Make sure to keep your weight centered on the kayak as you climb back in. You may also want to have your helper help you stabilize the kayak as you re-enter.
If you’re in deep water or the kayak is unstable, try using a paddle float (or other flotation devices) to get back into the boat.
This can be done by placing the paddle float around the middle of the paddle and then putting your foot through one side before inserting it into the kayak.
You’ll want to put your weight in such a way that you’re able to stabilize yourself while climbing back onboard again.
Also, if there are no other boats around when capsizing happens, use self-rescue techniques like using a paddle as a brace while getting back in the kayak.
Kayaking bracing is a way to stabilize yourself while getting back in your kayak after capsizing.
You can do this by using the paddle as a brace with one hand on either side of the blade and then stepping into it from behind before re-entering your kayak.
No one expects to capsize while kayaking, but it’s always good to be prepared for the worst, just in case.
Also, even if you have a PFD on, you should be confident enough to comfortably swim in cold water to hop back on the kayak or plan an escape route should environmental conditions dictate it.
6. Do Not Drink Alcohol
Drinking alcohol while kayaking can easily lead to capsizing, injury, and even death.
Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your reflexes, making it difficult for you to react quickly enough when faced with an emergency on the water.
Drinking mix alcohol also impairs judgment, leading kayakers into dangerous situations where they may not be able to swim back up or climb back on board after falling overboard and capsizing.
In addition, alcohol consumption causes dehydration which can lead to fatigue and a lack of energy while out on the water – another reason why it’s not recommended that you drink before going kayaking.
Drinking water will help keep your body stay hydrated while also helping prevent dehydration from occurring.
7. Tell Someone Your Plans
Whether you’re kayaking solo or going with a group of friends, as a general rule, you should plan ahead and let other family members know your paddling location.
This way, if something happens during the trip, people will know where to look for you.
Also, make sure that someone knows when and how long your kayaking trip will be so they can alert authorities if necessary.
It’s also a good idea to bring along some GPS tracking device that allows others outside of your group to see your appropriate paddling location in real-time during your kayak adventures.
8. Equipment Check
For an efficient trip, check all your kayaking gear to ensure everything is in working order before hitting the water.
This includes checking the condition of your kayak, paddle, life jacket, and all other gear you’re taking with you on your trip.
It’s also a good idea to have a basic first aid kit handy in case of any accidents or injuries while out on the water.
9. Practice Basic Safety Maneuvers
Learning to paddle in all weather conditions is important for any beginner kayaker.
Also, practice basic safety maneuvers while you’re on dry land before hitting the water so that when trouble strikes out there, you’ll know exactly what to do.
These include: Paddling in circles with your paddle on one side only; paddling backwards (i.e., going forward and then turning around to head back) as well as forwards; staying aware of your surroundings and avoiding obstacles such as rocks or tree stumps by taking evasive action if necessary.
Also, practice how to perform self-rescue techniques like using a paddle float for stability when getting back into the kayak or learning how best to position yourself to climb out from underneath after capsizing.
You can take a sea kayaking course to learn more about these basic safety maneuvers and how best to practice them on dry land before hitting the water.
This knowledge will come in handy during any situation where you need it most.
What Are The Dangers Of Kayaking?
Kayaking can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the dangers involved before heading out on the water.
Some of the dangers of kayaking include:
- Capsizing: This is one of the most common dangers while kayaking and can happen to anyone, regardless of experience level.
- Falling into cold water: This can cause hypothermia quickly, leading to death if not treated properly.
- Getting lost: It’s easy to lose your bearings while kayaking, and without proper navigation skills, it’s easy to get lost.
- Running into obstacles: Many obstacles can be encountered while kayaking, such as rocks, logs, and other boats.
- Flooding: Kayaks are susceptible to flooding, which can cause the kayaker to become stranded and lose all their gear.
- Dehydration: This is a common issue while kayaking, especially when alcohol is consumed.
- Sunburn: Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to severe sunburns.
- Tornadoes and lightning: These are two of the most dangerous weather conditions that can occur while kayaking.
By being aware of these dangers and taking necessary precautions, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience for everyone involved.
Sit On Top Kayak vs. Sit Inside Kayak
There are a few key points to consider when it comes to the difference between a sit on top kayak and a sit inside kayak.
The first difference is that a sit on top kayak is self-bailing, which means that any water that enters the kayak will automatically exit through scupper holes. On the other hand, a sit inside kayak does not have these scupper holes and will eventually fill up with water if not emptied regularly.
Another major difference between the two kayaks is that a sit on kayak is easier to get in and out of, making it a good choice for those new to kayaking or who are not as agile.
On the other hand, a sit inside kayak is more difficult to get in and out of, so it’s better suited for those who are experienced or who want some extra challenge when paddling.
Kayaking is considered one of the best recreational activities that you can do.
It’s a great way to get out and enjoy nature while staying in shape, as well as being an excellent source of exercise for your entire body.
There are many different types of kayaks on the market today, and you must take some time to learn about each one before making a purchase decision.
Once you learn the safety rules mentioned in this article, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying this fun and exciting activity.