The 11 Best Tips for Kayaking Safely

Are you preparing your kayak for a new adventure? Or a quick paddle in a nearby lake? 

Perhaps you’ve thought about many things before your trip and you feel well-prepared. What you may have missed are the safety precautions you have to take before grabbing your paddler.

You need to take some time to evaluate the trip, the dangers you may encounter, and whether or not you have the required safety gear. Below are 10 tips that you can follow for kayaking safely.

1. Check the Weather Forecast

It’s probably not a good idea to go kayaking during a thunderstorm, right? That’s why you need to keep an eye on the weather before and during your trip. Remember that weather forecasts aren’t 100% accurate and unexpected weather conditions could prevail, so always prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario.

2. Wear a Life Jacket

Many people think that a life jacket is useless in emergencies, but that’s not the case. Up to 50% of deaths related to kayaking could’ve been prevented by wearing a life jacket. 

If regular life jackets make it hard for you to paddle, consider investing in a life jacket that’s made specifically for kayakers. Some cheap kayaking life vests sell for 50 bucks or less, which is nothing compared to your life and safety. 

Make sure to pick the right size for your body. A life jacket that’s too loose may just be as useless as none at all. To ensure that the vest is a good fit, ask someone to place their fingers under the shoulder straps and lift upwards. If the straps slip beyond your ears, then you need a smaller size.

3. Take Your Safety Gear with You

You should always have your safety gear with you when you go kayaking. If you don’t know what they are, here’s a list:

  • Whistle. In case you’re lost or trapped, a whistle can help you call for help.
  • Headlamp. You never know when and where you may need a source of light.
  • Spare Paddler. If you dropped or broke your paddler, a spare paddler will be the only way for you to go back to the shore.
  • VHF Radio. This works best in areas where cellular coverage is weak. You could use a phone with a waterproof case if you’re sure that your carrier’s network covers the site.
  • Visual Distress Signals (VDS). These are especially important when kayaking at night in coastal water. You’ll be required to have at least 3 of these.
  • Towline. Towlines aren’t important when you have a partner who can’t swim. You may also need it in case your partner is severely injured or has lost consciousness.
  • Paddle Float. A paddle float can help you remain afloat until help has arrived. Make sure to train yourself on how to use it first.
  • Bilge Pump. You can use it to drain water if you’re in a paddle. It can also come handy in a situation where you need spare water.

4. Wear Sun Protection

Always wear sun protection when you go kayaking. Wear a hat to prevent yourself from getting a heat stroke. Moreover, you should put on a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight reflected from the water’s surface, which can impact your vision and expose you to danger.

It’s also essential to put on sunscreen. Overexposure to ultraviolet sun rays may lead to several complications like heat strokes and dehydration. It can also lead to more severe health problems in the long term, like melanoma. 

You should also put on sunscreen when kayaking during winter. Many kayakers often neglect sunscreen in wintertime. Even if it’s a cloudy day and sunlight isn’t too strong, you still need to put on sunscreen because UV light can easily penetrate the clouds.

5. Don’t Panic if You Capsize

It’s OK to capsize; it happens to everyone. The problem is that, sometimes, you may find yourself trapped when there are undercuts below the surface of the water. If this happens, stay calm, take a few deep breaths, and find a way to loosen yourself.

It’s always preferable to kayak with a partner for these kinds of situations, especially if it’s a new area for you. It’s also crucial to avoid wearing anything around your neck as it could make things worse if whatever you’re wearing hangs on to something.

6. Daytime Visibility

Daytime visibility is just as important as nighttime visibility, especially if the waters where you kayak have high boat traffic. Kayaks can be too low for some boats to notice, and your ability to move quickly on a kayak is limited. That’s why you need to display a bright colored flag that’s raised high enough for other boats to see it.

7. Avoid Sweepers

Sweepers are any obstacles that may interrupt your way while paddling like low tree branches. Paddling into one of these can be quite dangerous as it can make you lose your balance and capsize. Always keep your eyes open and scan the area around you for sweepers.

8. Beware of Strainers

Just like sweepers, strainers can be very dangerous and they’re even more challenging to spot than sweepers since they’re below the surface of the water. If you encounter one of these, the best thing you can do is to lean into it, but don’t lean upstream to avoid flipping over. Always look out for strainers and carry a cutting tool with you, but make sure to keep it in a protective case when it’s not in use.

9. Tell Someone about your Trip

If you’re not taking a partner with you on your kayaking trip, then you need to inform at least one person about where you’re going. This way, you can rest assured that someone knows your approximate location and will reach out to you in case of an emergency.

10. Wear a Wetsuit When the Water is Cold

It’s critical to dress for immersion if you know that the water temperature is too cold. As a general recommendation, anything below 60 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold and you’ll need to wear a wetsuit or a dry suit to protect yourself from hypothermia.

11. Be Realistic

We all love adventures, but sometimes, it’s better to play it safe. If an area is known for being full of hazards, it’d be a good idea to avoid it, especially if you’re a beginner. You can progressively go on more adventurous trips as your skills get better. Even the most advanced kayakers would avoid dangerous trips if they know that something could potentially go wrong.

You don’t want to risk dehydration when you go kayaking. You need to make sure that you have plenty of water that’ll last you through the day. A good idea is to invest in a hydration pack. Hydration packs are much easier to carry around than water bottles and they don’t restrict your mobility. They also allow you to drink handsfree using a tube.

Final Thoughts

Kayaking tips are meant to be fun, so the last thing you’d want is an injury or an accident. Always put the safety of yourself and others first, and keep your eyes open for any potential hazards and dangers when paddling. Enjoy your trip!