by Jullie

November 20, 2021

Kayak Safety

As with all recreational activities, kayaking does come with a handful of risks. But this shouldn’t keep you from going on your adventure or having fun. 

You first need to learn all about kayak safety to avoid potential risks before they occur. Besides, it would help if you adequately planned your trip to prevent endangering your and your friends’ lives. 

Therefore, take a deep breath and go over the following kayak safety tips.

Choose a Location That’s Within Your Kayaking Capabilities 

Choose a Location That's Within Your Kayaking Capabilities 

It is essential that you pick a kayaking location that’s within your ambitions and abilities. All the same, kayaking locations typically have a lot of areas for effortless launching, going ashore, and reduced boat traffic. 

It would be best if you began in shallow and flat waters or quiet rivers and lakes. Eventually, you can proceed to fewer clam waters like windy lakes or rivers when you’ve sharpened your skills. Nevertheless, do not be overconfident; don’t go past your limits. 

Here’s a guide on what waters to pick according to your capabilities:

  • Calm and flat waters are ideal for beginner kayakers 
  • Surf and rapid waters are more suitable for professional paddlers 
  • Small water bodies such as small lakes and extensive ponds are perfect for beginners and intermediate paddlers 

Carry Relevant Safety Gear 

Carry Relevant Safety Gear 

Before going into the water, ensure that you’ve tried out every gear in your kayaking safety gear kit and know how to use all of them. This is because some tools are easy to use while others are a bit complex. Here are some of the safety equipment you should never leave behind;

  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD): a PFD is supposed to offer a snug fit and must be worn all the time. This is one of the safety gears you’ll never kayak without, no matter the weather or length of the trip. 
  • Whistle: you can carry a whistle as a communication device. It would be best if you fastened it to the PFD to avoid losing it. One whistle blow means you need some attention, and three blasts translate to needing immediate help. However, if you’re unsure how many times to blow and need assistance, just blow the whistle until rescuers get there. 
  • Communication gadget: a whistle can only be hard from proximity. For this reason, you’ll need to carry a backup communication device. If the area you intend to kayak in has good cell coverage, you could bring your phone in a floating or waterproof case. If this is not the case, pack a VHF radio, which is much more helpful in regions with poor cell coverage. 
  • Spare paddle: it would help if you carried one paddle per person, though if you’re a large group, you can share two or three spare paddles.
  • Bilge pump: a bilge pump will come in handy when your boat overturns, and your boat is filled with water that needs to be purged. 
  • Paddle float: this gear is ideal for self-rescue, and you need the training to utilize it correctly. So, if the available rescuer cannot help you, you can use it to rescue yourself. 
  • Headlamp: you’ll use this as a lighting device, which will come in handy when you’re kayaking in the dark. 
  • Towline: a towline is helpful if a group member can’t reach the shore alone and needs some assistance. While these are part of the minimum safety equipment, there is more gear to carry. Nevertheless, they are the most important. 

Dress Accordingly 

Kayaking is a water sport; thus, you will be surrounded by water throughout your adventure, so it’s essential that you dress for the occasion. The US Coast Guard recommends that if the water you’ll be exploring will be less than 700 Fahrenheit, you should have a dry or wetsuit. Read further about what to wear kayaking.

Do Not Kayak Alone 

Do Not Kayak Alone 

It is always recommended that you take someone with you in case something goes wrong. Your partner will help you or vice versa if the boat overturns or if you encounter any other problems. In addition, going kayaking with friends has the following benefits:

  • You get the chance to catch up with friends 
  • In case one of you falls inside the water, the other person can help out
  • If one of you gets injured, the other persons can call for help 

Look Out for Weather Changes

Look Out for Weather Changes

Check the weather through the weather channel as you paddle, if possible. You can use a phone app or the weather channel from the VHF radio. If the weather is not favorable, you should go back and postpone to a day with better weather conditions. Also, if there’s lightning, go back or out of the water as fast as you can. 

Furthermore, you should gather information about the region you’re going kayaking from a reliable source. Research on abrupt weather changes such as strong winds in the evening, rapids waters, and underwater dangers. You will get this information from paddling clubs and shops, as well as the agency in charge of patrolling the waters. 

If you’re kayaking in the ocean, be careful not to collide with a ship, as they can’t see your boat. 

Have a Float Plan 

Have a Float Plan 

Typically, a float plan should have vital information about your adventure, including:

  • The name of your companions and contact detail on each one 
  • When to begin and return from your adventure, and when to alert rescuers if you’re late 
  • What to do in case you do not come back on time 
  • The take-out and put-in locations, as well as the route you plan to cover 

Final Thoughts on Kayak Safety Measures 

Well, there you have it, tips on kayak safety. Kayaking is supposed to be a fun activity, but safety is vital. With these tips, you can help yourself as well as your companions. The best way to ensure your safety is to do a safety course and learn how to use each piece of safety equipment beforehand. 

Remember to check the weather before launching and while in the water. Whether you intend to kayak for the afternoon or several days, you need to check the water conditions to guarantee your safety but don’t forget to have fun!

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About the author 


Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

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