One of the best things about kayaking is that it’s user-friendly water activity. As with any other recreational activity on the water, though, there are risks involved. The best way to mitigate these risks is to plan so you’re prepared for any emergency.
Basic Kayaking Safety Tips
1.Always Wear A Personal Floatation Device
One of the most important kayaking rules and regulations for safety is to wear a personal flotation device. It should fit comfortably snug, and you should have it on at all times. For a comfortable experience, we recommend choosing a life jacket designed for paddle sports.
2. Research The Weather And Hazards
Never kayak in bad weather. Before going out in your kayak, check conditions such as wind, water temperature, currents, tides, and potential hazards. When on the water, use your eyes, smartphone, and VHF marine radio to stay on top of the conditions.
3. Don’t Overestimate Your Skills When Choosing Your Kayaking Location
The best kayak trip is the safe kayak trip. Choose kayaking waters and conditions you’re confident you will be able to paddle in given your fitness and experience level. If you’re just a beginner, the best paddling spot is sheltered from wind and waves, has lots of places to go ashore, and minimal powerboat traffic.
4. Dress Accordingly
Now that you’ve done your research and know what kind of conditions you’re likely to encounter, dress appropriately for the conditions. If the water temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the Cold Water Survival Guide published by the ACA (American Canoe Association) recommends donning a wetsuit or a dry suit. You should still wear a wetsuit even when the water temperature is above 60 degrees. If the combined air and water temperature exceed 120 degrees, you won’t need a wetsuit.
5. Know Basic Kayaking Safety Skills
Even when you’ve taken all the necessary kayaking safety precautions, your kayak can still capsize. Make sure you know how to perform a wet exit, flip over the kayak, and get back in. It’s a good idea to practice these maneuvers in a controlled environment.
6. It’s Safer To Kayak With a Buddy
Out on the water, there is safety in numbers. Not only is it more fun to kayak with a buddy, but it is safer too. You can’t tow yourself and be saved by a buddy is way faster than self-rescue. If you are a group of friends in multiple kayaks, make sure the group stays together and maintains constant communication.
7. Other Paddlers Can Save Your Life
Even when you consider all things and do everything possible to minimize problems, accidents can still happen. In such a situation, you will need the help of other paddlers and they will be more willing to help you if you were nice to them in the first place.
8. Avoid Places With Powerboats
For ease of transportation, kayaks are small and most often than not, lightweight. When it comes to safety, though, these attributes make them susceptible to collision with motorized boats. To avoid possible harm to your kayak or injuries to yourself, it’s best to steer clear of powerboats’ traffic.
9. Check The Wind
Having a tailwind on the return journey is a good thing. It means you won’t have to work too hard to paddle your kayak to shore. While it does mean that you’ll have the headwind while paddling to your destination, you should be fresh and full of energy as you start the trip, so it won’t be that big of a problem.
10. Stay Close To Shore
It’s always a good idea to paddle your kayak within a comfortable swimming distance from shore. Should you find yourself in a situation where you need to get to the shoreline as soon as possible, you will be glad you followed this kayak safety tip.
11. Avoid Collisions
Remember, your kayak isn’t visible to big boats most of the time. To stay safe, it’s important to wear a bright and reflective life jacket and smart to behave like you don’t have the right of way. If you spot a boat coming your way, change your course or stop your kayak and let the boat pass.
Have The Essential Kayaking Safety Equipment On Stand-By
One of the most important kayak safety tips is to have the basic safety equipment at hand and know how to use them properly. Here is a list of the minimum kayaking safety gear to have with you.
- A personal flotation device (PFD).
- A whistle attached to your PFD. If you want to grab someone’s attention, blow once. To ask for help, blow three times. If this doesn’t work, blow into it until you get help.
- An emergency communication device. You have two options – a cell phone in a waterproof case if the network coverage is good and a VHF radio if you are off the grid.
- A bailing bucket or a bilge pump comes in handy to help you bail out the water in your kayak if your sit-in kayak capsizes.
- A spare paddle just in case your paddle break or fall overboard. If your tandem kayak, it’s best to have two spare paddles.
- A towline to help you if you can’t get to the shore on your own and need to be towed.
- A headlamp if you will be paddling and fishing in the dark.
- A paddle float to use for self-rescue in the event of a capsize.
- A helmet for protection if you’re kayaking in fast-moving waters and whitewater rapids.
Make A Plan, Share It, And (Try To) Stick To It
Before you start your adventure, plan your trip, and let someone else know your plan. You can print your plan and give a copy to a family member or a friend. Also, leave copies of the plan in your boat and your car. The plan should include the following information:
- Who: Name every member of your group and add everyone’s contact information
- Where: Name your planned put-in and take-out, your planned route, your finish line, and the ETA
- When: Create as detailed a timeline as you possibly can and notify someone if you’re running late
- What: If something goes wrong and you miss the timeline, write down the action plan
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Kayaking is fun but only if you stay safe on the water. As long as you abide by the above kayaking safety tips, you are set up for a safe kayaking excursion. Now just take your kayak out there and remember to have fun!