Kayaking is fun and can provide you hours and hours of amazing memories, but before you start your adventure the first thing you should pay attention to and learn is safety. If you choose to ignore it, you could end up getting injured or worse, so these are the rules you’ll need to follow to stay safe and minimize the temptation of fate.
Don’t Overestimate Your Skills
The best kayak trip is the safe kayak trip. Use the opportunity of a kayak school to practice, but once you’re out on the water and your own, stick to the things you know. Also, when planning the trip, no matter how experienced you are, always make sure you have enough strength to paddle to the finish line and back without problems.
Also, if you’re in a sit-in kayak, make sure – and if not, teach the basics – that everyone knows how to perform a wet exit. Also, at least one of the group members should know how to do a self-rescue and T-rescue.
Plan Ahead And Inform About Your Path
If you’re just a beginner, choose your destinations carefully. Before you start, do everything possible to minimize the chance of complications by checking and learning this information:
Type Of Water
In the beginning, the best thing to do is to avoid rapids and surfs and to choose calm, flat waters. This way you’ll have the chance to learn the basics in the more-less controllable environment and find a way how to avoid or overcome problems in safe surroundings before you try something more challenging and dangerous.
Small Water Bodies
With little lakes and big ponds, the possibility of unexpected and surprising problems and challenges is significantly lower, and the situation is easier to keep under control than on a big lake or river.
Don’t Be Jerk, Other Paddlers Could Save Your Life
Even if you consider all things and do everything possible to minimize problems, they will sometimes just happen, no matter how careful you are, and you’ll need help. Other paddlers will help you, but it will be more pleasant if you’re OK with them and have friends amongst them than if they hate you.
Avoid Places With Power Boats
Kayaks are small, easy for transport, and most often than not, lightweight. On the other hand, these attributes make them uneven in collision with powerboats. To avoid possible harm to your kayak or injuries, avoid the places where powerboats are allowed, if possible.
Check The Wind
Having a tailwind while you return home means you don’t need to put so much effort in paddling, so it won’t be so hard. On the other hand, it does mean that you’ll have the headwind while you paddle to your destination, but you should be fresh and full of energy at the start, so it won’t be that big of a problem.
Stay Close To Shore
This will be important If you find yourself in a situation where you need to get to the shoreline as soon as possible, or some problem occurred with your kayak and you have to swim. And, besides that, you’ll have a better chance to see what is going on around you and get to know the shores, which is a pretty memorable thing to do. Not to mention the chance to see some wild animals.
Have Your Safety Equipment On A Stand-By
Make sure you have your safety equipment ready for your trip, but also learn how to use them.
- Your personal flotation device (or PFD) should always be on and it should fit you good, and never, under any circumstances, leave it behind or go out to the kayak trip without it!
- Attach the whistle to your PFD. If you want to grab someone’s attention, blow once. To ask for help, blow three times into your whistle. And if something happens and you can’t remember this, blow into it as much as possible, and do it until the help gets to you.
- Communication device serves as a backup if your whistle can’t reach someone on the shore. You have two options – cell phone in a waterproof case, if the coverage is good, and VHF radio, in all other situations.
- When the bottom side of your kayak is in a puddle, the bilge pump will be quite helpful, and it is essential if your kayak capsizes, so you need to take out the water from it.
- Spare paddle – remember, you don’t know when something bad could happen, so to avoid getting stuck in the middle of the water or without any control, always have a spare paddle with you. The best is to have one for each paddler if your tandem kayak, but one on two paddlers are also good.
- Towline will help you if you can’t get to the shore on your own and you need to be towed – same as a car.
- A headlamp is required if you stay on the water during the dark. It will help you see, but it will also let other people know you’re there.
This list consists of the minimum safety gear, but there are also other things you could add if you wish and if you’ll feel more relaxed and secure that way.
Remember, kayaking means you’ll spend time surrounded by water, so don’t take this topic lightly. Hypothermia is a serious condition and can create tons of problems, so before you hit the water, check the forecast and dress properly. Also, remember, to avoid possible complications, if you’re planning to kayak somewhere where the water temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended by the Cold Water Survival Guide published by the ACA (American Canoe Association) having a wetsuit or drysuit on. You should wear a wetsuit even when the water temperature is above 60 degrees. Only if the combined air and water temperature exceed 120 degrees, you won’t need the wetsuit.
The Adventure Is Always Better If You Have Company
Going alone is not recommended even if you have experience. You can do it, but the space for possible errors will be smaller. Think about it – you can’t tow yourself if you have to be towed, being saved by a buddy is way faster than self-rescue, multiple eyes see better than two so you’ll have help to spot a possible threat, and last but not least – it is way more fun having someone to share the experience than not.
If you have a group of friends with you in multiple kayaks, make sure the group stays together. If it stretches out, you’ll all become single paddlers. Constant communication will help, and try to stay within an earshot or a whistle blast from the nearest paddler.
Research The Weather And Hazards
Having a smartphone with you or a VHF radio is not helpful only when you need emergency assistance, but you can also use it to track the weather. If the storm is on its way, move your adventure to some other time. If it catches you while you’re on the water, it is better to call it a day and move to safety. And if you hear the lightning, don’t risk it, you’ll finish some other time.
Also, pay attention to a possible hazardous natural phenomenon. Ask around for the wind patterns and behavior during the day to learn if there are some unexpected changes you should know about or any problematic currents that could be dangerous. The place to check all this information is any government agency that patrols the water. As an alternative, you could ask the members of local paddling clubs or shops.
Pay special attention to big boats, as they most of the time can’t see kayaks, so behave like you don’t have the right of way. There are also a few tips on how to know if you’re on a collision course when you spot the boat coming your way:
- Check the position of the other boat using a clock (your heading is 12 o’clock)
- Every 30 seconds check if their position has changed. If it is the same, then you’ll know you’re on the collision course. To avoid it, turn your boat until the clock position has changed. Or stop and let them pass.
- If the vessel is coming from your back, the avoiding is their responsibility, but still, pay attention and be ready to react if it stays on a collision course.
Make A Plan, Share It And (Try To) Stick To It
Before you start your adventure, make someone else know your plan – whether the local coast guard, paddle club, or shop members or some of your family or friends. Print your plan and share it:
- Who: Name every member of your group and add everyone’s contact information
- Where: Name the time and place where you’re going in the water, your planned route, and the ETA and the place of your finish line.
- When: Create a detailed timeline as possible and notify someone if you’re being late.
- What: If something goes wrong or you miss the deadline, write down the action plan.
Also, leave the copies in your boat and your car.
Globo Surf Overview
Kayaking is fun, especially if you are a kayak enthusiast, but only if you stay safe during it. Following this list, you’ll have this topic covered and won’t have to worry about missing something. Now just take your boat and go out there to have fun!