One of the reasons why kayaking is such a popular sport is that it’s a relatively safe activity for everyone. However, the important thing to remember is that there are some risks involved in any water activity, and the consequences can be quite severe. This is why you need to observe the proper safety regulations and precautions when kayaking.
Is It Dangerous To Kayak?
While kayaking isn’t dangerous, there are certain risks that you need to be aware of to ensure complete kayak safety for yourself:
Not Properly Using Your Floatation Device
Many paddlers find their floatation devices (such as life jackets) to be such a nuisance that they either won’t wear it, or they’ll wear it incorrectly so that it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. Just remember; properly wearing your life jacket can prevent you from drowning if you fall in the water. Make sure that it is fastened properly and doesn’t hang loose.
Being Exposed to the Sun
Sunburn is real and can be quite painful. Regardless of how cloudy or not-sunny it may seem, make sure to lather yourself with plenty of sunscreen before going kayaking. While a short period of time, like an hour, may not cause any damage, if you’re out for a long time, you can get seriously sunburned if you are not prepared. Some people also recommend wearing a hat for extra protection.
Sunburn won’t just affect your skin – it will also make you feel dehydrated and exhausted and make it difficult for you to paddle.
Kayaking requires a lot of energy, especially if you’re paddling in high current waters. This is why it’s important for you to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and fatigue. These can make it difficult for you to paddle and can expose you to the risk of falling over.
Apart from drinking water before getting into the kayak, keep extra water bottles with you and hydrate yourself whenever you feel thirsty while you’re paddling.
Not Ideal Weather Conditions
The weather is quite unpredictable, so even if you started paddling when there was no wind and the water was calm, it can change suddenly. Getting caught in a storm with thunder and lightning can be very dangerous for a kayaker, and it’s important for you to get out of the water as quickly as possible. If you get struck by lightning while you’re in the water, the consequences can be dire.
If the weather appears to be changing, get to land before waiting for it to get worse. Even strong winds can affect your journey since they can blur your vision, so it’s better to stay on the safe side.
Hypothermia, pneumonia, and other illnesses may occur if you topple over in very cold water. If you topple over, the sudden cold can affect your breathing, blood pressure, and also momentarily cause you to freeze mentally, opening you up to the risk of drowning.
Most of these illnesses, such as hypothermia, are caused due to exposure to the cold water for long periods of time, so make sure to wear warm clothing and get out of the cold water as fast as possible. Have a kayaking buddy nearby to help you in case you experience cold shock.
Obstacles That Don’t Allow Kayaks to Pass
There are a number of barriers that can come in your way while you are kayaking:
- Strainers include human-made barriers like walls and nets, as well as natural ones like fallen logs that allow small objects and water to pass through, but stop kayaks and people. If you get stuck in one of these, it can be deadly.
If you see any such obstacle coming ahead, change your path; don’t try and paddle over it. If there’s no other route, make sure you have someone with you so that you can help each other cross the barriers.
- Undercut Rocks are uneven rock formations underwater that can sometimes be big enough to trap your paddle. This can often happen in whitewater, where paddlers move at a fast pace and can’t see under the water surface. Even if you do see them, the fast current may make avoiding them difficult.
Make sure to paddle away from any visible obstacles and get the necessary training before battling the rapids. If necessary, go with a guide who knows the area well and can help you avoid any barriers.
- If you end up near a dam or something similar, it’s best to just get out of the water and get back in at a further spot since the turbulent water around the dam can be too much for kayakers t0 handle.
Other Marine Vessels
If you’re out in the ocean, there are likely to be other ships and boats in the area. If it’s particularly dark or foggy, you may need to attach lights to your kayak to avoid being accidentally hit.
Lack of Experience
Many kayaking accidents are the result of inexperienced people trying to deal with strong winds and rapids. If you want to experience the thrill, make sure you take kayaking lessons before heading out. If you’re on holiday and don’t really have the time, stick to calmer waters close to the shore that are suitable to your skill level.
How Can You Be Safe In A Kayak?
While a lot of these safety precautions might sound like common sense, we’re going to mention them anyway to ensure that you don’t face any issues when you’re out in the water:
Stay Completely Alert
This basically means that you shouldn’t consume alcohol before or during the time you spend in your kayak. You should also stay away from the water if you’re on any type of medication that can make you drowsy or dull your senses.
Dress for the Occasion
There isn’t a strict dress code for kayaking, but there are certain elements that every kayaker needs to have:
- A life jacket – while it can feel a bit uncomfortable, a life jacket is necessary in case your kayak topples over, or you fall in the water and need to swim back to your boat. Some life jackets are designed specifically for kayaking to ensure that it doesn’t come in the way as you paddle.
- Wear a drysuit – this is important if you’re kayaking in a cold region and want to avoid the risk of getting diseases caused by the cold. The drysuit will keep you from getting wet, even if you fall in the water. The colder the climate, the more important it is for you to keep your body dry to avoid life-threatening illnesses.
Understand Your Abilities
Kayaking takes place everywhere, from flat-water lakes to raging, whitewater rapids. But not everyone is equipped with the skills needed to maneuver through fast water currents. Ideal kayaking conditions include a place with calm winds and waves, a good entry and return point, safe from jagged rocks or sharp waves, and less marine traffic.
If you do step away from these conditions and venture into unchartered territory, make sure you have all the necessary safety gear, are a strong swimmer, and have other people paddling with you in case there is an emergency.
Carry Safety Equipment:
Some basic gear almost all paddlers need include:
- A spray skirt to keep the water out of your kayak
- Bulkheads to keep water out and to store anything like food and a first aid kit
- A compass to help you figure out where you are headed
- A signaling device such as a radio or even a whistle
- An extra paddle.
Make sure to check for everything before heading out.
Learn How to Get into Your Kayak When you’re in the Water
We’ve already covered that your kayak toppling over is a possibility, as is the fact that kayakers do sometimes accidentally fall in the water. In these cases, it’s important to know how to get back into position. This is easier with a sit-on-top kayak, which won’t get flooded with water. With a sit-in kayak, it gets a little more complicated.
Firstly, make sure that you have bulkheads in your sit-in kayak to reduce the amount of water that floods in. Secondly, if you can’t find the balance to re-enter the boat in the water, then stay close to the shore in shallow waters.
We’ve uncovered the answers to some common questions people have about kayaking:
Is Kayaking Safe For Non-Swimmers?
Although it’s safer to know how to swim, non-swimmers can also kayak. The personal floatation device (such as a life jacket) will help you get back to the kayak if you fall over and will also make it easier for you to get back up.
Do Kayaks Flip Over Easily?
The ease with which your kayak can be flipped over depends on 3 factors:
- The material of the boat
- Whether it’s a sit-on-top or sit-in- sit-ins can’t be flipped over easily
- Weather and water conditions
While it’s generally not that easy to flip over a kayak, sharp currents and a lightweight frame can cause the boat to flip over. If this does happen, just make sure you’re prepared with a life jacket and know how to get back in the paddler.
Kayaking is a pretty safe water activity as long as you follow the necessary safety tips. Ideally, you should take some lessons before kayaking, just so that you are aware of the right way to maneuver your paddler and how to handle emergency situations.