Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety

This is probably the first post I should have written. Safety is and should always be first.

As it is though, Welcome back for the 4th installment of Kayaking for Beginners. We are going to discuss some important things in this one, so hold on to your hats!

Safety First

Safety is vital, not only for your health and enjoyment, but for others as well.

We never go out on any kind of adventure and expect an accident to happen. Unfortunately, they do happen and they affect not only us, but the people that are closest to us and those called out to rescue us.

So, ALWAYS do your due diligence and be as prepared as you can be.

The Mistakes We Make

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are what we would conceive to be minor, while others can be real whoppers. Here are 5 common mistakes people make when going out on a kayak.

  1. Not paying attention to the Weather
  2. Not knowing what is happening with Tides and Currents
  3. Not wearing or packing proper clothing
  4. No Life preserver or PFD
  5. Mixing alcohol or drugs

When you look at this short list, you are probably thinking, who would go out and not do these things. My answer to that is all of us. Maybe not every time, or all these things at once, but I can tell you that even I have taken my PFD off on occasion and thought, I can swim if need be, or I am close enough to the shore it will be fine.

So, let’s address these common mistakes and see how we can fix them.

Always Check the Weather

Weather can change in the blink of an eye. It amazes me how many people pay so little attention to what is happening in the sky. I tend to be a bit of a weather bug, so I am always checking the weather. I live in a RV, so weather is huge for us.

Check the weather where you are going to be for the day. Check it for the whole day, not just the morning or midday when you are planning to be on the water. Depending on where you are, you may want to check the surrounding areas as well.

For instance, if you are going to be on a river and the weather is fine where you are, remember, if it pours a bunch of rain North of you and it flows into the river upstream, guess what? You may get more than you bargained for downstream.

Storms can blow up on large bodies of water quite quickly. You don’t want to get stuck in that kind of scenario. Lightening and water do not mix well. Be prepared.

Kayaking for beginners-stormy weather

If, you are going to be out for a couple of days check into a battery operated weather radio.

We all have cell phones, no reason to not know what the weather is up to.

Tides and Currents

Even our little Lake Taneycomo here in Missouri has a current. You can check with the COE (Core of Engineers) to find out when they are releasing water from the dam. Check the USGS for river conditions where you are.

Kayaking for beginners-currents and tides

If, you are going ocean or surf kayaking, you will certainly want to pay attention to the tides and currents. You can check these through the NOAA’s current and tide charts.

Dressing for Success

It is really important to have proper clothing.

Whether it is 90 degrees and sunny or 32 degrees and cold, proper clothing is a must. There are so many options on the market today for both occasions.

When it is hot and the sun is high, you are going to want something that breathes and dries fast. You can even get long sleeve shirts now that will help protect you from the UV rays. A hat is a good idea as well. I like to pack extra in my dry bag just in case.

Cold weather kayaking would require warmer clothing, obviously. You might want to consider a wet or dry suit. Hypothermia would be a real problem if you got wet in colder weather.

Running whitewater in a kayak will require a helmet in most cases and I would recommend one even it they didn’t. Rocks and noggins don’t make a great combination. Just make sure it is the proper helmet for the task.

Common Sense

Common sense tells us that a PFD or life jacket is one of the most important if not the most important piece of safety gear needed. You know that the US Coast Guard reported in 2018 that 77 percent of boating fatalities were from drowning and that 84 percent of those were not wearing a PFD.

Kayaking for beginners-pfds
Photo By Denise Hunter

Find a proper fitting PFD and wear it!

Having Too Much Fun

Studies from the US Coast Guard also show that alcohol is still the leading cause of accidents on the water.

I get that we are all out to have fun. I do however recommend saving the drinking for the campsite. We all know that alcohol diminishes our ability to react and make decisions.

I am all for having fun, and I certainly enjoy a drink now and then, just know there is a time and a place, and it is not out on the water.

Tip for Staying Safe

Now that we know kind of what not to do and some things to look out for. Let me break it down into a list of tips to keep you safe.

  1. Know Your Limits: Know what your experience and physical limits are. If, you are a beginner, don’t jump into a river with category 5 rapids.
  2. Know you Boats Limits: Know what kind of kayak you have and what it is capable of. Don’t take a $200 recreational kayak out in the surf or over a waterfall.
  3. Lower Your Risk for Hypothermia: Dress accordingly for the weather and water conditions.
  4. Visibility: Make sure you can be seen. Especially on a busy lake or on the sea. Reflector tape on you kayak or paddle, light colored clothing, a flag, etc.
  5. Boating Regulations: Know the regulations for your area. Follow the rules and be mindful. You can generally get a booklet at any marina.
  6. Take a Class: It never hurts to take a paddling class.
  7. Go with Friends: Paddle in a group. If, you must be alone then tell someone your plans.
  8. Plan your trip: Especially if it is going to encompass more than one day. Then revert to the previous tip. Let someone know what your plan is.
  9. Practice: practice the many techniques you have learned. Practice climbing back into your kayak in deep water. You may not always be close enough to shore when and if you flip.
  10. Be prepared with the right safety gear

Safety Gear, the Short List

Here are some basic items that come to mind that you will want to include in your safety collection.

  • PFD
  • Dry Bag
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Whistle
  • Bilge Pump
  • Spray Skirt (for those sit in kayaks)
  • Light or Headlamp

Kayaking for beginners-first aid

This list would certainly grow for more extended trips or more complicated trips.

For those types of trips you may want to add a couple of these items.

  • Float bags
  • Paddle float
  • Paddle Knife
  • Change of clothes
  • Throw Line
  • Radio
  • compass

Just to name a few.

Recap

Okay, so we have talked about safety and some things that you need to stay safe. A safe trip makes for a fun trip, and ultimately that is what we are after. Fun and Adventure.

So, let me recap the top 10 safety tips for you.

  1. PFD
  2. Dress Appropriately (including a helmet if necessary for you whitewater folks)
  3. Follow Local Boating Rules
  4. Pick a Suitable kayak location
  5. Practice you deep water entry
  6. Check Equip.
  7. Tell Someone about your plans
  8. Know your cold water safety
  9. Check the weather
  10. Leave the alcohol at home or for later

I hope you found this helpful and I hope you guys have a great safe adventure the next time you go out in the kayak. Thank you for joining me here for another installment in the Kayaking for Beginners Series. Leave and comment, suggestions or experiences below.

Until Next time!

10 thoughts on “Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety”

  1. Thank you for a great post where you have succeeded in advising us about how to stay safe without actually putting beginners off having a go at kayaking.  You have hit a great balance!

    It is hard to believe that some people don’t do such simple things as check the weather!  And that others feel it is appropriate to mix alcohol and the water – most of them I am sure would not drink and drive and so to drink and kayak does not make sense!

    Your list of tips for staying safe – especially about taking a class and paddling with friends – is a top tip.   

    1. Hi Moreno,

      Thank you for stopping in and reading. I am so happy that you found my article to be useful. 

      It absolutey amazes me how many people neglect to check the weather before they do anything. I live in an rv and there are countless RVer’s who are clueless about what the weather is doing. Also, I have been on a good many river trip where alcohol is in many coolers attached to the side of their kayaks or inner tubes. Just seems crazy to me. Please, stop in again and see what we are up to.

  2. I love Kayaking. I was first introduced to it when I was in Thailand and I got to kayaked around the islands in the southern part of Thailand. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. I made mistakes though, I did not do it with the right posture so I killed my back in the process and also I got a bad sunburn lol, other than that I love it. Thanks for sharing the tips, never thought about bringing the first aid kit but that is a very good idea. Thanks again for sharing this useful information! 

    1. Wow, I would love to kayak somewhere like Thailand. I can only imagine the beauty you seen. Thank you for sharing and I do hope you will kayak again. Check out my article about posture, I think it will help. Sunnscreen is a must. I too have been the victim of a sunburn while kayaking. Makes interesting tan lines. LOL

  3. I enjoyed reading what you wrote, is good info for beginners and reminders for ones that have been kayaking for awhile.

  4. finding a good article does not come by easily so i must commend your effort in creating such a beautiful website and bringing up an article to help others with good information like this. it is usually to predict the weather correctly but to an extent we can try to manage situations and act accordingly.

    1. Benny, thank you for visiting and taking the time to read and comment. My hope is to make it exciting and enjoyable by all levels of folks that want to kayak. I am glad that you found my article useful. Please stop in again and share an adventure you have taken with us.

  5. The fact that i have come to learn something tangible from this post is satisfying. The make of your website is nice and the simplicity of the color selection makes it beautiful. i am a beginner although i have done some fishing in little scale. i am glad to get this much information. thank you

    1. I am so happy that you found this post helpful. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I do hope you will visit again and maybe share one of your adventures.

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