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 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.
- Not paying attention to the Weather
- Not knowing what is happening with Tides and Currents
- Not wearing or packing proper clothing
- No Life preserver or PFD
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lower Your Risk for Hypothermia: Dress accordingly for the weather and water conditions.
- 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.
- Boating Regulations: Know the regulations for your area. Follow the rules and be mindful. You can generally get a booklet at any marina.
- Take a Class: It never hurts to take a paddling class.
- Go with Friends: Paddle in a group. If, you must be alone then tell someone your plans.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dry Bag
- First-Aid Kit
- Bilge Pump
- Spray Skirt (for those sit in kayaks)
- Light or Headlamp
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
Just to name a few.
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.
- Dress Appropriately (including a helmet if necessary for you whitewater folks)
- Follow Local Boating Rules
- Pick a Suitable kayak location
- Practice you deep water entry
- Check Equip.
- Tell Someone about your plans
- Know your cold water safety
- Check the weather
- 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!