While kayaking may seem like a great way to get out on the water and enjoy time in nature, if you haven’t ever spent time in a kayak before, then it is perfectly understandable to wonder “how safe is kayaking?” The last thing that you want to do is put yourself or your family members at risk of being seriously injured, so it’s completely normal to want to dig more into this activity to make sure that you completely understand the risks and how you can mitigate them.
I have found that when you respect kayaking, prepare for your time on the water, and understand how to act when you are in a dangerous situation, kayaking can be very safe and enjoyable. To help put your fears to rest about kayaking and help you understand whether or not it is a good option for you, I’ve put together some information on kayaking safety for beginners.
Learn How to Capsize
Many people think that it sounds counter-intuitive, but in order to learn how to kayak safely, you need to learn how to capsize. It is very unlikely that you will be able to kayak for long periods of time without capsizing, and unless you know how to do it safely, you will be putting yourself in danger every single time you go out on the water. It may be tempting to try to tip over and right your kayak on your own, but this isn’t a good idea.
If you don’t have a close friend or family member who is an expert kayaker and can talk you through the process of what to do when you capsize, then you need to sign up for kayaking lessons before you go anywhere near the water. There are ways to right yourself when you have tipped over, and unless you understand them and can implement them, you are likely to be in danger.
Dress for the Weather
One mistake that many beginners make when they are going to start kayaking is that they dress to be comfortable, especially if it is a sunny and hot day. While this may be fine for spending the day at the beach or fishing from the edge of a lake or river, if you are going to be kayaking, then you need to make sure that you are dressed for the cooler weather on the water.
Make sure that you dress in clothing that is appropriate for the water. Not only is the air much cooler on the water than it is on land, but if you tip over, then you will be really glad that you wore kayaking gloves, water shoes, and a wetsuit, not shorts and a tank top. If you have questions about what to wear, then I have found that your local outdoors shop is happy to talk to you about your options.
Use Your Safety Equipment
Sure, it may seem bulky, and you may not feel like you can move as easily when you have on a floatation device, but it’s important that you take steps to ensure that you are going to be as safe as possible when on the water. Safety is paramount, and the type and amount of safety equipment or gear that you need will vary depending on where you are going to be kayaking, so consider your surroundings when you go shopping.
One of the most important things that I think beginners need to remember is that there is a huge difference between kayaking on a still lake and a rocky river. If you want to try to kayak on a river, then you need to make sure that you have protected not only your whole body with a floatation device, but also your head with a helmet.
Practice Your Paddling on Dry Land
I know that you want to get out onto the water as soon as possible when you get into your kayak, but it’s imperative that you understand how to paddle your boat so that you will actually go somewhere and so you can get out of a dangerous situation, if necessary. One mistake that beginners make is to jump right into the water in their kayak without understanding how to paddle.
To make paddling easier once you are actually in the water, I think that it’s a good idea to practice the motion and your strokes while still on dry land. This allows to you to get the feel for what you are doing and to ensure that you understand the mechanics of a smooth stroke before you are actually out on the water.
How Safe is Kayaking Depends on You
It really is up to you to make sure that you are going to be as safe as possible when you are in your kayak. While you can’t prepare for every accident or emergency that you may face while on the water, by preparing yourself, making sure that you know what to do when you are in danger, and wearing the right clothing and safety gear, you can take steps to ensure your safety.
If you are a beginner, then you will want to kayak with someone who has more experience than you. This person will be able to address any problems that you may be having and give you the support that you need to succeed.
There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t try kayaking at least once, as many people love spending time out on the water, pushing their body as they move, and exploring nature. To ensure that you are going to be as safe as possible, however, it’s important that you take time to prepare for your trip and education yourself on what you need to do when faced with an emergency.
Not only is kayaking a great workout, but it’s a lot of fun for beginners and more advanced kayakers alike. Make sure that you are going to be as safe as possible out on the water by following these tips and taking your time getting started.
Related: Pick the Right Kayak for a Beginner
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.