Paddling 101: Safety Tips

Any time you head out on the water, bringing the essential gear and clothing is important. A few additional safety measures are also in order on a non-guided tour:

  • Bring a paddling buddy. When no guide is along, you should always go with another paddler who can summon help or provide assistance.
  • Get to know your kayak. The more you know about your kayak and how it handles, the better equipped you will be in an emergency.
  • Make a togetherness pact. A buddy who paddles off out of sight or earshot won’t be much help.
  • Know your distance limit. If you haven’t had rescue training, never paddle farther from shore than you’re easily able to swim. (Near-shore areas are more interesting anyway.)
  • Do your hazard research. Ask a knowledgeable local paddler about places to avoid, as well as currents, tides and weather forecasts.
  • Know your water temp. You should always dress for a capsize—at a minimum, that means some sort of wetsuit when the water is 60 F or less.
  • Check your PFDMake sure it fits tightly and is only loose enough so that it won’t interfere with your breathing. If temps heat up and you need to remove a layer, paddle to shore first—never remove your PFD on the water.
  • Be cautious about using a spray skirt. Don’t wear one unless you know how to properly pop it off and do a wet exit.
  • Don’t forget your whistle. The universal distress signal is three long blasts.

If you plan to kayak in the future, consider taking a rescue class. And classes that cover navigation, tides, currents and surf can help you avoid trouble in the first place.