Springtime is the perfect time to dust off the kayak and take it for a spin on your favorite body of water. Before you hit the open water, make sure to review these tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. From proper gear selection to weather preparedness, follow these guidelines to get the most out of your kayaking experience this season. Happy paddling!
1. Get the Right Kayak
To ensure your safety and comfort many new kayaks come with removable foam blocks to help you customize the seat for a perfect fit. If you are renting or borrowing a boat, be sure these are in place before paddling. Also make certain that your vessel is equipped with all of the necessary accessories you will need for your trip . These might include:
- Spray Skirt (for open water kayaking)
- Throw Cushion (for open water kayaking)
- Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket (PFD) – must meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements
- Dry Bags – used to store cameras, phones and other electronic equipment
- Kayaking is a great cardiovascular workout. Make sure to bring water and snacks!
2. Dress for the Occasion
It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed when you’re getting on the water. Wear clothing that will protect you from the sun, wind and rain. Popular kayaking destinations are usually colder than one might expect, so it’s also a good idea to pack additional layers such as long underwear, wool socks and gloves. Some paddlers swear by thermal skull caps for extra warmth because they help keep ears warm without affecting hearing or vision capabilities – this may be especially important if participating in a guided tour.
Bonus kayaking tip: if you’re planning to take your furry friend out on the water with you, make sure he has his own PFD .
3. Stay Safe
It’s important to maintain situational awareness at all times while you’re on the water. Check weather forecasts before your trip and plan your route accordingly. Keep an eye out for potentially dangerous currents, rocks, logs and other obstructions. Have an exit strategy in mind just in case things go wrong – locate any nearby campsites or houses so that rescuers can find quickly if needed. Discuss a distress call with any accompanying paddlers and know how to use your communication device if needed.
4. Pack Light
Carry a small dry bag for all of your personal items, including cameras and phones. A good rule of thumb is that anything that you don’t want wet or ruined should be in a dry bag. If there’s space available in your kayak, stuff towels between equipment and the hull to prevent rattling and reduce the chances of damage from shifting during transport or when getting on and off the boat. To keep things organized, pack like items together in individual bags such as spare clothes, sunscreen , snacks and so on. This will also help you find what you need quickly when it comes time to hit the water.
5. Check Your Gear Before You Go
Before you even think about getting on the water, make sure your spray skirt (if applicable) is properly attached to the deck of your kayak and give it a good test run. If you are wearing a PFD , try it on along with any other gear you will need for your trip . Make sure everything fits comfortably and securely – if anything doesn’t feel right, remedy the situation before setting out on the water. Try to minimize unnecessary movements while paddling so that you don’t distract yourself or spook wildlife along the way.
The only thing standing between you and an accident-free day on the water is preparation, so pack accordingly!
6. Know Where You’re Going
While it’s certainly tempting to just head out into the open water, it’s important to know the limitations of your vessel and where you are permitted to go. If you plan on traveling anywhere other than a lake or pond, consider getting information from an expert before setting out, such as a local park ranger. Many waterways have “no-go” areas for kayaking so make sure these are either avoidable or permissible by law. It might also be helpful to research water flow rates before heading out – even experienced paddlers can find themselves in trouble if they encounter high currents that overpower their vessels.
7. Have a Game Plan
Before you head out, decide a route and a reasonable amount of time that it should take to complete your trip. Be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand so that you have an idea of current water conditions. If any known hazards are part of your course, learn about them in advance so that they don’t catch you by surprise. For example, if you’re planning on paddling along a coastline, be aware of areas where waves might sweep over rocks or sandbars , or where cliffs might fall into the water unexpectedly. While exploring new waters is one of the best parts about kayaking , make sure to follow well-known courses in order to reduce your risk for a bad surprise!
8. Keep It Steady
It’s important to compensate for wind, current and other factors that make paddling difficult or send your kayak off course. Keep a steady hand and try not to make sudden movements (including momentarily standing up). If you lose your balance, move slowly and deliberately in order to prevent yourself from tipping over accidentally. Use both hands when paddling and avoid using one arm whenever possible – this will help keep you balanced and maintain control of your kayak .
When traveling with someone else, it’s crucial that they remain vigilant in case you need help. Make sure he has his own PFD and know how to use any communication devices that might be on board with you. One person should always paddle facing forward while the other faces back in order to watch for obstacles in your path.
9. Watch Out for Wildlife
Although it may be tempting, always avoid approaching wildlife . This means remaining cautious in areas where you know seals or other animals might be present and not trying to make contact with any creatures when they are at their most defenseless (i.e. when they’re sleeping, eating or caring for young.)
If a wild animal approaches you , remain calm and still until it leaves – if the creature begins to show aggressive behavior , back away slowly and use an object such as a paddle to appear larger than normal. While you should always have your phone on hand in case of emergencies, do not attempt selfies with marine life any circumstances!