Kayaking safety

You don’t have to be an experienced kayaker to enjoy kayaking. Main difference between inland waters compared to kayaking at sea is that inland conditions are usually more forgiving. But bear in mind, lake and river kayaking do have their own unique types of hazards. When paddling on a lake or river during the summer, hot weather must always be considered. Bring plenty of water and wear a broad brimmed hat for shade. Boat traffic often becomes congested so always follow the rules of the road. Watch for submerged rocks, snags and low overhanging bush. Winds are usually gusty and unpredictable. Select the correct kayak for your ability and the grade of the river. Never kayak alone and ensure your equipment is in good condition.

A well-equipped kayak is essential for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Never paddle without the essential equipment:

  • personal flotation device (PFD)
  • wet suit/booties
  • sunscreen
  • helmet
  • repair kit
  • tide and current tables
  • paddle
  • compass
  • spare clothes
  • spray skirt*
  • chart
  • flashlight or headlamp
  • paddle (and spare)
  • navigation gear
  • tow rope
  • self-rescue gear
  • weather radio
  • knife
  • signaling device
  • drinking water/food
  • paddle leash
  • hand pump and sponge*
  • first aid kit
  • spray jacket
  • watch
  • sunglasses
  • hat
  • binoculars

* open deck boats only

*The minimum personal equipment required: wetsuit, lightweight jacket, shoes, helmet, personal floatation device, waterproof gear bags and some additional clothing.

Kayakers often get wet (waves, spray, splashing). Cotton clothing, which does not retain heat and dries slowly, should be avoided. Instead, opt for synthetic fibres (polyester, polypropylene), which dry quickly, or wool, which retains heat even when wet. In cold temperatures, a wetsuit is strongly recommended. Opt for slim fitting models that hug the chest and hips.

Few simple safety rules:

  • don’t drink alcohol and paddle.
  • always wear a life jacket on water. Now, one of the biggest reasons people take the life jacket off is because they find it uncomfortable to kayak with it on. And this is why it’s worth investing in a kayaking specific life jacket because they are designed to be as comfortable and unrestricting as possible when you are sitting in a kayak or paddling.
  • always dress for the conditions. Cold water represents the biggest hazard because immersion in cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia. Now if you are going to be paddling in cold or cooler water, you need to be more conservative with all your decisions, and you need to paddle in calm conditions, close to shore and never alone.
  • Make yourself visible by wearing bright clothes and using fluorescent paint on your paddle.
  • Stay attached – using a paddle leash will help prevent you being separated from your paddle if you capsize. If you do end up in the water, stay with your craft as it will be easier for rescuers to see you.
  • You are responsible for keeping watch as to what is ahead, behind and to either side of you. Look out for other vessels, swimmers and potential danger at all times.
  • Always check the weather before heading out.
  • You may need to communicate in an emergency or advise someone of a change of plan, so always carry a mobile phone, flares or a distress beacon.
  • Learn how to avoid ending up in the water by using support and bracing techniques. Learn how to use a paddle float and stirrup.
  • Paddle within your limits. Be realistic about your fitness and capabilities and save strength for the return journey.