Kayak Safety Guide: Staying Safe While Kayaking


Kayaking is a great way to explore the waters while receiving a great workout to help stay in shape. It’s important to stay safe and practice safety precautions while enjoying this amazing outdoor activity. In this guide, we will discuss some of the most important safety tips for kayakers. We’ll cover everything from how to choose the right equipment to how to handle yourself in dangerous situations. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, make sure to read through this guide before hitting the water!

Kayaking isn’t really dangerous when you take the right precautions. It’s important to be informed of what to expect and how to stay safe so more people can enjoy this activity.

Stay Within Your Ability

Kayaking is a super fun way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, but it’s important to always make sure you’re kayaking within your skill level and physical fitness abilities.

The first step to kayak safety is to avoid putting yourself into bad situations in the first place. If you’re not experienced and comfortable kayaking in rough waters, then do not enter any waters with rough conditions. As a beginner or novice, you want to be in a place where the water is calm and smooth, and remember the wind always plays a big part in ocean currents and roughness. If you’re not physically fit enough to handle a long kayak paddle, then plan a shorter trip to avoid getting fatigued. Following these general rules means the chances of getting into an uncomfortable & bad situation are very low.

If you’re looking to expand your abilities, go with someone more experienced than you or take a class. There are also kayak guides that are extremely knowledgeable and can help you improve your abilities.

For New Kayakers:

When you’re just starting out it’s important to not be overconfident in your abilities and use these basic guidelines when planning your beginner trips.

Bodies of water without lots of boats. Boats and their wake can cause you to capsize or struggle the entire time you’re out.

Places you can stay close to shore. This means if something goes wrong, can get to shore quickly.

Flat and calm water will make for a smooth journey and allow you to progress.

Avoid headwinds on your way back. While this does mean you’re going to be fighting the wind when you start, your return trip will be easier and will ensure you don’t take yourself too far.

Bring The Necessary Safety Gear

You have to know how to use your safety gear. Just bringing it with you is not enough if you’re in an emergency situation you want to know how to use your emergency gear as it could save your life…

Personal Flotation Device – PFD: This is an essential piece of safety equipment. Make sure you have a PFD that fits you well and that you are comfortable wearing for a long time. You should always wear one during your adventures.

Lightsource/Headlamp: We can’t plan around daylight hours, so sometimes you may go out closer to dusk for an evening paddle. If something happens and it gets dark you need to be able to see and be seen. A headlamp or even a glow stick could be a lifesaver in the event you are out past dark and need to see or be located.

Whistle: A whistle can easily be attached to your PFD and always have one with you. Remember the basics of communicating with a safety whistle – One blow for getting someone’s attention, 3 blows for help. If you forget this information just blow your whistle until help arrives. Spare Paddle: One per paddle in case something is dropped or sinks.

These are the basics for safety gear, and as your paddling abilities increase, you may want to consider more options. Some other equipment to consider would be a way to communicate if you don’t have cell service, and a towline in case someone else needs help. Overall, you have to evaluate your plans and match your equipment to every situation and condition.

Dress Appropriately

Most, if not all bodies of water are cold enough to give you hypothermia and when you are spending long periods of time in the water it’s easy to get hypothermia. Water saps your body heat much quicker than air, and air temperature can change fast on bodies of water making you colder.

If you are following U.S. Coast Guard recommendations, they say that any body of water below 70 degrees Fahrenheit means you should be wearing a wetsuit or drysuit.

A day out on the lake can turn bad fast even in the warm spring and summer weather. Take this seriously when heading out for a trip.

Look Up Hazards and Local Weather

You will avoid most danger by learning about where you’re kayaking and the local weather.


Every body of water is unique to its surrounding. Always check with local authorities for current weather conditions and swell forecasts and outdoor recreationists in the area for better insight. Also, keep in mind the time of year it is which highly affects the ocean currents and swells, underwater dangers, and more.

If you cannot find reliable information, ask around the local watersports shops like Surf N Sea to speak with their knowledgable and friendly staff recommendations and safety tips.

This is even more important if you are kayaking near or in the ocean.


Always be aware of the forecast in your desired kayaking place. There are multiple government websites with accurate radars and weather data that can be much more reliable than news channels and weather apps. Try to inform yourself as best as possible. Remember to get back ASAP if thunder and lightning start to roll in.

Avoiding Collisions

You should have your head on a swivel and be checking your surroundings regularly. Large boats often have a hard time seeing low-sitting vessels, and unfortunately, not everyone is observant when driving their boat.

Always have your whistle easily accessible. Your voice is not loud enough to overpower the noise of the engine of a fast boat. It could save your life and others around you.

Keep track of your surroundings and all moving boats. Even if you have the right of way, it’s better to be safe and make course corrections for any unpredictable boaters.

If a collision seems possible, turn your vessel sideways and paddle away. It is the quickest way to move out of a collision path.

Have A Buddy

For almost all outdoor activities using the buddy system is one of the best ways to stay safe. Having a partner to participate with is not only fun but a great way to stay safe. Keep your partner in earshot (or whistle-shot) so that both parties can help if something happens.

Even if you are a skilled kayaker with years of experience, not having a buddy increases your general risk of a serious issue.

The buddy system works – use it!

Create and Share Your Plans

While it is tempting to just get out there without much planning, a coherent plan could save your life. Use the “who, what, when, and where?” method. This information should be shared with someone in case things go wrong.

You tell them who is going, where your planned route is (along with entry/exit points) when you expect to leave and return, and what to do if you are not back by a certain time. These basic precautions mean help will arrive much quicker if something does go wrong. Let the person you tell know that they should call the authorities if you do not contact them by a certain time. If you gave them all of the above information, you and your group will be much easier to rescue than if there was no information about your plans.

Most Important, Have Fun!

Once you understand the basics of staying safe while kayaking, you can go out and enjoy the activity knowing you are prepared and informed.

If you have any questions about kayaking in general, feel free to contact our knowledgeable staff at Surf N’ Sea! We are more than happy to assist you.

We hope this guide has helped you gain some confidence in your kayaking skills, and thank you for reading! We hope to see you again!