If you’re an adventure sport lover, the idea of kayaking is bound to pump up your adrenaline. The thrill of rowing your kayak over an open lake can be tempting, but don’t forget the risks involved. You’re at the right place if you’re looking to answer the question, “Is kayaking dangerous?”
It’s fair to say that kayaking has some degree of risk associated with it, but aren’t all adventure sports that way? Kayaking really isn’t that much riskier than other adventure sports. And, you can always equip yourself with proper gear in order to keep safety your number one priority.
Indeed, there are some risks associated with kayaking, but your perception of the risk could make all the difference. Note that there are some risks that beginners tend to overlook due to their enthusiasm. Even experienced kayakers can be guilty of underestimating the voracity of certain risks. Thus, learning about and preparing for risks that may arise is a smart decision, especially in an adventure sport like kayaking.
In this article, we are going to explain the risks of kayaking in order to help you prepare better for your next kayaking trip!
Can Beginners Kayak on a Lake or a River?
A lot of beginners start their kayaking journey with a kayak trip to a lake. While it’s relatively safe, it’s better to stay near the shoreline. Moreover, you should only paddle out the same distance that you’d be comfortable swimming. Continue practicing your skills and then try going out a bit further each time.
As for rivers, you should start with the ones with relatively calm waters. That means, no treacherous rapids! As you become more comfortable with kayaking, you can try out different rivers.
Is it Safe to Kayak Alone?
While it might be nice to kayak with friends, always remember that your safety is in your hands. If you’re a beginner, do not go out on a kayaking adventure alone. Even experienced kayakers tend to pair up with a friend or a peer while kayaking. This ensures that you have someone who could help you in case of an emergency. Always look out for each other while kayaking and do not drift too far away from your group.
Potential Dangers You Need to be Aware of
Being aware of the potential dangers of kayaking can help you take adequate precautions. Many kayakers overlook the risks that come with the sport and end up in precarious situations. Here are some of the risks you should be aware of.
You experience hypothermia when your body temperature drops. When exposed to freezing water for an extended period, the body’s core temperature decreases rapidly, which can be fatal.
Wearing appropriate clothing can significantly reduce the chance of hypothermia. You might even want to consider wearing a drysuit if you know that your kayaking conditions are going to be extreme. Remember that it may not be worth the risk to paddle during frigid months if you’re just looking to have a good time.
In adverse conditions, staying near the shore, paddling with a partner, and wearing appropriate clothing can significantly reduce the chance of an accident. Always remember to keep a pair of dry clothing when kayaking during the cold months.
As with any water sport or activity, drowning is certainly a risk. It’s one of the most obvious dangers of kayaking, especially if you’re alone, unprepared, in deep waters, and are not a good swimmer.
While knowing how to swim is an advantage, it’s not guaranteed to save you if you get a kayaking accident. Even experienced swimmers drown. Always take the necessary precautions before and during kayaking to ensure that you don’t drown.
To help prevent drowning, it’s best to always have a correctly-fitted life jacket, capsize drills, and self-rescue training. Moreover, knowing how to cope with fear and regain control in a potentially life-threatening scenario can save your life. A life vest or PFD can save you from drowning, so make them a priority once you start packing for your kayaking trip!
Did you know that your nervous system gets overstimulated when you are exposed to icy water? Cold water significantly decreases your body’s ability to function normally. Freezing water will make you feel like your body is going to explode. Sudden immersion in cold water can quickly render a swimmer immobile.
You should wear appropriate clothing if you plan on kayaking in low temperature waters. Another tip to help you acclimate to the cold water is by entering it slowly and carefully. But, whether you’re acclimated or not, you can still be affected by temperature shock. Therefore, it’s wise to go with a partner who can help you in case of an emergency. Consider professional level training before traveling to a place where temperature shock may become life-threatening.
Sweeper refers to low-hanging branches and obstacles that stick out across the water surface. They are one of the most dangerous river hazards. Always try to avoid these as best as you can. They might seem safe at first, but it can quickly become dangerous if they come in contact with your kayak.
Your boat can topple if you or your kayak comes in contact with a branch. This can put you as well as your partner’s life in danger. It becomes even more hazardous if you get trapped against the tree by the current or your boat.
A strainer is similar to a sweeper, but it sticks laterally into the water flow. Fooling around strainers isn’t a wise thing to do while kayaking, as they can be more dangerous than sweepers.
Strainers usually consist of whole trees with branches and debris entangled underwater. It may be impossible to fight the force of the water and save yourself if you’re trapped against one while submerged by the current. You could be at risk of drowning.
When facing an unavoidable strainer, try to lean in its direction. It’s important not to lean away from the strainer or the boat will topple. You can have your boat pulled out from under you if your upstream edge tips down too far and flips you over. You should educate your fellow river kayaking partners about strainers since most river paddlers are often unaware of these fatal dangers.
Exposure to the sun for a long time can cause sunburn and other conditions resulting from excessive direct heat. You may experience a heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration.
You rarely get shade while paddling. On top of that, there is the risk of reflected sunlight from the surface of the water. This might be a significant problem for anyone who is unprepared. Avoid the heat by wearing sunglasses and lightweight, long sleeve clothing. Make sure to also wear a sun hat with a broad brim and apply sunscreen before you go kayaking.
Dress in white or light-colored clothes and stick to polyester fabrics for optimal heat reduction. Moreover, always carry plenty of water so that you don’t face dehydration.
Despite their mesmerizing beauty, open waters can be quite dangerous. There’s no landmark to provide direction and it’s hard to keep track of how far you’ve traveled. A kayak can move fast and cover a lot of distance with hardly any effort. If you’re too engrossed in paddling, you might lose your sense of direction and get lost.
However, one can easily avoid it with proper planning. Always try to paddle in a group and do not drift away from your peers. When kayaking solo, remember to stay in sight of the shore, track your distance and time, and use a compass or GPS for navigation.
There have been many fatal boating accidents attributed to drinking and it’s not uncommon to find alcohol in the blood of drowned victims.
In addition to alcohol, recreational drugs and prescription medications have also caused several accidents in the past. Thus, you must avoid these substances while kayaking. Remember that it’s a federal offense to consume anything that will impair your ability to navigate the waters safely and effectively.
Lack of Experience
When you overestimate your abilities and choose an environment beyond your skill level, you’re asking for trouble. If you’re just learning to kayak or are a seasoned paddler, you should always choose a route that fits your skill level.
If you want to build your understanding of the conditions, talk to local paddlers, do some research, check out detailed maps, identify potential hazards, check the air and water temperature, wind, currents, and tides. Remember that expertise is not the same as luck. Understand your limits as a kayaker and don’t overextend yourself.
Pro Tip: Beginners should stay away from class v rapids and choose slow-moving waters until they are accustomed to them.
Kayaks provide a beautiful, close-up of the environment, but they also possess their fair share of environmental risks. It’s extremely dangerous to paddle in a kayak in a storm with thunder, lightning, high winds, and heavy rain. There’s a chance of getting struck by lightning, poor visibility, and winds tossing your kayak.
Always keep an eye out for any weather changes and double-check the weather forecast. While rain and storms are a recipe for disaster, too much sun is not suitable for you either. Too much exposure to the sun can cause just as many problems as the storm and rain together. So, look out for any unwelcome weather conditions.
If you’ve been kayaking for some time, chances are you’re going to face wildlife one day or another. Regular kayakers often come in contact with wild animals, whether it be a bug, beaver, or snakes. But, it might even be something scary like a shark or an alligator. Note that there have been instances with bears as well.
You have every right to be scared as you are practically defenseless. However, as long as you keep your distance, avoid young animals, and paddle away, the encounter should be quick and harmless.
Some Safety Tips
No matter which sport you indulge in, safety comes first! Here are some safety tips to help you out while kayaking.
- Never compromise on your safety equipment. Avoid purchasing used safety gears as they won’t be as effective. The essentials include a PFD, whistle, bilge pump, spare paddle, towline, and a headlamp. Remember to carry a first-aid kit too.
- While it’s important to be comfortable, always dress keeping the weather in mind. Also, never forget a life jacket.
- Never push yourself to prove a point. Remember, kayaking is a sport of skill. And until you’re well-versed with the nuances of kayaking, you shouldn’t be trying to show off.
- There might be some dangers specific to the location you’re kayaking in. It’s always a good idea to talk to locals before entering the waters.
- Avoid going on solo adventures and always communicate your itinerary to a third person. Keep close to your group and don’t drift too far away.
- Always carry a flashlight with you. This will help bigger boats locate you in case of an emergency.
All adventure sports are a mixture of thrill and risk, but it’s your responsibility to take precautions in order to stay safe. There will be dangers, but don’t let that discourage you from trying new things. Kayaking can be an exceptional experience for you if you take the necessary precautions. We hope this article has answered the question “Is kayaking dangerous?” and that you’re now better equipped to take on the waters!
If you’re new to kayaking, talk to the locals to learn about more unfamiliar risks. As long as you prioritize your safety you should have a pleasant experience! For more information and product reviews on kayaking and other related topics, keep scrolling on KayakFlow.com.