Kayak Safety

Sit-on-kayaks are an extremely easy and safe way to spend time on the water. Unlike sit-in kayaks where training to deal with capsizes, getting in and out and Eskimo Rolls are essential for safe use, sit-on-tops offer far more simple and safe access to the water for many more people. 
If you do end up in the water it is easy to get back on a sit on top. They have a large semi sealed container of air so they should always float. However, as with any sports and activities on the water, there are potential dangers which need to be considered and which you should be prepared for at all times.

Kayaking can be a safe and rewarding activity if common sense is used and precautions are taken. It is an activity that demands sound judgment and caution, this is always the case, no matter how experienced you are. Your most vulnerable time is when you have most to learn, as a beginner.
The kayak safety guidelines provided here are meant as general guides and should not be considered comprehensive.

• The user of any kayak is personally responsible for his/her own safety and should obtain proper instruction in paddling techniques, equipment, safety, first aid, water and weather safety.
• It is strongly recommended that you obtain training from a qualified and experienced kayaking instructor.
• The user of any Kayak product assumes all risks and responsibility for any damages, loss, and injury including death which can result from the use of the product.
• Be realistic about your own abilities and be familiar with the unique weather and tide conditions in the area where you are paddling.
• Kayaking involves constantly changing environmental conditions that can present serious dangers for any paddler. Paddlers must remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times. Forecasts are valuable tools, but they are no substitute for experience and vigilance on the water. Weather and water conditions can change rapidly and seriously affect your ability to manoeuvre your kayak.
• A kayak’s small size and low profile on the water may make it difficult for users of other water-craft to see you. Maximize your visibility by choosing a brightly-coloured boat, wearing brightly coloured clothing, and choosing a paddle with bright blades.
• Accidental drowning is a serious risk for any paddler, but use of a Personal Flotation Device at all times can significantly reduce this risk. WEAR A PFD every time you get in your kayak!
• Hypothermia and cold shock are amongst the most serious risks a paddler faces. If you’re not adequately prepared, immersion in cold water will cause rapid loss of body heat and possible death. Wearing appropriate clothing is not enough to protect you from the hazards presented by cold water. If you are unfamiliar with the specific requirements posed by cold-water paddling, seek a qualified instructor.
• Like any mariner, you must know the principles of navigation and seamanship. We recommend a professional competent instructor.
• Kayaking can be hazardous with a potential risk of serious injury and even death.
• Always wear a suitable PFD (personal flotation device – a buoyancy aid or life jacket).
• Dress appropriately for weather conditions; cold water and/or weather can result in hypothermia.
• Familiarise yourself with all the features of your kayak.
• Always use a paddle leash, especially in the sea or when fishing.
• Seek out a good local source of information and instruction on kayaking skill and safety.
• Research the hazards associated with any particular body of water you intend to explore.
• Scout unfamiliar waters. If necessary, paddle to shore and carry your boat past uncertain areas.
• Always check the weather and tides before you depart from land.
• Stay aware of appropriate river water levels, tidal changes, dangerous currents, and weather changes.
• Always be aware of wind strength, especially offshore winds -where the wind is blowing out to sea and most certainly if you have a sail accessory.
• Always paddle in a group, where possible.
• Leave your paddling location and agenda with someone at home before departing.
• Never exceed your ability; Always be realistic about your ability and confidence both on the kayak and in the water.
• Check your equipment prior to each use for signs of wear or failure.
• Avoid consuming alcohol, drugs, or any other substance that may affect your coordination, judgment, or ability when paddling.
• Never allow minors to use the boat without adult supervision.
• Make a habit of carrying safety equipment.
• Do not stand in your kayak as it may cause it to capsize. If the boat should capsize, please note that, in most cases, it is far more dangerous to attempt to swim to shore than to stay with the boat.
• Your kayak can become extremely slippery when wet. Therefore, it is recommended that to wear slip-resistant shoes and remain balanced in the middle of your kayak at all times.
• Always abide by all Coast Guard regulations and State and local laws, regulations, ordinances, and rules concerning boating and boating safety. Check with the Coast Guard and State and local authorities concerning proper boat handling and the proper equipment to be carried on board, such as lights and sound-producing devices.
• Sound device; The Coast Guard requires boaters to have a means of signalling other boaters of their presence. You should keep a sound device (a whistle, ideally) in the boat with you at all times. If possible, attach the sound device to your Personal Flotation Device.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU CAPSIZE OR GET INTO TROUBLE

First of all, try to get back on your kayak if possible. The best way to do this is from the back of the kayak not the side. Slide the kayak underneath your chest as far as possible and then try getting your legs either side of the kayak and eventually pushing up into the sitting position. You should practise this technique and adapt it for yourself in calm, shallow water when you are not in an emergency situation. In an emergency situation, even if you can only get your body partially out of the water and on to your kayak, you will significantly increase your survival time. 
Call or signal for help using any means at your disposal. Wave, whistle, shout, use a VHF radio, mobile phone, flares or combinations of these methods. 
If you fall in, remember to keep a tight grip on the paddle – on a sit-on-top kayak this should be leashed to your kayak. Never attempt to swim to shore, always stay with your kayak- by staying with the kayak you make a larger target for the search and rescue groups to see. While it’s tempting to self-rescue by swimming for it, it has to be your very last option.

ENVIRONMENT

LAKES: Fishing from a kayak on the lakes can be a exhilarating experience. Having the hustle and bustle of shore life fade into the distance as you paddle out on your adventure. Rising early and dipping your paddle into the still waters, sending ripples through the otherwise mirror image of the surrounding hills and countryside. Your only company the water birds as they drift by, actually catching your first fish will just be an added bonus. Accessing small nooks, streams and other places no other fisherman can access can be the start of a real adventure. Check for permission before paddling on private waterways.

THE SEA: The sea can be a tranquil and peaceful place to be fishing on a good day, with flat calm waters and fish biting as you paddle around in the blazing sun. But it can be a very dangerous place to be, with conditions able to change very quickly. Respect needs to be shown and if you fail to do so then it may take your life. Exploring the coastline and viewing it from the kayak can be just the start of the adventure. One of the many advantages of kayak fishing is being able to access unexplored coves and gullies.
When at sea, kayak paddling safety depends very much on wind speed and direction as well as tidal strength. Not forgetting ebb and flow, flooding and storms! All these need to be considered if your going to embark on sea kayaking.
It is advised to never embark if the weather looks off in any way and you should never go out in fog.
A fish is not worth risking your life for, there will always be another time to go, just be patient and enjoy the moment when it comes. When your venturing out to sea on your kayak, your representing the sport as a whole, not just yourself.

PRECAUTIONS:

Make sure you are familiar with how to deal with any situations which can arise in open water. The following is a guide only, consult local experts or available literature for additional information on these important subjects.

WEATHER

Wind – Avoid paddling when white caps are visible until you thoroughly appreciate their effect. Wind can upturn a kayak, can make it difficult to turn, create unmanageable waves, prevent you from holding a true course and slow you down or stop you.
Fog – Fog can result in sudden and total disorientation. You will need a compass, but you may gain some orientation from sounds of beach surf, bells, foghorns, etc., as well as from steady wave and wind direction. Boat traffic can become a major hazard.

TIDES AND CURRENT

You will encounter two principal types of current on the sea: reversing tidal current and continuous ocean current. Strong current can aggravate conditions caused by adverse weather, particularly when current and wind are opposing. They can also cause difficult eddy and wave conditions even on still days, from the sheer force to the flow.
PRECAUTIONS:
1. Read your chart to help identify risk points.
2. Use any available information to estimate slack or favourable current and time your passage or crossing for that period.
3. Paddle in current under controlled conditions to familiarise yourself with its effect.
4. Exercise caution when the current and wind direction oppose each other (Wind over Tide).

GEOGRAPHY

Geography affects wind and water conditions in shallows, beach surf, headlands, cliffs and river mouths.
Shallows – Waves steepen and break heavily on shallows. Avoid those areas when waves are large or strong currents are forced to flow over them.
Surf – Waves steepen and break on beaches and shoals. Generally, try to avoid landing in surf with a loaded kayak. Avoid surf on rocky beaches.
Headlands – Conditions are frequently more difficult off headlands with increased wind, accelerated current and rebound waves. Seas become chaotic.
Cliffs – Cliffs limit landing sites and can cause chaotic rebound wave conditions.
River mouths – Difficult wave conditions occur when a river outflow runs against the waves.

PEOPLE HAZARDS

Make sure you are aware of all other water-craft around you at all times. Make yourself visible and never assume you have been seen, or have the right of way. Make sure you are aware of any shipping lanes or commercial routes.

A NOTE ABOUT PADDLING ON LAKES

With the exception of the tides, large lakes pose most of the difficulties and dangers of the sea. Waves, however, are steeper and more likely to break than at sea.

ESSENTIALS

Your location, length of journey, group size, weather, etc. will all play a part in establishing an “essentials list” of items to take with along with you. Some suggested items to get you started:

• Personal Flotation Device
• Whistle attached to PFD
• Signal mirror/Running light
• Throw bag (15m)
• Map in waterproof cover
• Sunscreen
• Water and food
• First Aid Kit
• Water/wind proof shell
• Spare clothes in a dry bag
• Appropriate Distress flares
• Compass or GPS
• Weather forecast
• Survival knife
• Tidal table
• Binoculars
• Flashlight
• Personal medications
• Lighter / Matches
• Phone / Radio

In order to learn about the logistics of a paddling trip we recommend a good beginner-level paddling course from a certified instructor.

If you have any questions regarding safety please do not hesitate in contacting us.