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.


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.