Kayaking Safety: A Guide to the Dangers of Kayaking

In this article we will discuss some of the dangers of kayaking, along with kayak safety tips you can use to avoid them and ensure that your experience is fun and memorable.

Top Kayaking Accidents

Hypothermia, which is often caused by low water temperature, makes up for almost 80 percent of kayaking issues. Lacerations and internal organ injuries trailed way behind but still made it on the list.

Most personal injuries and incidents happened because of operator errors. As a kayak operator, you must be alert and diligent in maintaining the highest level of safety. 

That’s why we wanted to reach out and give you a list of potential hazards along with kayak safety tips that will help you avoid them.

The Most Common Dangers of Kayaking and How to Prevent Them


Dehydration is one of the most common occurrences inexperienced kayakers face. Kayaking is a vigorous activity that can quickly cause you to become dehydrated.

As with any exercise, you need to be well-hydrated and eat snacks that are full of protein and nutrients. Consider placing these snacks in a dry bag to ensure that they stay ready for you to eat!

Along with hydrating before your trip, it’s wise to bring an ample supply of water with you on your adventure; consider taking two extra gallons with you.


Heatstroke and sun-stroke are dangerous conditions that occur because of excessive sun exposure and physical exercise. The symptoms include high temperature, confusion, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and muscle cramps.

You can do your best to circumvent these conditions by using excellent sunscreen and keeping an eye on the weather forecast. You should also remember to hydrate properly. 

The time of the day you kayak can also make a difference. Be mindful of warm weather conditions and try not to go out at the hottest times of the day, especially in the middle of summer. 

Instead, wait until the late afternoon cooldown and consider kayaking then. Even when kayaking in the evening, wear a sun hat and other appropriate clothing that both provides sun protection and keeps you cool. 

Distractions and Intoxication

Distractions can cause problems for any “driver.” You should keep your focus on handling the water and avoid allowing yourself to get too distracted. 

By doing this, you’ll be more likely to notice when weather patterns change, and you’ll also see obstacles as you approach them — whether in deep water or shallow water.

If you like using sit-inside kayaks, you will also need to practice how to execute a wet-exit, which involves getting out of your kayak while you are underwater. In the event that your boat turns over and you need to complete a self-rescue, you will need to be fully alert.

It’s also a good idea to practice re-entering your kayak when you are in calm, shallow water.

Furthermore, you should have a partner with you when you kayak. Having another person with you is always much better for basic safety instead of boating alone.

Like with any other watercraft, do not drink alcohol or partake in drug use before you kayak. It is a real risk to operate the boat after taking prescription medication as well. 

Improper Use of Life Jackets

Your life jacket or personal flotation device must be worn properly in order to benefit you. 

Ensure that you undergo the appropriate life jacket training before you try to operate a kayak. That way, you’ll have full protection if you experience an incident that causes you to overturn the boat.

You should also wear a life jacket because it can also help other people to locate and assist you if something goes awry. 

If you struggle to find comfortable life jackets, try a kayaking-specific life jacket. These jackets are specifically designed to stay out of your way when paddling. 


Many accidents occur because kayakers are simply inexperienced. Practice is the perfect remedy for lack of experience. 

You may want to consider taking some lessons with an instructor before you delve into the world of kayaking. Next, you can consider kayaking in flat water that fits your skill level — such as quiet lakes and calm bays.

Finding a suitable kayaking location is important for beginners. Most newcomers should not try sea kayaking without the company of experienced paddlers, as off-shore winds can sneak up on you. 

Increase your exposure to deep and cold water slowly until you have the prowess to navigate the obstacles that may arise. As you increase your paddling skills you should also aim to increase your ability to monitor weather and water conditions.

If you would like to try ocean kayaking, be sure to check the National Marine Forecast, located online, regularly before your trip. Continue to monitor sea conditions in the hours before your kayaking trip and don’t be afraid to reschedule if high winds are expected.

Aim to avoid areas with heavy motorized boat traffic, and try to stay out of the surf zone as well. It’s also smart to always have a first aid kit with you in your kayak, no matter what paddling environment you’re in.


As mentioned before, hypothermia is one of the most common kayaking dangers. It can occur if you are too wet amidst strong winds, or if something causes you to become submerged in the cold water. 

Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. You need to get to a warm area and bring your temperature up if you experience any of those symptoms.

If you plan to kayak in cold water, consider buying or renting a wet suit or dry suit. Even weather-appropriate clothing, such as quick-dry and moisture-wicking fabric, can do you a world of good. 

Getting Lost

Many people get lost at sea because they don’t follow the appropriate protective measures. You can avoid getting lost by taking a few preventive measures.

First, consider taking a GPS with you. Your mobile phone may work, depending on the area you’re visiting to do your kayaking.

A communication device such as a VHF radio is also an investment worth considering. It allows you to broadcast a message to other ships and shore stations in the event that you are in distress.

This equipment should be placed in dry bags to ensure that it stays safe even if your kayak turns over. 

It would be advantageous to have a spotter to help you as well. A spotter is someone who knows your float plan and can keep track of your position at all times.

Wear bright clothing so that you can be spotted easily in the event that the US Coast Guard needs to come to your rescue. Don’t attempt a multi-day excursion without the company of an experienced kayaker. 

Wrist Strains

Wrist strains and injuries are commonplace in the kayaking world, but you can take a few steps to prevent them. Try exercising your wrists before you venture out onto the water.

It also might be useful for you to invest in a lightweight paddle. Most strains come from the constant pressure a heavy paddle puts on the wrists. 

Letting your hands relax and your paddle float every so often can give your wrists a break. Remember that while you may want to have an efficient trip, there is wisdom in slowing down and taking breaks periodically. 

A sporting goods store may also have a variety of kayaking safety equipment, such as wrist guards, that can help you protect yourself.

Impact Injuries

Impact injuries occur because of the various jolts and motions that occur during the process of paddling. They can also happen if your kayak hits something. 

You can avoid such injuries by going through a proper warm-up process before you engage in kayaking activities. Stretching your neck and shoulders beforehand can loosen them and lessen the likelihood of experiencing injuries.

Positioning your neck to use deep neck flexors while you kayak is a way to add some stability to your neck and shoulders. Trying to avoid rounding your shoulders forward can help you with your mission as well.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kayaking Safety

What Should I Eat Before Kayaking?

You should always eat as if you’re going to a fitness center to work out — after all, paddling is great exercise! Try having a meal at least one hour before your kayak, and make sure it has plenty of protein in it.

What’s the Right Way to Paddle?

Keep a broad and loose grip on your paddle, keep both of your hands at an equal distance from the blades, and keep your arms straight at all times. 

For the most comfort while kayaking, you should sit up tall and straight and bend your knees slightly. Do all you can to ensure that you sit up as straight as possible and avoid leaning back. 

How Can I Tell When the Weather Changes While Kayaking?

The weather is one thing you always want to keep an eye on when you’re kayaking. To do so, you should read the weather reports each day previous to your adventure. 

Once you’re on the water, look for changes in the sky, such as unexpected clouding, wind gusts, and moist air. You may want to consider removing yourself from the kayak if you notice these changes while you’re out there. 

The goal is to keep yourself out of harm’s way by staying on top of the weather. Thus, it should be your main focus during your kayaking adventure.

What Are the Best Kayaking Protective Items?

There are a few basic safety items that are always important to have on board. Here are a few things you should never kayak without. 

A life jacket is something you need, no matter how quick or short your kayaking trip is. It will keep you afloat in emergencies and notify other people that you’ve fallen into the water.

A bilge pump is another kayak safety tool that you might want to bring along. It can help you pump water out of your boat if you ever get some in there while you’re paddling.

GPS systems and compass units can keep you in the right spot all the time. You should have one of these units with you at all times. 

Flashlights or other equipment that lights up can help you if you ever lose light and need to find your way to safety.

Always do the best you can to stay safe during your kayaking adventures. They can be highly enjoyable as long as you protect yourself and your loved ones along the way.

For more personalized tips, try reaching out to the paddling community where you live. Other paddlers will be able to give you more details about the kayak safety rules in your area and may even offer a float plan for the best water near you.