Remember Paddling Safety: Kayaking Comes With Exposure to the Elements

Lately, as I have been scanning the various kayaking forums, I’m starting to notice a very disturbing trend among some of my fellow paddlers. In just the last 2 months, I have counted over a dozen instances where paddlers aren’t taking into account paddling safety when it comes to weather conditions. Many are passing over the opportunity to check out the forecast for their paddling area so that they can know what mother nature has in store for them that day. Without the ability to get back to your land or your vehicle as quickly as you have with boats with motors on them, they are taking a huge gamble that is just not worth the risk.

Paddling Safety - Bad Weather
Example of less than ideal paddling weather.

These scenarios are easily remedied by always being mindful of the changing conditions and by utilizing local TV weather channels prior to your trip, weather apps on your smart phone that incorporate live radar, VHF radios that can tune into Coast Guard weather channels, or even a cell phone that allows you to call someone who can check weather patterns wherever they are for you. Mostly these instances seem to involve new kayakers who are anxious to hit the water and explore the opportunities their new plastic boat gives them. While I share in their enthusiasm, it’s important to stay alert and keep paddling safety in mind so that there will be many more trips in the future. Technology has come a long way and a lot of it is accessible even while kayaking. Waterproof cases for your phones, like the lifeproof case, instantly gives your electronic device protection and allows you to scan weather conditions with the peace of mind that if you drop the phone overboard that it will still work when you retrieve it.

If you find yourself on an outing and the weather shift and you can’t get back to your vehicle in time, here are some great practices to help prevent worst case scenarios. In the case of lightning, lay tall items in your kayak down flat, paddle to shore as quickly as possible, get out of your kayak and hunker down till the storm passes. The last place you want to be is exposed out on the water where you are one of the tallest things available for lightning to strike. Dealing with heavy winds can be a challenge as well, combat them by zig-zagging across the wind’s direction instead of going directly into it.  If you have no choice but to go straight into it, feather your paddle accordingly and if need be, take a break and rest every so often to regain your strength. In strong currents, you can attack the problem similarly as your would strong wind with the zig-zag approach as well as taking rests.

There won’t always be a solution to every problem that arises, but it is best to know basic paddling safety procedures that can help you in times of need. Preparedness is the key, and awareness can save your life. If possible, always scout conditions before you ever hit the water. The phrase “dying to hit the water” has no reason to be taken literally.