Going kayaking is always a wonderful experience. Fishing, gliding down the rapids, or simply paddling along the water can be downright exhilarating.
Still, it's important to realize that there is some degree of risk involved. Even if you consider yourself to be the greatest swimmer on the planet, the ocean demands your respect.
Before jumping in your kayak and hitting the water, it's vital to take precautions to ensure you’ll make it back to land at the end of the day.
1) Never Drink and Kayak
It is probably a no brainer, but you should refrain from drinking and kayaking. Trying to kayak while you’re tipsy is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
When you’ve had too much to drink, your reflexes will be slowed and your vision could be impaired.
If you’ve had too many cold ones, do yourself a favor and remain on solid ground.
2) Understand Your Limits
Drone photo courtesy of 2020SkySight.com
You’re not invincible. Even the most experienced kayakers in the world face some degree of risk when they hit the water. Don't try to be superman out there.
You can only handle so much at your given experience level, and you should never try to push yourself past your limitations.
If you’re a beginner, you should stick with calmer waters. As you gain more experience and have developed your skills, you can try tackling more challenging spots.
3) Be Wary of Cold Water
Cold weather is no fun. Cold water is far worse. Being submerged in water of even 50 or 60 degrees can cause you to experience a condition known as "Cold Water Shock."
When this happens, you’ll feel the energy evaporate from your body. Your muscles will turn to mush and you’ll feel totally drained.
Unless you’re familiar with the negative impacts of cold water, it is best to avoid it at all costs. Remember that hypothermia is very dangerous, and a real possibility when kayaking!
Stay out of the water until the water is warm enough for your liking.
4) Watch the Weather
Mother Nature can be unforgiving. When you expect it the least, she’ll throw a major curveball your way. This isn’t necessarily a problem when you’re relaxing at home, but definitely something to keep an eye on when planning a kayak fishing trip.
High winds and lightning could be life threatening when you’re out on the water in your kayak. Before heading out, be sure to keep your eyes and ears on your local weather reports.
If there are impending storms, you should stay close to the shore. This makes it easier to reach land in the event of an emergency. Better yet, stay off of the water all together.
Fishing during a snowstorm can be an amazing experience, but it can also be very dangerous and is not recommended from a safety standpoint!
5) Remain Sitting
Sitting in a kayak for long periods of time can eventually become uncomfortable. When you begin to feel your legs cramp or start to numb, you’ll probably feel the urge to stand up and stretch.
If you stand up in your kayak, there is a possibility that it could tip over. Alternatively, your foot might get trapped and you could find yourself heading straight into the water head first.
Wait until you’ve made it to land before stretching your legs.
Of course, there are some kayaks that are specifically designed for this purpose.
If you want to stand up during your fishing trip, you might want to invest in a good standup fishing kayak.
6) Inspect Your Equipment
Before driving your car, it is highly recommended that you check the oil, inspect the tires and adjust the mirrors. The same principle applies before entering the water on a kayak!
Just imagine getting out into the water only to discover that your kayak has sprung a leak. Before putting your kayak on the water’s surface, you should inspect it thoroughly.
Also, take a few minutes to check out your paddles and lifejacket. Make sure everything is in good working condition before moving forward.
7) A Life Jacket is a MUST!
Wearing a lifejacket is truly a necessity. Would you drive your car without wearing your seatbelt? The answer is likely a resounding no. You need to make a habit of strapping on your lifejacket each and every time you jump into your kayak.
Once you’ve done this enough, you’ll begin to feel naked without it. You should expect to get knocked in the water each time you go kayaking. Prepare for the worst-case scenario and you’ll be much more likely to make it home unscathed.
All boaters are required to carry a Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) that has been approved by the United States Coat Guard. A PFD could make the difference between life and death after your kayak capsizes.
Flotation bags are also a good idea.
They’ll help prevent your kayak from sinking quickly after it has capsized. This combination will give you a little more time to reach shore and save your own life!
8) First Aid Kit & Rescue Gear
Kayaking can be tons of fun, but you should expect to face many dangers. You could end up with a broken limb, stubbed finger or a nasty gash. Investing in a first-aid kit or piecing together your own is pertinent to your safety.
Once you’ve gotten the items you need, be sure to put the kit into a waterproof bag. Consider investing in rescue gear, such as tow lines, bilge pumps and a paddle float.
It is your best interest to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best!
What do you think?
Let me know by commenting below.
Jeff Mandel is kayak enthusiast, guide, and brand new face on My Fishing Cape Cod. For Jeff, kayak fishing allows him to “slow down and take it all in” while of course pursuing big fish. Jeff is a big proponent of kayak safety, and is the senior editor at SouthTexasKayak.com.