Kayaking is becoming an increasingly popular water sport. If you are thinking of kayaking for the first time or taking regular paddling excursions, your top priority should be safety. Dangers and risks abound when you take to the water, but can be avoided with some simple safety measures and kayak accessories. And with Paddlefest coming up soon at Get:Outdoors, it’s time to start preparing for the big event. Carefully consider these kayaking safety tips, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned paddler.
- Wear a life jacket. No matter how well you swim, wearing a life jacket, or PFD, could save your life. If you fall out of your kayak and hit your head hard enough to be knocked unconscious, your life jacket will keep you upright so that you can still breathe. If you find yourself in open water with nothing to hold on to, your lifejacket will keep you afloat until you can be rescued. Good quality life jackets are available that are comfortable and do not impede range of motion. Check out our Astral PFD selection.
- Practice emergency procedures. Be prepared for anything. Kayaks can tip over. It is smart to practice righting your boat before getting out into rough water or far from shore. You should also practice helping other paddlers right their boats. Experienced kayakers should teach these skills to new paddlers before they embark on long excursions.
- Never go alone. You should never go paddling alone on any water. Having at least one other paddler with you makes it easier to handle any situation, from flipping over to getting stuck on rocks or tree branches. If an emergency occurs, having other people around could mean the difference between a good or bad outcome. Always tell someone when you are planning to go paddling, where you are going and when you expect to return. That way someone will know to come looking for you if you do not return in the expected timeframe.
- Wear a helmet in rapids. If you plan to kayak in rapids or fast moving water, you should always wear a helmet. Even if the water seems fairly calm, a helmet is always a good kayaking safety measure. If you were to fall out of your boat or if your boat flips over, your helmet will protect your head from rocks or other objects. Even if you are paddling a stream with very few rocks, low hanging branches can catch you by surprise. Keep a sharp lookout in front of you at all times. Check out our Sweet Protection helmets.
- Do not stand up in moving white water. If you fall out of your boat in fast moving white water rapids, your natural reaction is to try and stand up. Do not do this. You risk getting a foot caught under a rock, and if this happens the water will push you face first down into the water. Float with your legs straight and feet out in front of you, in a sitting position. This way your feet will hit first on any rocks or obstructions.
Do Your Research
- Map your route. Look at a map of the water you intend to paddle. Decide where you will start and end, and even some meeting places along the way. Agree on this with your group so that everyone can regroup if separated.
- Get information about the water you’ll be on. Find out what level of rapids to expect and any possible hazards along your route. If going on a planned excursion through a paddling organization, talk to the guides and other paddlers with experience who have recently paddled the same waters.
- Avoid dams and waterfalls. Dams can be dangerous for kayakers, as the strong currents can push your boat up against the wall, making it difficult to get out and essentially trapping you. Waterfalls can be hazardous as well, no matter how big or small. Going over even a small waterfall can easily flip your boat, and large waterfalls can be extremely dangerous. Be sure you know what to expect along your route.
Prepare for the Weather
- Check the weather forecast. The weather has a huge impact on your kayaking excursion. Thunderstorms with lightning can be extremely dangerous in any kind of water. The temperature of the air and water is important to know. If there has been a lot of rain lately, water levels will be high and the water will be moving faster. During a dry spell, low water levels can mean more rocks are exposed, making it easier to get stuck in low spots.
- Dress appropriately. You should expect to get wet. If the water is extremely cold, it is best to wear a wetsuit. Even if the air temperature is warm, the water may still be cold. Dress in warm layered clothing made of fleece or microfiber, avoiding cotton when possible. If you do get wet in cool temperatures, get out of the water and into dry clothing as soon as possible. Hypothermia can set in quickly, even when it doesn’t seem that cold. Getting dumped in even 60-degree water can be dangerous.
Get the Right Kayak and Kayak Accessories
- Know your boat. If you already have a kayak, find your owner’s manual and read it carefully. The appropriate uses for the boat and its limitations should be clearly defined. Some kayaks are made for streams and rapids, others are designed for lakes, and some are made for ocean use. Having the right boat is essential for kayaking safety and fun. If you are buying a new boat or looking at discounted sale kayaks, make sure you speak to a knowledgeable sales associate who can help you choose the right kayak for your intended use.
- The right accessories can help. An array of kayak accessories are available that can make kayaking, safer, easier, and more comfortable. Kayak seals fit over the opening in your boat to keep the water out so that you stay dry and warm. Seat pads make your kayak more comfortable for long trips. Life jackets and floatation devices keep you safe in emergencies. Paddles come in different sizes, shapes and materials, and are made for different uses, paddling styles and people.
- Carry a spare paddle. It is possible to drop and lose your paddle out on the water, or for it to break. Light, take-apart paddles are available to purchase for just this possibility. Keep it with you just in case you find yourself literally up a creek without a paddle.
Kayak Accessories: Choosing the Right Paddle Can Make a Big Difference
Choosing the right paddle is very important when you’re kayaking for the first time. No two people are exactly alike, and everyone should not use the same type of paddle. The decision depends primarily on four categories:
1. Paddler’s height and size. The height of the person who will be paddling should determine the length of the paddle. The taller the person, the longer the paddle. A knowledgeable sales associate should be able to determine what length your paddle should be. Paddlers with smaller hands may want a paddle with a shaft that has a smaller diameter that will be easier to hold. Shafts can be round or oval shaped for personal preference.
2. Boat design. The boat design also determines the paddle length. Typically, the wider the boat, the longer the paddle needs to be to effectively and comfortably reach the water. The paddler’s height combined with the width of the boat will make the best determination in paddle length.
3. Intended use. How you intend to use your kayak and paddle determines the material your paddle should be made of. Touring paddles for longer trips need to be lighter, whereas white water paddles need to be strong. The highest performance option would be a carbon fiber paddle, which is extremely lightweight. The next best option would be fiberglass, which is not quite as light, but is very durable. Nylon, aluminum and plastic are on the low end of paddle materials, which tend to be heavy, durable and affordable.
4. Paddler’s level of experience. If you’re just starting out, you may want to go with a more affordable paddle in case you don’t end up sticking with the hobby. You likely won’t be traveling long distances in the beginning either as you learn. If you’re an experienced paddler your trips may be longer and your technique will be more developed, making it more sensible to get a good carbon fiber paddle or at least a fiberglass one. With experience you may find more complex features , as a feathered paddle, helpful. Feathered blades are set at different angles on the shaft so that when you put one in the water, the other slices through the air with less wind resistance. Feathered blades cut down on wrist fatigue and the angle can be adjusted to suit your preference. A bent shaft paddle may also be beneficial to any paddler, as it positions the hands at an angle that allows more power to be applied during each stroke.
Get Advice from an Experienced Kayaker Before Purchasing Gear
When choosing your kayak accessories, especially your paddle, be sure you get help from a knowledgeable paddler who can help you determine the best fit for you based on the criteria above. The type of paddle you use can make a big difference in your overall kayaking experience. If you start out with a paddle that is difficult to use, you may find that you never get past the beginning stages of kayaking before you decide it isn’t for you. Don’t let the wrong equipment keep you from enjoying a hobby that offers so much outdoor enjoyment.
Calling All Paddlers: Paddlefest 2017 is Near
Paddlers of all ages and levels of experience are encouraged to come out to Paddlefest. Get: Outdoors sponsors this exciting event each year to promote kayaking and other paddle sports. Whether you are a seasoned paddler or just thinking about giving it a try, Paddlefest is an excellent time to get out on the water.
Before you head out, check out Get: Outdoors for some new gear. From a wide range of kayak accessories to boats of all types and sizes, you will find everything you need to start the paddling season off right. Save money on a new boat and check out current inventory of sale kayaks. If you’re thinking about getting started, but not sure if kayaking is for you, starting with a discounted sale kayak is a great way to ease into the sport. Sales associates with paddling experience will help you choose the right boat and kayak accessories to get you started on the right foot.
If you are an expert paddler, come and see the latest accessories and gear to make your experience out on the water even better and more comfortable. From seats pads to kayak seals to the latest technology in paddles, your experience on the water can be enhanced with just a few small additions to your boat.
And don’t forget apparel. The proper clothing can make a big difference in comfort and safety. Wetsuits, warm underclothing, water shoes, etc. will keep you warm and protect your body.
Get: Outdoors wants all paddlers to make safety a top priority at all times and especially at this year’s Paddlefest. Check out the kayaking instructional programs Get: Outdoors offers for paddlers to learn skills and safety. Basic kayaking, whitewater kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and even kayak rolling is offered, covering a wide range of kayaking safety training.
Get: Outdoors covers all your paddling needs. Call (800) 450-6819 or visit the store at 1515 West Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro NC.