The Dangers of Kayaking – Is Kayaking Safe ?

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Kayaking is a wonderful sport and hobby but there are many dangers of kayaking. Dangers aside, there are many benefits to paddling a peaceful stream or lake. But like just about anything in life, there are dangers associated with it if you aren’t paying attention and following some basic rules. Today I’m going to list some of the dangers of kayaking and what can lead to death if you aren’t careful.

What are the Potential Dangers of Kayaking?

1. Using the appropriate safety measures: life vest, whistle, proper clothing, water & food, etc.

2. Following the rules of the water: stay clear of waterfalls, fast currents, dangerous obstacles.

3. Pay attention to nature: using proper lights at night, don’t go out during storms, cold weather, etc.

4. Safety check your rig: check the drain plug, look for holes in the kayak, hull cracks, etc.

5. Know your own limits: don’t travel out too far, stay out too long, stay hydrated, no alcohol or drugs.

Safety Measures are There to Prevent Dangers of Kayaking

It saddens me to see how many people die every year because they don’t wear a simple $20 life jacket when they go kayaking. The most recent incident involves the death of a three-year-old boy named Caleb Nopal. His parents took Caleb and eight-year-old sibling Isaj kayaking near Snead Island in Manatee County Florida. As they were headed back to shore, the kayak capsized spilling all four into the water. Nobody was wearing a life vest. Caleb’s body was found several hours later.

Life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD), are essential safety equipment. Helmets aren’t a bad idea either for extra protection when kayaking on or near waterfalls and rapidly moving water. In some places, the law requires that life jackets are always worn when kayaking. They are sold at nearly every Walmart and Target for a very low cost. There is no excuse to paddle without one.

Respect the Water and Know Your Limitations

Research where you are going and choose an appropriate waterway. Trouble will find you when an attempt is made to kayak somewhere that is beyond your skill level. Check with local paddlers if it is your first time in the area. Consider water and air temperature, tides and wave action, wind and current. All of these can severely affect your ability to kayak safely. Accidents are more likely to happen if your skill level does not match the route you have chosen to paddle.

Beginner kayakers are more prone to injury because they don’t have the experience to meet the demands of the sport. Tipping your kayak over is something that can happen unexpectedly and put you in danger. Learn the proper techniques for safe travel and operation before venturing outside of your local area.

Common Types of Kayaking Injuries

As we paddle our kayaks, many muscles are being used to propel our vessel. Shoulders and wrists undergo stressful and repetitive motion. This can lead to injuries like sprains and strains. Remember to pause and take a break while kayaking for long periods of time. Change positions in your seat or row backward from time to time. Be aware of any warning signs that pain may be sending you. Be ready to use heat and ice packs after your first few trips to the water.

Hyper and hypothermia are serious health risks. Stay properly hydrated by taking several water bottles on your trip. For cold days, you still need water for hydration but also need to wear the appropriate clothing for protection from the cold. Have backup clothing either in the kayak or in your car. A dry bag will keep your spare clothes dry should you capsize. Wet suits are recommended for cold weather kayaking.

Sunburn is ever-present when kayaking. The ultraviolet rays reflecting off the water can burn you faster than you think. Be sure to apply sunblock lotion before you head out in your kayak. Don’t try to apply it while in your boat or you may be asking for trouble. Always pay attention when kayaking and keep your eyes on your surroundings.

Check Your Gear Before Leaving the House

Another horrifying story about the dangers of kayaking centers around an unplugged kayak and inappropriate use of paddles. Angelika Grswalk dubbed the “Kayak Killer,” was convicted in 2017 of criminally negligent homicide. She was found guilty for the 2015 death on the Hudson River of her fiance Vincent Viafore. She confessed to pulling the plug from his kayak and moving his paddle away from him as he struggled in the water. Maybe he checked the plug and she unplugged the boat after he inspected it? What would the outcome be had he worn a safety vest? There are also bungee cords that attach your paddle to your kayak so that if you capsize, the paddle stays attached to the kayak. This situation, as gruesome as it is, could have had a completely different outcome had the kayaker followed common safety rules, worn a vest and checked his gear.

I’ll never forget the time I took my family camping and canoeing. When the camp was set up and everything in its place, my wife took a few daughters out on the water in our orange canoe. I watched them paddle out about thirty feet or so and that is when panic struck. All I saw and heard was frantic screaming and paddling as they headed back to shore. Turns out, an ant colony had taken up residence in the canoe during the time it sat unused at our home. Nobody was injured in any way but it highlighted the need to inspect your boat before putting it in the water.

Kayaking is a wonderful opportunity to get outside and explore nature. You get a whole different perspective sitting right on the water. Wildlife seems much less startled by your presence and oftentimes watches me just as much as I watch them.

But please take the necessary precautions to make sure you and your family have a safe journey on the water. Check your local laws, by the recommended gear and reach out to someone already in-the-know if you have questions. I surely don’t know everything about kayaking but I continue to learn.


Kayaking is one of my favorite outdoor activities. But there are dangers of kayaking that can turn a fun trip into a nightmare very quickly. If your spidey senses start tingling when you get too close to a rapid or waterfall, there’s a reason. Always error on the side of safety and you should never go wrong.

Common Danger of Kayaking FAQs

Is kayaking safe for non-swimmers?

  • Although it’s much better to be able to swim than not be able, it is not a requirement. You should never go kayaking without a “PFD” or personal floatation tool.

Can you drown while kayaking?

  • It has the potential to do so if you do not understand the correct technique for exiting a kayak inverted as well as can not roll. As an amateur kayaker, you should constantly paddle with a person that can assist you in the occasion of capsizing and do an Eskimo rescue if you are able.

Is it safe to kayak in the rain?

  • Kayaking in the rain can be completely secure, as long as you understand the problems you’ll be paddling in.  Watch the weather report before you leave the house or cabin.

Is kayaking difficult?

  • While most people are afraid of tipping over on their very first time out, the fact is that tipping a kayak is rather challenging to do. Honestly, if you’re paddling on flat water such as a calm lake or river, your highest possible risk of tipping is entering the kayak.

What happens if you flip over in a kayak?

  • The initial thing to do is turn your kayak so it’s no more upside-down. Reach beneath the kayak to grab the sides of the cockpit, one hand on each side, after that pull it up as well as push it over, to ensure that it turns away from you. Aim to do this as quickly as possible to stay clear of more water entering into the kayak.

Is a kayak safer than a canoe?

  • Kayaks usually travel a bit faster and feel even much faster since you’re right down on the water. I believe kayaking is more secure and less complicated than canoeing. It is due to several reasons. There are lots of differences between kayak & Canoe. The most significant and most obvious distinction between canoe and kayak is the equipment you make use of (ore versus paddle.)

Can you get stuck in a kayak?

  • The reality is, an individual in a capsized kayak will hardly ever get stuck in the kayak. While the cockpit might seem rather confined on several kayak models, the truth is that most people will fall out of the kayak before they hit the water.

Do I have to wear a lifejacket while kayaking?

  • On a vessel underway, children under 13 should put on an appropriate Coast Guard-approved PFD, unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Additionally, a boat 16′ in length or higher, other than canoes, has to have a throwable flotation tool. Most states require life jackets on everyone.

Should I kayak alone?

  • If there is one idea I would love to read in every kayaking for beginner’s guide, it would certainly do not kayak alone. It’s never a good concept to go kayaking by yourself– regardless of just how much experience you have actually had.


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