Basic Safety Tips for Kayaking

Caucasian man is kayaking in sea at Maldives

There are basic safety rules that all boaters should follow:

As with all recreational activities, there is always the possibility of injury or death. Always use common sense and follow all safety rules at all times.

  • Be aware of weather conditions and water temperature. Prepare for changes in weather and the possibility of a capsize. If paddling in cold water, a wet suit or dry suit can keep you warm and comfortable. In warm weather, a long sleeve shirt can provide sun protection.
  • Invest in appropriate clothing for your climate. One advantage of sit-inside kayaks is that you can shield yourself from some of the elements, while sit-on-tops leave you more exposed. Dress for the day.
  • Beware of off-shore winds that make it difficult to return to shore.
  • Always follow the boating rules of the area you’re in.
  • Never mix alcohol or drugs (prescription or non-prescription) with boating.
  • Never exceed the weight capacity of your boat and always check your equipment for wear and tear before you paddle.
  • Seek qualified instruction to learn proper paddling techniques, water safety and basic first aid.
  • Brush up on self-rescue first in calm, warm, shallow water, and again in more extreme conditions.
  • Most importantly, WEAR YOUR PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICE. Coast Guard regulations require that all kayaks have a lifejacket on board. Wearing your lifejacket will help keep your head above water and add insulation to your body, keeping you warmer in cold water. There are great PFDs designed specifically for paddlers. Buy one that fits well, and always wear it while you paddle.
  • Tell someone your paddle plan, which includes: where you are going, what you will be doing, how long you expect to be gone and how many people are in your party. Then stick to your plan.
  • Paddling in the surf zone or in rivers can be dangerous. Always wear a helmet.
  • Stay hydrated. Always bring plenty of water and food.
  • When paddling in a new area, check with the locals regarding currents, shoreline conditions and weather patterns. Plan an “escape” route – an alternative place to get off the water should environmental conditions dictate it. Abiding by these rules will help to make your kayak adventure safer and fun.

It is important to check conditions such as weather and tides before going out in your kayak. Whether you are going on a multi-day excursion or just paddling for an afternoon, being aware of current conditions can help you plan a more safe and efficient trip.

Equipment Recommendations

The equipment necessary for kayaking can vary according to the type of trip being taken. Some accessories you can’t do without, like a paddle and PFD, while others may not be essential for every trip, but can play a large part in keeping you safe and making your trip more enjoyable. Like most sports, the sky’s the limit if you want add-ons for your kayak. Other accessories include a backrest to help make paddling more comfortable, scupper stoppers to keep your self-bailing cockpit drier, and dry bags are important for storing gear. You can also buy accessories for navigating, diving, fishing, and more. If you plan to take your kayak on a car top regularly, you’ll find a hard rack system worth the investment.


  • PFD/Life Jacket
  • Compass
  • Maps and tidal charts
  • Extra food and water
  • Dry bags
  • Spare paddle or paddle leash
  • Paddle float
  • Spray skirt (if applicable)
  • Bilge pump
  • Boat sponge
  • Marine radio
  • Flares/signaling device
  • Safety whistle
  • Tow line
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen


  • Rod/paddle clips
  • Bow line
  • Rod holders
  • Anchor trolley system
  • Humminbird transducer
  • Humminbird fish finder


  • Cap/sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Paddle jacket
  • Base layer top


  • Dry top
  • Dry pants
  • Wet or dry suit
  • Gloves or pogies