A Beginner's Guide to Kayak Safety
Jun 07, 2017
Tips to be prepared for a day on the water.
Understanding safe boating rules that apply to kayak and canoes will not only minimise foreseeable risks, but also allow you to enjoy your paddling. You may not be aware, but kayak and canoes are considered vessels according to NSW marine legislation, and as such, you are responsible for the safety of your vessel and any one on board (such as when on a double kayak). And because 'paddlecraft' are small and sit low on the water, it can be hard for skippers of nearby boats to see you in the best of times, so it's important to be aware of some simple tips to kayak safety on the water.
Check the weather forecast, such as on the Bureau of Meteorology website for up to date weather and also tidal times. Always let a friend know your plans, such as where you intend to leave and return to and from, as well as an approximate time they should expect you. In addition, heading back with the wind behind you will make for less resistance for your return paddle, and you should be extra cautious when in shallow waters where a low tide may leave you stuck on a sandbank.
Safety gear for kayaking.
Having the correct equipment and safety gear (we provide kayak safety accessories here online) is essential for your safety on the water. A Personal Floatation Device (PFD's also known as a life jacket), choosing a highly visible colour such as bright orange or yellow, high protection sunscreen, drinking water, and even a fluro flag are all essential items. The deck rigging on our sit-in kayak range comes with a reflective material in-built into the rope, which illuminates when light from a distance shines on it - a smart safety measure. For kayaks which don't have this deck rigging, applying reflective tape to the sides of your kayak and even your lifejacket, will increase your visibility.
Visual inspection of the kayak.
We recommend checking your kayak for any leaks, cracks or unfastened hatches or plugs, to ensure it is sea worthy and not going to take in water into the hull. All our kayaks are water seal tested, balance tested and visually inspected at our factory, but as with your car, it's safe to regularly check for any possible cracks or leaks. If you're paddling in new areas with hazards such as oysters or rocks, be sure to check your kayak after to inspect for any possible damage. Whilst polyethylene kayaks are very durable, and tend not to crack, it may be something as small as leaving the drain plug undone which may let water into the hull.
Safety measures on the water
- Not only is paddling in a group most enjoyable, it is a good way to stay safe.
- A paddle leash is a great piece of equipment for lake and river paddling, allowing you to attach your paddle to a secure spot on the kayak, however if you find yourself in the surf, best to not get it tangled and so put it away so not to get in the way.
- Stay close to the shore line where possible.
- Keep to the starboard side of the waterway.
Remember, boats can't always see you on the water, especially around sunrise and sunset. It is a requirement to carry a torch on your between sunset and sunrise, and extra kayaking safety gear is recommended especially for sea kayaking. Whilst power vessels must give way to sailing vessels, vessels approaching head on, vessels approaching from the right (starboard) hand side, vessels engaged in fishing activities, you should never assume they have seen you and always be aware of surrounding vessels. For a full list of kayak safety rules and regulations, see the NSW Maritime website located here.
If you follow the basic safety rules of kayaking you should be well positioned to keep safe should the unforeseen occur. Remember, kayaking is fun and a great way to unwind - so above all, enjoy yourself!