How dangerous is kayaking for non-swimmers?


Is kayaking dangerous?

Real kayaking dangers and how to avoid them

Some people are unconcerned about the risks. Some people are unconcerned about the risks, while others are terrified of something that isn’t even a real danger.

Let’s face it, if you’re wondering if kayaking is risky, it is.

Kayaking does have some risks, but the purpose of this article is not to scare you.

It’s intended to motivate you to think things through, plan your route, adhere to safety rules, and make informed decisions while on the water.

Kayaking’s Risks and How to Avoid Them Now we’ll get into the less straightforward and potentially dangerous aspects of kayaking.

Perceived and actual risk and why it’s important to understand the difference

When kayaking, it’s important to remember that safety always comes first. However, there is a thin line between perceived risk and actual risk in kayaking.

The perceived risk of a scenario or situation refers to how dangerous it appears to be, but the actual risk is unknown. Skydiving is a good example of a high-perceived-risk activity.

The real danger posed by a situation or activity, not our perception of it, is what we call real risk.

When we don’t know the difference, or even worse, when we don’t match perceived risk to “real” risk, disaster is almost always the result.

People’s perceptions of dangers and risks aren’t always correct. Things may appear to us to be more or less dangerous than they are. Perceived risk refers to how dangerous something appears to be, whereas actual risk refers to how dangerous it actually is.

If you ask my grandmother about traveling abroad, she will tell you that it is extremely dangerous, but if you ask someone in their twenties who has spent a year abroad, they will assure you that it is extremely safe. Their perceptions of the conditions and risks differ significantly from the actual dangers.

If you’re kayaking in a shallow lake, the risk is likely to be minimal. Furthermore, the risk is extremely low. Kayaking class 5 rapids, on the other hand, entails a higher actual risk as well as a similar perceived risk.

The danger is that perceived risk does not always correspond to actual risk. When people believe a situation is safe when it is actually dangerous, incidents occur. In Michigan, a kayaker went missing after attempting to swim across a flooded river.

Because this river is relatively easy to navigate, the perception of danger is (likely) low. Many recreational paddlers, however, are unaware that as the river level rises, the actual danger increases dramatically.

Knowing when the risks become real is the most important aspect of safe kayaking. Don’t be afraid of rapids because they appear to be dangerous; instead, be aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions. It’s critical to understand the true scope of the threat versus what you believe you’re facing.

Now that we have covered all the problems that can occur during a kayak trip, let’s talk about the elephant in the room:

Would you die in a kayak?

This is the question you’ve been asking, and the answer is “yes.” When the odds are stacked against you, kayaking can be deadly. Accidents do occur. Sometimes you make the wrong decision, sometimes the water has its own agenda, and sometimes you lack the expertise to handle it.

Even with all of the dangers associated with kayaking, the chances of going on a paddling trip and completing it are fairly high.

Statistically, you’re more likely to die driving a car. But you still go to work every day, don’t you?

“Can you drown while kayaking?” we’re frequently asked.

Yes, you certainly can.

Every water activity entails some level of risk.

One of them is drowning. This is one of the most obvious risks of kayaking, and it’s even riskier if you’re paddling alone in deep water, unprepared, or a bad swimmer.

If you can’t swim, should you kayak?

Swimming ability is a plus, but it isn’t required. You don’t have to be scared of water.

If you can’t swim but want to go kayaking, you would want to learn to swim. You really should.

Wearing an appropriate life jacket, capsize and self-rescue training, and knowing how to cope with fear and regain control in a life-threatening situation are all important steps in preventing drowning.

hypothermia and cold water shock

Cold water is less frightening in a kayak, but it can be deadly to the unwary and unprotected.

Sudden immersion in dangerously cold water (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit) can quickly obliterate your ability to move your body and control your breathing.

The most dangerous part of a cold water shock is the first minute, which can result in hypothermia. The sensation of something cutting into your chest, causing muscle paralysis, dizziness, and loss of consciousness, is known as cold shock.

Reduced buoyancy, confusion, fatigue, and unconsciousness will result if the body temperature continues to drop, with fatal consequences.

Take a moment to take a deep breath.

To save yourself, do 10 minutes of sensible exercise.

1 hour before hypothermia causes you to lose consciousness Clothing that is appropriate

  • “Safe is safe” – wetsuit or drysuit, life jacket, change of clothes, paddling in a group, etc.
  1. becoming disoriented (especially in the water) The open water is enthralling, but it can also be perilous for kayakers. There are no landmarks to guide you, it’s difficult to navigate, and it’s easy to lose track of how far you’ve gone.

Touring kayaks allow you to travel quickly and over long distances without drawing attention to yourself.

You’re stranded at sea and have no idea how to get back.

However, in a kayak, this danger is easily avoided.

When paddling out to sea in a sea kayak, you should always paddle in a group. If you’re paddling alone, keep an eye on the shore, be aware of the weather and distances, and navigate with a GPS kayak compass.

Cofferdams and low head dams

Low-head dams are also known as “river killers” or “drowners” because they drown rivers. Which of the following nicknames do you prefer?

They are man-made structures that are used to control the river’s water level. They are usually unmarked, difficult to spot, littered, and unable to flee due to the destructive hydrodynamic forces that continue to pull them into the water. Worse, like a boiling washing machine, the turbulence frequently renders life jackets useless.

Drinking and boating

Alcohol is still the leading cause of fatal boating accidents, accounting for 23% of all fatalities. Furthermore, the blood of victims who drowned while boating has been found to contain up to 70% alcohol – if that isn’t depressing, we don’t know what is.

Drunk driving is prohibited not only because of alcohol, but also because of recreational drugs and some prescription medications.

It is a violation of federal law if it impairs your ability to navigate the water safely and effectively. You should not, however, mix drinking and kayaking. Always put your own safety and the safety of those with whom you share the water first.


In kayaking, “eating away” is also a dangerous practice.

Any situation in which you become overconfident and decide to paddle beyond your capabilities is doomed.

Don’t forget your kayak, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned paddler.

The route you take should always be appropriate for your skill level.

Don’t mix up chance and experience. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do as a kayaker.

bad weather or sunbathing

Kayaking allows you to get up close and personal with the beautiful scenery, but it provides little protection from the elements.

The combination of kayaking and storms can be frightening, with thunder, lightning, strong winds, and heavy rain. Visibility is poor, temperatures can drop rapidly, you could be struck by lightning, the wind can turn your kayak sideways, and it can travel at a high rate.

Examine the weather forecast closely, keep an eye on the sky, and take action as soon as the weather changes.


Capsizing is the most common, but not the only, danger associated with kayaking. Capsizing and, in the worst-case scenario, being trapped under the kayak are the two most dangerous situations in a kayak.

Dangerous obstacles: mud flaps and scrapers

When it comes to obstacles in the water, the problem is that you never know if what you see is the tip of the iceberg.

Even if you see a branch, there’s no way of knowing if there’s a tree beneath it.

Low-hanging branches or other obstacles, known as screens, are frequently seen protruding into the water.

Obstacles in the water, such as fallen trees or flat rocks, form traps. They not only allow water to pass through, but they also act as a “sieve,” filtering debris from the river and catching anything that gets swept away by the current.

Trash, boats, animals, and people are kept out of the river by “filtering” the gaps in the barrier. The danger is often in what we don’t see.

As a result, kayakers frequently find themselves stranded in dark channels without even realizing it.

Other vehicles (especially at night)

We know you adore your kayak, but let’s face it: kayaks aren’t exactly large, easy-to-find vessels.

They might be fine in broad daylight or on a small river with little traffic. If you’re sharing the water with larger vessels like yachts, motorboats, or jet boats, however, you’ll need to make yourself visible.

Inappropriate use or improper equipment

A life jacket alone will not keep you afloat; a PFD (personal flotation device) is required. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are designed to keep you afloat; they are not a cure-all.

It is also responsible for a variety of other tasks, such as ensuring that the size is correct for you and double-checking the size. If it isn’t, the life jacket isn’t doing its job, and it could even make things worse.

So you’ve got the right kayak for your needs and environment, a comfortable safety vest, a helmet, and the right paddle size, but what else do you need?

Basic paddling equipment, such as navigation lights, mufflers, a first-aid kit, and visual distress signals, should also be brought.

The preparation stage is only half of the battle.

Invest in a dry suit and insulating underwear if you’re kayaking in cold water; staying dry could save your life.

Keep in mind that the essential gear varies a lot depending on the type of kayak, the water, and the weather.

Kayaking on whitewater necessitates different equipment than kayak touring. Don’t endanger your kayak: safety tips for paddlers I understand that this article is lengthy and frightening. My goal, however, is not to scare you.

Kayaking entails numerous risks and dangers, but I believe that you are only as safe as you are. It’s not about getting out of a dangerous situation; it’s about being ready.

Kayaking safety rules are straightforward.

Even if you think you’re a strong swimmer, make sure you’re wearing the proper safety equipment.

Improve your paddling skills by learning basic safety techniques like how to get out of a capsized or overturned kayak.

Wear a kayak helmet to protect your “thinking apparatus” and avoid unnecessary head-on collisions with rocks and logs.

Regardless of the weather, wear clothing that is suitable for immersion.

It’s important not to mix up drinking and paddling. Paddling while under the influence of alcohol is not recommended.

Make a rafting plan (itinerary) and inform someone of your return plans.

If you don’t have the skills and experience to kayak safely in bad weather or in difficult water conditions, don’t do it.

Paddling in a group of three or more people is usually preferable to paddling alone.

Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Inappropriate use of PFDs

When kayaking, one of the most common mistakes I see is not wearing a life jacket. This also applies to those who should be wearing a life jacket but aren’t, or those who are wearing one but aren’t putting it on properly.

Wear your life jacket at all times, if there is one safety tip we can give you. Accidents, injuries, and even deaths can be avoided in many cases.

Sun Exposure

“Sunburn” is another ostensibly minor risk. A relaxing boat ride on a lake may not appear dangerous at first, but when the sun shines, it can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.

All is well if you sit in the sun for an hour without using sunscreen. Sunburn, on the other hand, can quickly become a serious problem if you spend too much time in the water. Spending too much time in the sun without proper protection can result in sunburn, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration.

Keep in mind that water reflects light. As a result, if you spend a lot of time in the water, a lot of light will reflect off your skin.

How to Safeguard Yourself Always, always, always apply sunscreen when you’re in the water. If you can, it’s also a good idea to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat. When it’s cold or cloudy, keep in mind that sunburn can be a problem. The risk of sunburn is often highest on such days.


Excessive sun exposure can cause dehydration, which can happen anytime you’re in the water. Kayaking requires a lot of energy, so staying hydrated is crucial.

When you’re out on the water, always have a water bottle with you. The more water you have to carry, the longer you paddle. Dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and extreme thirst are all signs of dehydration, which can impair your paddling ability.

How to Safeguard Yourself When traveling, always bring plenty of water with you. The more water you need to carry, the hotter it is outside. Drink water while paddling even if you aren’t thirsty to avoid dehydration. Remember that thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration, so drink before you feel thirsty!

Thunderstorms, lightning, bad weather

Kayaking in a storm may seem obvious, but it’s not a good idea. There will be times, however, when a storm will carry you out to sea. A little rain won’t stop you from kayaking, but if you hear thunder or see lightning, get off the water right away. Water and lightning do not mix well, and you may be electrocuted if struck by lightning.

How to Protect Yourself

If lightning strikes, get ashore as soon as possible and wait on the beach. If at all possible, avoid paddling in bad weather. Strong winds and rain can obstruct movement and visibility, making even relatively straightforward paddling dangerous.

So, is kayaking really dangerous?

Kayaking, like any other sport, comes with its own set of dangers. A day on the water can quickly become dangerous due to dangerous water equipment, dehydration, and sunburn.

Kayaking, on the other hand, does not have to be dangerous. It’s all about taking the proper precautions and being aware of where, when, and how you paddle.

If the river has recently experienced high water and you’ve never paddled before, rapids may not be the best place to begin. Kayaking, on the other hand, can be a fun and safe sport for your family if you exercise caution. Simply consider your options, conduct research, and make an informed decision.

Basic kayaking safety tips

Basic kayak safety rules that should be followed by all paddlers.

There is always the risk of injury or death when participating in recreational activities. Always use common sense and adhere to all safety rules.

Keep an eye on the weather and the water temperature. Be ready for sudden changes in weather and the possibility of capsizing. A neoprene or dry suit will keep you warm and comfortable in cold water. In the summer, a long-sleeved shirt will keep you cool and protect you from the sun.

Purchase clothing that is suitable for your climate. In a sit-down kayak, one of the advantages of kayaking is that you can protect yourself while being unprotected. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion.

Keep an eye out for offshore winds, which can make it difficult to get back to the beach.

Always adhere to the paddling regulations in your area.

In your boat, do not mix alcohol or medications (prescription or over-the-counter).

Always check your equipment for wear before getting in the boat and do not exceed the capacity of your boat.

Learn proper boating techniques, water safety, and basic first aid from a qualified instructor.

You’ll learn to rescue yourself in calm, warm, shallow water first, and then in more challenging situations.

The most important thing is that you will have a personal floatation device with you. All kayakers must wear a life jacket, according to the Coast Guard. In cold water, wearing a life jacket keeps your head above water and insulates your body, keeping you warm. There are some excellent paddler-specific life jackets available. Make sure you get the right one for you and that you wear it while paddling.

Tell someone about your paddling plans, including where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, how long you’ll be paddling, and how many people you’ll be paddling with. Also, stick to your strategy.

It’s risky to paddle in the surf or in rivers. Wear a helmet at all times.

Keep yourself hydrated. Always bring enough food and water with you.

Check with locals about currents, shoreline conditions, and weather before paddling in a new location. Plan an escape route that will launch at a different location depending on the weather. Kayaking can be made safer and more enjoyable if these rules are followed.

Always wear a life jacket).

According to the American Canoe Association, not wearing a life jacket is responsible for 48 percent of kayaking deaths. That figure is staggering at 85 percent in canoeing. This means that wearing a life jacket while kayaking reduces your chances of dying by half.

This is without a doubt the most important kayaking safety tip. Consider purchasing a kayak life jacket if you find it difficult to paddle while wearing a life jacket (PFD).

Clothing for the weather

Remember that being dressed is preferable to being cold. Before leaving, check the weather forecast. Checking the water temperature is also a good idea. It’s preferable to be safe rather than sorry. Be ready for sudden weather changes.

Wear a wetsuit or dry suit if you’re kayaking in cold weather to avoid falling into the water. Wear a long-sleeved hat to protect your skin from the sun’s rays on sunny days. It’s critical to invest in quality kayaking equipment. It’s a matter of life and death for you.

Bring a raincoat and warm wool or synthetic underwear if rain is forecast. Returning to shore can be difficult due to offshore winds.

Consider wearing a helmet

It is recommended that you wear a helmet when kayaking on fast-moving rivers or rapids. Paddling in some areas may necessitate the use of a helmet.

Check your equipment beforehand .

You should inspect your kayak and equipment for wear before going unless they are brand new. Your kayak trip will be much safer if you double-check that everything is in working order.

Be aware of local paddling rules

Make sure you’re familiar with the paddling rules in your area. If you’re the only one paddling, consider yourself fortunate for two reasons. You won’t have to worry about other vehicles, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your surroundings in peace. If you are not alone, however, there are a few things to consider.

“Seeing and being seen is crucial. Wear reflective clothing, add reflective strips to your paddle, and keep your whistle in a convenient location. This is especially important if you’re paddling in a crowded area with motorboats passing by. Make sure the buoy’s color has meaning. Keep in mind that the rules of the road are also the rules of the water.