There are very few activities in Nature that can offer complete peace of mind, and kayaking is one of them. It is a refreshing and relaxing sport millions of Americans enjoy every year.
Kayaking is an exclusive blend of exercise and relaxation while getting out into the still lakes, sleepy rivers, ocean waves, or just the wide-open waters. But if you are new to it and are not finding fellow kayakers to go with, you might think to yourself ‘is it safe to kayak alone?’.
While it might be a serene experience to set out alone in a sleepy ocean or still lake, it even accompanies several risks. Available data by the Statista Research Department shows that 18.2 million individuals took part in recreational kayaking in 2020 and around 250 kayaking accidents, with less than half of those causing death, makes it evident that you need not worry.
Yes, accidents can take place while kayaking. And the chances of those accidents causing severe injuries and even death can increase if you are kayaking alone. Hence, you must follow some vital safety tips if you have plans of verging on a solo kayaking adventure.
Proper preparation is needed for kayaking alone. But there’s nothing for you to overthink. With proper preparation and safety considerations, kayaking alone will be an enjoyable and safe activity for you.
So, the first step in solo kayaking is wrapping up your mind around the fact that you can do it. Of course, the sport needs proper skills, but you also require good confidence to emerge victoriously.
There are no suggestions on the number of hours you must spend refining your kayaking skills before verging out alone. Everything depends on the comfort level with the chosen location and conditions in which you are kayaking.
As per experts, kayak rescue skills and preparation can instill more confidence when kayaking alone. So, the remaining part of this guide is about the planning, preparation, and safety tips for solo kayakers.
The most experienced kayakers should also let someone know that they are going alone for a kayaking adventure. Inform a family member or friend about the time of your departure, the lessons you are taking, your location, and when you will be returning back. This will help if something goes wrong during the expedition. Also, make it a point to inform them once you are back.
Solo kayaking sessions do not need to be lengthy. Just a couple of hours of kayaking are sufficient to get the feel of a solo adventure. Choose a familiar route and stick to it. Do not paddle into the unknown waters. Plan longer trips only when you have got into the habit of solo kayaking on shorter distances.
Planning your route is the best thing you can do. Since you are kayaking alone, do not go on a grand adventure into the uncharted waters. Instead, choose a location you know and one that has a good amount of land surrounding it. So, you can swim ashore if the need arises.
You must also choose an area where getting into the water and coming back in will not be a problem for you. The areas with proper shores and docks are best because it gets easier for kayakers to navigate back.
You must be prepared for different scenarios while kayaking alone. First, get all the safety gear you might require for the expedition. The number one rule here is wearing a lifejacket approved by the Coast Guard.
Go for lifejackets designed explicitly for kayaking and the ones that can help you paddle comfortably while staying safe alone. A life jacket or a PDF is something you must not ignore, even though it feels a bit bulky and restricted.
Also, carry a waterproof bag or case or keep your mobile phone to avoid getting wet. This is crucial because you must carry your phone for emergencies. Getting a water-resistant flashlight along with whistles and flares to use as a signalling device can help in the worst-case scenarios.
Ensure carrying a lot of water regardless of the weather. You will need it because paddling is an exercise with huge exertion, and thus you need to stay hydrated for the best results.
Most importantly, ensure you’re using quality gear. You don’t want to be kayaking alone when your paddle breaks because you bought a cheap flimsy product. Invest into a strong, durable paddle designed for the waters you’re kayaking on.
Pack energy bars or something you can snack on to boost your energy while you rest. Anything that is easy to toss into your luggage can perfectly help when you are waiting for help or when you are stranded.
Sunglasses and sunscreen protect the skin and eyes from sun exposure. Therefore, you must not forget about them. Carry everything in a water-resistant bag and attach the bag to your kayak, so it does not end up in the water.
Your safety gear should be at a reachable distance so you can have it handy whenever required. Remember, your supplies will not be of any use for you if you cannot get them at the right time.
Kayaking alone can be fun, but avoid this fun if you do not have proper re-entry skills. Re-entry skills will help you in managing emergencies confidently. These are situations when you fall in water accidentally, and you start panicking.
Re-entry skills generally entail taking lessons on getting out of the kayak during difficult situations and then trying again.
One common mistake that solo kayakers make is not bringing enough gear to support their needs for an extended period. Let’s say you are not kayaking only for an hour or so. You want to kayak for a day or two. And then if you find that it’s pretty cold in the morning, you must wear thick pants and a hoodie. Check out this article on Kayaking In The Cold Weather, It will explain exactly what you should wear in such conditions.
But what if you are not prepared for such situations? Therefore, it works to carry everything that you think you will need in case the weather changes all of a sudden.
Take a situation when the wind gets higher than your expectation, or you get wetter than what you had planned. Carrying the correct protective clothing for worst-case scenarios will help you.
This entails knowing how far you can kayak. Since you are a solo kayaker, you are vulnerable to predators. Therefore, it is best to avoid the areas where you will share the waters with various other powered vessels.
A good rule of thumb is paddling just 50 yards from the shore. Also, ensure staying away from wild animals.
Preparing for unexpected situations is very important when kayaking alone. There are chances of falling into the water even if you are kayaking on a calm water lake like Lake Powell. Try making your kayak as buoyant as possible if you are verging out for ocean kayaking. Light-colored clothes will work for such expeditions.
Keep an eye on weather conditions to ensure you are not posing any danger to the other boaters. Check weather forecasts and plan accordingly. Remember that even if the weather is good at a specific time, it can change instantly. So, you must remain prepared for the worst. Have an emergency plan ready to handle the worst situations that you might come across.
There are some situations when you must avoid kayaking alone, and they are as follows:
- If you are unaware of the distance between where you can start kayaking and where you will be ending, do not verge out alone. This distance can get lengthy for you if you are unfamiliar with the kayaking spot.
- Next, solo kayaking can be a good way of spending a day, but only if the waters are safe. As per Coast Guard, you must not kayak alone if the waves exceed 3 feet in height; wind speed goes above 20 mph and if visibility is below 50 feet.
Kayak safety remains the main point of discussion in kayak communities worldwide. One fact showcasing the popularity and growth of kayaking as an enjoyable sport is canoe fatalities accounting for the majority of the deaths in America until 2010. But kayaking is not considered the deadliest sport.
While many accidents in this field are preventable, only the right safety practices can minimize the risk of individual trips. Unfortunately, solo kayaking comes with its share of risks. Many lakes and rivers can be dangerous, and solo kayakers might not know the potential dangers.
Padding boats can be another danger for solo kayakers. Large ships can quickly jolt the paddles of the kayaks and unsettle them. Therefore, when kayaking alone, it is imperative to wear bright clothes along with bright-colored safety vests.
Regardless of whether you are heading out for a quick paddling sensation on a local lake or planning an expedition of several days on the best rivers, preparation is the key to kayaking alone.
Remember, you can change plans and preparations when kayaking in a group or with a partner. But be as solidly prepared as possible in solo kayaking. Hopefully, the preparation and safety tips above will give you the confidence you need to make the most out of your solo kayaking adventure.