Kayaking Safety Tips

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How to Exit a Flipped Kayak - The Wet-Exit

Flipping over in a kayak can be a dangerous thing if you are not sure what to do when it happens, particularly if you are whitewater kayaking. That is why every kayaker should practice flipping their kayak over and performing what is known as a wet exit.

Steps to Wet-Exit a Kayak

1) Ensure the Kayak is Upside-Down. This sounds like common sense, but there are times when a kayak can merely be on its side while the paddler is under water, making exiting it very difficult. Shaking your hips in the kayak will usually do the trick.

2) Tuck Forward in the Kayak. The tendancy might be to lean back to get out of the kayak, this will only serve to trap your legs in the kayak. You must therefore tuck forward so that your face and head come toward the deck of the kayak. This will also serve to protect your face and head from hitting anything underwater.

3) Pull the Grab Loop on Your Spray Skirt. This step only applies if you are wearing a spray skirt, of course. The loop will be dangling at the front of the kayak cockpit as long as you secured it properly. Pull on it and it should release your body from the kayak.

4) Push the Kayak up and Away from Your Body. Push the kayak off like a pair of pants, by placing your hands on the kayak at your waist.

5) Swim to the Surface and Get Your Gear. Find your paddle and hold it with one hand. Grab one of the grab loops with the other hand and try to stay with your kayak if you are in safe conditions.

6) Get to Shore. It is tricky to get back in your kayak once it has been flipped over and you are still in the water. Swim to shore while holding onto your kayak. This is best done by holding the kayak and kicking with the legs. If people are around, signal to them for help.


What to Wear While Kayaking for Maximum Safety

When considering whta to wear while kayaking, you'll need to think about each part of your body. Every part will need to be protected in some way so the first thing you should do is a head to toe check.

First, consider your head. If you are whitewater kayaking you'll need a helmet. If not, you are recreational or sea kayaking you may want a hat to shield your face and eyes from the sun. As you work your way down your body you'll come to your eyes and face. Sunglasses are a good idea but can be annoying when they get water on them. Be sure to wear sunblock on all exposed skin. In cold and dry days or on bright sunny days, chapstick will protect your lips.

As we move down to the torso we come to the most important and necessary item you'll be wearing while paddling a kayak. You must wear a pfd, or life jacket, to keep you afloat should you become separated from your kayak. On your pfd, you can keep all kinds of other safety items such as a whistle and a kayaking knife. The whistle will allow you alert others when you need help and the knife is there for any of a variety of reasons not the least of which is getting untangled from rope.

As for your arms and legs, this is a judgment call on your part. If it is cold you may want to wear a wetsuit, drysuit, or paddling jacket. If you are only recreational kayaking a windbreaker may be enough. You need to know your own limits and how your body reacts to the temperature.

As you move down to your feet, you'll need some sort of closed-toe foot protection when you are kayaking. This can be sandals, old sneakers, paddling booties, or water shoes. Whatever the case they need to fit securely on your foot and must protect your toes.

So think head-to-toe the next time you go to paddle and you'll be sure not to forget to wear any safety item the next time you go kayaking.


The Boating "Law of Gross Tonnage"

There is an unwritten rule in the world of boating that very aptly applies to kayaking. It is known as the "Law of Gross Tonnage." More simply put, this can also be called the "law of common sense."

The Law of Gross Tonnage is quite simply the idea that on the water the larger boat wins. Larger boats are often less manueverable and have reduced visibility than smaller boats. And, of course, much more damage and danger will come to the smaller boat should a collision arise.

So, kayakers, be sure to steer clear of larger boats. It is up to you to stay safe and out of the way of larger boats, even if you have the right of way.


The Need to Wear PFDs (lifejackets) While Kayaking

In the kayaking world, lifejackets or life preservers are known as PFDs. PFD stands for personal flotation device. Similar to the requirement to wear seatbelts in automobiles, no small controversy surrounds pfd usage on our state and national waterways. Paddlers of all types have fought the necessity to wear PFDs on these bodies of water while local and even federal authorities maintain the legality of such a demand.
Whatever side of the debate you shake out on, one thing can’t be denied; PFDs do indeed save lives. While I can understand the argument that they are not needed in certain situations, it is difficult to advocate that officially. If I had to boil it down, there are some situations where they absolutely must be worn without question.
Of course, every child must wear a pfd at all times while kayaking. PFDs must be worn whenever a paddler is whitewater kayaking, even on Class I and Class II rivers. PFDs must also be worn in any open water situation, especially wear motorized boat traffic is a given.
Here are a few concluding comments on this whole PFD discussion. Remember, that wearing a PFD says nothing about your ability to swim. All of the swimming ability in the world won’t help in the event that you are knocked unconscious by a paddle or a collision through a collision with another boat. Also, be aware that PFD usage is the law on many bodies of water including waterways, state and national parks, as well as ponds and lakes in certain locales.
Be safe. Wear your PFD!


The Hand of God Kayak Rescue

All kayakers need to be prepared to assist in the rescue of a flipped boater. In most cases the kayaker who flips over will either attempt to roll back up or will wet-exit the kayak. In those rare cases where neither is possible for whatever reason, it will become necessary for someone to help the upside-down kayaker to get back to the surface. This is when it is crucial to know the Hand of God Kayak Rescue.

While this rescue is simple, it should be practiced beforehand.

1) Paddle over to the flipped kayaker and bring your kayak alongside of theirs.

2) Lean across their upside-down kayak and grab the other side of it around the kayak cockpit.

3) Pull the kayak toward you in a rolling motion to help roll the kayak back over.

4) As the person surfaces, grab their pfd (lifejacket) to help get them all the way back up.

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