So you want to go kayaking. It’s a great activity that can be very relaxing or a real adrenalin rush, depending on how you go about it. No matter what type of kayaking style you choose, it’s a lot of fun…until something goes wrong.
Consider this: You paddled across the lake when it was nice and calm, but now you have whitecaps and two foot waves to go through to get back home. You really shouldn’t take the chance, but you think about how you have to be back at work tomorrow, so you go anyway. A power boat nearly runs into you, causing you to capsize your kayak. You lose your paddle during the capsize and it drifts away in the wind and waves.
You try getting back into your kayak but you just can’t seem to do it. You look for your cell phone and realize you lost it when you tipped over. Now you’re floating aimlessly in the middle of the lake during a storm, unable to get into your boat with no way to contact anyone. “I should have taken up something safe like skydiving,” you think to yourself.
This is a pretty extreme scenario, but not entirely unlikely. It could all be avoided by learning some of the basics of kayaking safety.
First of all, do you have a safe boat? A kayak should have flotation in both ends allowing it to float level when the cockpit is flooded with water. This can be accomplished with air tight compartments in both ends sealed off with bulkheads, or by putting inflatable air bags in the ends of the boat.
Do you have the safety equipment required by Transport Canada with you? For a kayak, these are a PFD (personal flotation device), paddle, pump, whistle and 15 metres of floating line.
Do you know how to do an assisted rescue with a buddy, or a self rescue on your own? Have you practiced it until you don’t have to think about it, but you can just do it? Have you practiced in conditions that are likely to cause you to capsize?
Do you have some sort of communication device with you, and do you have a way to keep it dry and accessible?
The most important piece of safety equipment you can have is your own head. Be aware of your own limitations and what your skill level allows you to do safely. It is way easier to stay out of trouble in the first place than it is to get out of trouble.
It can be intimidating thinking about how much there is you need to know to really be safe in your kayak, but its well worth the time and effort. You can go to some fantastic places and see some amazing things from the seat of your kayak, and it’s much more enjoyable if you’re not worrying about what might happen because you’re not prepared.
Start by coming to the Okanagan Paddlefest this Saturday, August 10. Drop by the kayaking area and ask questions about boats, equipment and skills and where to get the information you need to know. Don’t be shy. We’re there to help you out.
Happy paddling, and stay safe!
Peter Price is a Paddle Canada certified kayak instructor and the owner of Gone Kayaking in Peachland.
Special to the Peachland View