Kayaking is no doubt, a very enjoyable paddlesport and, hobby.
Kayaking is dangerous. It can be deadly if you are not wearing a lifejacket. The sun is intense, the weather can be bad, there are poisonous creatures, there are hidden rocks, sweepers and strainers.
All adventure sports come along with an element of risk.
Even the ones that are considered the safest. While the common perception is that the main risk associated with adventure sports is accidents, that’s not the case.
Most of the injuries that happen are due to carelessness or lack of precaution and safety gear.
While it’s true that adventure sports are a way for people to satiate their adrenaline rush, and the thrill is directly proportional to the magnitude of risk for many, the latter is a rookie thought.
You’ll find most pros who do it for a living never compromise on the safety precautions. Why? Because they’re well aware of the risks associated with it. And love the sport so much that they don’t want to take risks that’ll leave them incapacitated. They have too much fun to even gamble on the chance of not being able to do it again.
Kayaking is considered a relatively safe activity to engage in as long as it’s on still waters. Whitewater Kayaking requires a lot of training, and anyone who wants to do it without training for it first is just putting their lives in peril for cheap thrills. Risks include:
Dangers in Kayaking
Some of the factors that make kayaking a dangerous paddlesport are:
Sun exposure may seem like a pretty small risk when it comes to kayaking but it should not be taken lightly. If you are exposed to the sun without sunscreen for an hour or two you will be fine. But if your exposure to the sun exceeds this time then the sun might become an actual threat.
Water reflects sunlight. You will not only be exposed to the sun directly but the water will be reflecting a lot of sunlight right into your skin. Being exposed to the sun for long periods may lead to sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration. Always wear sunscreen on the water.it is better to wear a hat as well for maximum protection from the sun.
While capsizing is a common occurrence while Kayaking in rapid waters, most of the whitewater Kayakers are used to dealing with it. Capsizing in still waters is rare, but rookies tend to make mistakes like bending over to pick up something or leaning back too much to take a picture. As long as you don’t capsize while paddling rapidly across fast waters, there is no real risk of injury.
Always wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim because its the law and you will tire out if far from shore and not make it. You don’t know when help will arrive, so you need to conserve energy by just floating on the water. You can’t exhaust yourself trying to stay afloat and lose consciousness.
Lightning and Bad Weather
It is a very bad idea to kayak in a storm. But there are times when you are out on the water and a storm starts. Not all kayaks are weather-resistant and high winds of storms can limit the mobility of your kayak and can also cause it to turn over.
Rain can affect visibility. It is best to get off the water as soon as you hear thunder or see a flash of lightning. Lightning and water do not get along and if you stay on the water in the middle of a storm, you are at risk of getting electrocuted
Such as alligators, snakes, birds, fish, and sharks may attack, be on the look out.
Read up on the lake and river you’re planning to go for Kayaking. If it has crocodiles or other animals, avoid Kayaking there. The nature of animals is unpredictable. Even if you mean no harm, they’ll attack you just for encroaching their territory or if they look at as a risk to their offspring. Quite a few seasoned Kayakers have lost their lives to a hungry aggressive croc or alligator.
Cold shock is a major risk when kayaking in cold waters. Even if the air does not seem that cold, the temperature can be a whole different story. If your body hits cold water in this case, it can get a cold shock. Cold shock occurs when the extreme temperature change affects your body causing breathing problems, blood pressure changes, and mental problems.
So it is best to always have company when kayaking in cold water as someone with you can help if you capsize. Being properly dressed and having wetsuits and drysuits is also important as they keep your body warm if you end up capsizing.
Strainers and Sweepers
Strainers and sweepers are one of the most dangerous obstacles that you may face while kayaking. Strainers are objects in rivers through which water can pass but solid objects like people and kayaks can not. They can be man-made like grates or natural like logs.
Strainers can trap you underwater and can end up being deadly. Trees that have fallen from the riverbanks but are not detached completely are called sweepers. Their branches act like strainers. If you see a sweeper or a strainer while kayaking do not try to paddle through it or over it as it can prove to be life threatening. Avoid it at all costs.
Strainers are the exact opposite of sweepers. They’re obstacles below the water surface not visible to the naked eye. They can cause minor injuries and possibly capsize the Kayak in still waters but can be lethal in rapids.
Sweepers can’t possibly cause injury in still water as the Kayaker has a lot of control there, and the speed is less. But while Kayaking in rapids, the Kayaker might notice the sweeper too late to make any amends. The best they can do is lean down or maneuver their body around it to avoid a collision.
Getting lost in the sea
The sea has no landmarks, and the depths are beyond the human imagination. Therefore, getting lost is a possibility and a common rookie mistake. There is always a chance of getting capsized away from the shore. It’s one of the grimmest scenarios during sea kayaking as chances of getting help are slim as you can’t be spotted from the beach by the lifeguards.
Undercut rocks are mostly found in fast-moving whitewater. They are irregular rock formations underwater. They act as traps for fallen trees and other debris. It is hard to spot them but strong rapids make it difficult to avoid undercut rocks even if you do end up seeing them.
Make sure rescue is available when you are going through whitewater. It is best to have someone with you while you are kayaking on whitewater. Also, be sure that you learn as much as you can and get to know your whitewater before you start paddling there.
Like every other sport, plenty of risks come with kayaking. If you are not careful, you may be risking your safety as a result of which your kayaking adventure can turn into a life threatening situation giving you a precarious experience instead of an enjoyable one.
- Bring a whistle, cell phone, and marine radio.
- Always carry a compass while Kayaking in the sea. If your Kayak gets capsized away from the shore, you can use the compass to figure out which side the beach is and start swimming towards it.
- Study about the Flora & Fauna of the lake, river, or sea you’re planning to Kayak in. Speak to the locals and hire professional guides to come along with you. Do not risk going to waters you haven’t studied in detail.
- No beer until of the water
- Avoid Rapids above class II. They have ratings for a reason. Even if you’ve become a pro Kayaker, they’re not just worth the risk. The amount of uncertainties associated is way too high, and the Kayaker has very little control due to the sheer speed.
- Always wear a life jacket. Be it still water, rapids, or the sea, don’t step inside the Kayak without a life jacket. It’s called the life jacket for a reason. It’ll possibly save your life if you get separated from your Kayak.
- While Kayaking in the sea, always stay in sight of the shore. And if you want to go deep, go along with a seasoned Kayaker who knows those waters well.
- Pick the right Kayak for the water you’re going in. If you’re even planning to go for Whitewater Kayaking in Class I rapids, don’t take your recreational Kayak. Rent one if you have to, but make sure that the Kayak you’re riding matches the conditions you’re Kayaking in.
However, taking the proper precautions and doing your research before kayaking can make it a fun and safe sport.