Marine kayaking, or sea kayaking as it is often referred to, is an increasingly popular sport both here in New Zealand and overseas. The joy of marine kayaking is that you can do it all year around, and you get to discover and explore so many fantastic locations that other boats can’t access. To make sure your kayak adventure is safe you must do some basic training, have the right clothes, and purchase a few essential items such as navigation and safety equipment. This article discusses four basic steps you should follow if you want to set out on a kayak adventure.
Before anyone heads out on the water in a kayak that should first make sure they complete a professional training course. From learning to paddle correctly to knowing how to roll, there is a lot to learn to master the art of kayaking. A professionally run safety course will teach you how to maintain control of your kayak with or without the use of a rudder, prevent a capsize, use a marine water pump, do forward and reverse strokes, landing and exiting, re-entry and rolls etc. These skills are necessary to ensure your safety when on the water, and rescue skills are also important to help you assist other paddlers if they are in trouble.
It is important to always wear appropriate apparel to keep you warm and safe in the water. Look for paddle jackets that will keep you warm, but make sure they are breathable. Waterproof boots and shoes will keep your feet dry. Gloves should be used in colder months to keep your hands dry and warm, in summer they will protect your hands from sun damage. Spray skirts will help stop water entering the kayak, remember this has to fit you and the kayak. If you are paddling near surf or by rocks then make sure you wear a helmet.
Wetsuits and dry suits are your best friend when you are out on the water for extended periods, especially in colder months. You can also buy thermal tops to use as an under layer, and ultra violet (UV) protecting rash tops.
Of course the most important clothing item is your safety vest – better known as a personal flotation device (PFD). Make sure this fits correctly before you buy, because if it doesn’t fit well it won’t do the job. Also check reviews and talk to someone who can recommend a good model, as some PFD’s may not stay on or float well when you fall into the water.
With so many options for technology these days you have no excuse not to have a GPS, radio, or cell phone, to use as navigation devices and as rescue aids. A compass and a map are also a good idea if you are going for long kayaks in unfamiliar territory.
Lights should always be used at night, for your safety and so other boaties can see you on the water.
You will need a marine kayak water pump (also known as a bilge pump) for times when water gets into your kayak. These are hand operated pumps that you use to pump water out of your kayak and back into the sea – quickly and easily. All kayaks should have a marine bilge pump on board for safety.
If you are a lone paddler, then a paddle float is another piece of safety equipment that is important. A paddle float will help you keep afloat as you re-enter your kayak at sea – a self rescue skill that you should practice before you go solo kayaking.
A rope bag is an essential item for all kayakers, it can used to tow other kayakers and could help you save lives. If you do get into trouble, flares and a whistle are also valuable items to have on board, as is a medical kit.
Other accessories include float bags and a dry bag. Float bags fit into the stern of your kayak and keep it from sinking should you get separated from it. A dry bag will keep important items dry e.g. cell phone and camera.
4. Check and Prepare
Remember to check the conditions on the water on the day you are going out. Assess your capabilities before you attempt going out in rough conditions. Keep in mind, you must be able to swim if you get flipped from your kayak or if an accident did happen.
Before you head out on the water check your vessel and paddle. Routinely check your safety equipment, make sure your flotation devices work properly. Check you whistle is working and test your marine water pump.
Don’t forget to take plenty of food and water, if you get lost or stranded at sea water can be the difference between life and death. Also make sure you tell someone where you are going and your expected return time.
Following these four steps will hopefully keep you safe when you are out on the water in your kayak.