Kayaking is a peaceful, meditative, exciting and often exhilarating activity depending on how and where you do it. And it gives you the chance to enjoy the waterways, improve your flexibility, strength and aerobic fitness, boost your cardiovascular fitness and enhance your muscle strength, especially in the back, shoulders, arms and chest. Paddling also improves your leg and torso strength with minimal risk of wear-and-tear on your tissues and joints since it is a low-impact activity. Because kayaking is quite easy to learn and does not require high fitness level for beginners, almost everyone can go on a paddling venture, make friends and enjoy a wonderful time on the water.

Risks associated with kayaking

However, like all recreational activities, kayaking comes with the possibility of injury and even death. For instance, the muscular force and repetitive motion applied during paddling may cause injuries to the wrist joints or sprain to the shoulder. Likewise, as you fall into the water, you risk being hit by your boat or another object in the water, such as a submerged log. Kayaking also comes with the risk of sunburn, hypothermia, drowning, heat stress or dehydration. So with such risks, it is important to follow all safety rules and use your common sense at all times when paddling.

Here are the basic safety tips you should know before setting out on a kayaking venture.

1. Know the weather conditions and the temperature of the water in the area where you are going to paddle. That will enable you to prepare well for the weather, plan for any weather changes and be ready for the possibility of your boat capsizing. If the weather is warm, you’ll need to wear a long-sleeved shirt to protect you from the sun. But if the water is cold, you should bring a dry suit or wetsuit to keep your body warm and comfortable.

Equipment for Kayaking2. Dress properly for the day. It is important to invest in clothing appropriate for your paddling climate and the type of boat you’re going to use. Remember, a sit-on-top kayak will leave you exposed to the elements as opposed to a sit-inside kayak capable of shielding you. So select appropriate clothing.

3. Make sure you are well-informed about the currents, weather patterns and shoreline conditions of the area. Talk to locals so you can plan for an alternative or “escape” route off the water should the conditions dictate it.

4. Beware of any off-shore winds in the area because they can make your return to the shore difficult. You should check all conditions such as tides and weather before you set out. And whether you are kayaking for a few hours or are on a multi-day excursion, being aware of these conditions will help you to have a safer and more efficient trip. One of the best ways to monitor sea conditions is using the National Marine Forecast site , ww.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm.

5. Know the boating rules in the location where you are paddling, and make sure to follow them strictly. Abiding by the rules will make your paddling venture fun and safe.

6. Wear your PFD (personal floatation device). According to Coast Guard regulations, all kayakers must have a lifejacket to help keep the head above water and insulate the body. But while you must wear a lifejacket, you ought to make sure that you buy one that fits well and is comfortable.

7. Don’t take drugs or alcohol when you are going out on a kayaking trip. Whether prescription or non-prescription drugs, you want to avoid them so that you are as clear-headed as possible when you paddle.

8. Bring enough food and water. You’ll need to be properly hydrated and energetic throughout your kayaking venture.

9. Never exceed your kayak’s weight limit. Make sure to go with a kayak that can carry all your gear and equipment without exceeding its weight capacity. Likewise, check your kayaking equipment for wear and tear to avoid problems once you are on the water.

10. If you are paddling in a river or a surf zone, wear a helmet to prevent possible head injuries should your boat capsize.

11. Learn water safety, basic first aid and proper paddling techniques before you set out. It is advisable to work with a qualified instructor who will help you properly brush up on your skills. As a rule, learn self-rescue techniques first in calm, shallow, warm water before moving to more extreme conditions.

So what equipment is recommended for a safe and delightful kayaking venture?

The equipment you need depends on the type of trip you’re planning. There are some accessories that are a must for all trips, such as a PFD and a paddle. But other add-ons such as backrest, scupper stoppers, hard rack system, dry bags and fishing, diving and navigating gear are not mandatory, although they can make your trip safer and more enjoyable.

Kayaking Gear1. REC/TOURING EQUIPMENT

a. PFD/life jacket
b. Tidal charts and maps
c. Compass
d. Dry bags
e. Enough food and water
f. Paddle leash or spare paddle
g. Paddle float
h. Boat sponge
i. Bilge pump
j. Marine radio
k. Safety whistle
l. Signaling device/flares
m. Tow line
n. Sunscreen
o. First aid kit
p. Spray skirt (where applicable)

2. EQUIPMENT FOR COLD-WEATHER KAYAKING

a. Dry pants
b. Dry top
c. Dry suit or wet suit
d. Pogies or gloves

3. EQUIPMENT FOR FISHING

a. Bow line
b. Rod/paddle clips
c. Rod holders
d. Humminbird fish finder
e. Humminbird transducer
f. Anchor trolley system

4. CLOTHING

a. Paddle jacket
b. Sunglasses
c. Sunhat/cap
d. Base layer top

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