1. Choose a calm, slow-moving river or bank
Even though swimming isn’t a fundamental requirement for kayaking, tipping happens a lot. So you may struggle to rescue yourself if you are a beginner. When starting out, choose a slow-moving river or bank that isn’t too deep or too far away. Avoid ocean kayaking or whitewater paddling if you don’t know how to swim.
2. Overcome your fear of water
The most essential thing with paddling isn’t the ability to swim but familiarity with water. If you don’t know how to float or you panic every time your body touches water, you may act irrationally, struggle frantically in water and cause serious problems both to yourself and fellow kayakers. If you suspect you have a fear of water and may panic as soon as your boat capsizes, practice a lot in a calm lake or swimming pool while wearing a PFD (personal flotation device) until you feel comfortable in water. Make sure you are so used to falling in the water that you won’t panic if it happens as you kayak and you can easily rescue yourself.
3. Wear a life jacket (personal flotation device)
Personal flotation devices (PFDs) enable kayakers to float easily in water over an extended period of time. So even if you don’t know how to swim, wearing a PFD will ensure that you are unsinkable if you fall out of your kayak. It also will enable you to re-enter your kayak with minimal effort after your boat tips. However, it is important that you buy a well-functioning, proper fitting and comfortable life jacket.
4. Hang on your kayak
All kayaks come with bulkheads (compartments) designed to prevent the boats from sinking. That is why kayaks are able to float full of water and with paddlers sitting on them. So even if you don’t know how to swim, trust your boat to float on water if it capsizes suddenly. Therefore, when that happens, just hang on it because it won’t sink. The kayak is a giant floatation device that you can hold onto both in open waters and larger rivers until you are able to get help or move to the shore. But if you get separated from the boat, roll on your back and use your PFD to remain afloat as you wait for your guide or another paddler to help you.
5. Go kayaking with a competent, experienced guide or instructor
An experienced guide or instructor will direct you on how to rescue yourself in case your boat capsizes. The two common self-rescuing techniques are the sweep roll and the water exit technique. The sweep roll is a self-rescuing technique that enables you to flip your kayak back to the water surface after it capsizes without having to get out of it. The water exit technique allows you to safely leave the kayak after it flips over and grab it to keep you safe in open water. But the key is to work with an experienced guide who will help you and get you back in the boat even if it is full of water.
So if you don’t know how to swim, you can still go kayaking. You’ll just need to be courageous, determined and aware of proper techniques to help yourself if you fall in the water. You also need a good instructor or guide who will be there to give you a hand should any difficulties arise. Remember to work with a professionally run provider such as Captain Mike’s, where you will have access to stable, comfortable and safe kayaks, skilled and experienced guides, and all the information you need for a safe and memorable paddling excursion.
Have any questions? Visit the “Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals” site.