When kayaking in different environments staying safe and understanding your surroundings is very important. The kayak is one of the most ancient forms of travel and has been utilized by people all over the world and being one of the most sturdy forms of waterborne transport it can handle almost any conditions; from icy northern oceans to white water rapids in the tropics!
Every Environment is Different!
Each location that you visit comes with its own unique rewards and potential hazards. Being aware of your surroundings is essential when you venture out on the water so that you can keep yourself safe. That said you should never be intimidated, or afraid of exploring new environments with your kayak but do try to be prepared before you do so!
The main environments that you can enjoy kayaking in are ponds, rivers and the wide open ocean. Each of these surroundings comes with its own risks, hazards, unique wildlife and considerations that you must be aware of in order to stay safe.
Kayaking In A Lake or Pond
The risks of kayaking in lakes or ponds is fairly small, particularly since there is usually land nearby so if you have an accident you may be able to call to the shore for help.
The greatest danger that you will have to contend with is usually the weather. When you’re out on the water if you are not dressed appropriately you can suffer from hypothermia or catch a cold as result of exposure to icy weather.
Hypothermia can be a very serious problem if you capsize and are unable to warm up again. You should always have spare clothes in a water proof bag or compartments in your kayak as well as an emergency survival blanket and a First Aid kit on board.
Whenever you are out on the water the risk of drowning is ever present. Even if you are an excellent swimmer you could capsize and hit your head, leaving you unconscious and in very real present danger! You should never go out on the water without a lifejacket, even if you’re on a calm lake, just to be on the safe side.
Water pollution is a growing issue in the modern world so if you fall into water that is contaminated and accidentally swallow some of it you can find yourself in grave trouble. Always do some research before you kayak in a new location and try to ask local sources if they have heard of any dangerous spills of toxic substances in the waters you will be kayaking in. The best idea if you find out that the water has been contaminated, especially if it was a recent spill, is to steer clear of the water and find somewhere else to kayak.
As a general rule, no matter what climate is, you need to make sure you dress appropriately so that you can withstand whatever the weather might send your way! Always take waterproof clothing and wear enough layers to stay warm and in hot climates you need to protect yourself from heat stroke and the sun.
Muscle injuries are unfortunately quite common for kayakers. There are two situations in which you might pull a muscle. Firstly, when you are loading or unloading your kayak you can strain muscles and pull tendons. Secondly while you are paddling on the water you can pull shoulder, leg and arm muscles. The best way to avoid hurting your muscles and tendons is to do a proper stretch before you get started. This will allow your body to warm up and get ready for the physical challenges ahead.
Lastly, if you’re out with other people then there is always the risk of colliding with their kayaks. Maintain constant communication with your group and always stay aware of what’s going on around you and you’ll be fine!
Kayaking In The Ocean or Rivers
Kayaking in the ocean is one of the more potentially dangerous places to enjoy the sport. Of course you should always wear a life jacket and bring a complete survival kit with you, including a radio for emergency communications, a First Aid kit, a compass and anything else that you might need.
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The weather and the waves on the ocean can change rapidly so you need to learn to watch the signs, such as gathering storm clouds, to stay out of trouble. Large waves can cause capsizes and the risk of drowning as well as catching hypothermia out at sea are risks you need to prepare for.
When you are out on the ocean try to keep the shore in sight so you don’t get swept too far out to sea. Strong underwater currents can be very dangerous so try to learn to be aware of what’s going on under the water and not just what’s going on the surface.
When you’re kayaking in rivers you need to stay aware of the currents and be careful that you don’t crash into the banks! Another risk that you can face in rivers, as well as along the shorelines of the ocean, are hidden underwater rocks. You need to keep a close out for these so you don’t damage the bottom of your kayak or worse!
While you are out in the ocean always avoid shipping lanes and other vessels that are out on the water. Colliding with a large vessel can destroy your kayak and put in immediate danger.
What Wildlife Might You Encounter?
When you’re exploring the great outdoors it can be exciting to encounter, and even photograph, the wildlife that lives there. However, in some circumstances you should be aware of the potential risks of crossing their paths.
Before you head off to a new location you must be sure to check on the environmental conditions, listen to the local weather reports and find out about any dangerous wildlife that you could come across.
Of course, in most places where people go kayaking the wildlife that you are likely to see is very safe, and includes birds, fish and deer. However, in some locations, such as Northern Australia, you can encounter creatures that are extremely dangerous such as the huge saltwater crocodiles, sharks in the ocean and a wide range of deadly spiders and snakes that could be lurking under any stone!
Whenever you are kayaking in the ocean you need to be aware of whether or not there are sharks in the waters. The paddling of your kayak churns up the water and can make the shark think that you might be prey! If it attacks your kayak a fully grown shark can easily tear out the bottom and possibly attack you when you fall into the water!
The risk of shark attacks is fairly low however every year dozens of people do meet such a frightening fate and so it’s worth being aware of it. In all areas where sharks are commonly seen you can check authorized reports to find out if they have been active in recent weeks. If they have been regularly sighted then you may want to avoid those parts of the ocean.
The Potential Risks in Mind to Stay Safe in different environments.
Kayaking is a safe sport but you need to keep potential risk in always in your mind so that you can stay safe. There should be no problems when you go kayaking, whether that’s in the ocean, in rivers or on a lake; but that doesn’t mean you can afford to let your guard down!
Before you get started, always complete a mental risk assessment and talk with your companions about any potential problems you can see. Always communicate with your group and keep your wits about you to stay safe on the water.
As your experience grows you’ll be doing this naturally but certainly when you are a new kayaker it’s essential to pay extra attention to your environment to make sure you don’t get into any trouble while kayaking.
Each environment has its own challenges but with good preparation, a little common sense and a realistic risk assessment you can safely enjoy the sport without any worries.