Kayak Safety Tips: Wind and Tide
The thrill of kayaking is unlike any other. This water-sport pits you against powerful seas, lakes, and rapids, battling your way through, maneuvering your vessel against mother nature. The thought of it must already get your heart pumping. The same heart needs to keep pumping, which only happens when you as the kayaking participant takes into serious consideration all the risks involved in the sport, and take every recommended measure to ensure to outmaneuver the risks as well. Just like any other sport, the possibility of something going really wrong is always there especially in one that involves water. Not to imply that kayaking is an extreme sport, because to those of a slightly calmer disposition in regards to the water, kayaking is also done on calm lakes and peaceful oceans where it is just you, the water, and beautiful horizons.
Kayaking is safe and very easy to participate in even for first-timers. But Mother Nature is as kind and beautiful as she can be unforgiving, especially when not respected. The ocean can prove to be a constantly changing environment and the change could possibly be for the worst. Understanding such hazards beforehand prepares you for any eventuality and helps develop a safety conscious attitude that goes a long way in ensuring that you make the best decisions while on the water, decisions that ensure your safety above everything else.
Kayaking safety tips and rules are not meant to be broken, only strictly followed. Do this, and it will be the safest you’ll ever be while on the water. There is absolutely no need to be a rebel kayaker.
Check the Weather and Forecasts
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While on the water, the weather is one of the most significant variables that should be factored in. Just ask any sailor or captain. Knowing the predicted weather patterns of the day you plan to go for your kayaking adventure is key. This is even compounded if the trip spans multiple days with kayaking activities set for each of those days. The weather check should be done frequently, and even on the morning of the trip as weather can be unpredictable and can change overnight. While a change in weather when at home or safely on land might just be seen as an inconvenience, getting caught by a weather change while on the water is downright dangerous and a possible worst-case scenario. As far as ocean kayaking is concerned, the wind and tides predictions should be double checked to ensure that they are favorable for the sport.
Tides and Current
The ocean is strong, one person on a kayak is not. Tides describe the horizontal and vertical movement of water and in understanding this, potential dangers become apparent. When kayaking, water currents may take you further out than you anticipated, or completely change the direction in which you were headed, and you may not even realize it. There are no lanes or guardrails on the water after all. Tide and winds moving in the same direction might be a good thing, while the same in opposite directions raises the water. It is therefore important to have an idea of how strong and in what direction the tides and currents are headed. Imagine paddling out into the ocean, and when it is time to get back to shore, you realize that the tide is pushing you further out. This, especially when exhaustion has started to set in, is potentially dangerous.
What to Do
Information is power, and if you intend to go kayaking on coastal waters, it is important that you first check a local map of tides and currents. If your kayaking destination of choice is a local river, checking the local flow conditions for that particular river is important. You get to find out if the rate of flow is normal or above the average, which informs your decision of whether to go on that day or not. If you are unsure about where to find this information locally, best look for local information online or go ask a local nautical or fishing shop about where you can gather this from.
The wind is another important consideration to be made, both for in-land or ocean kayaking. Measured in knots, wind speeds of 1 to 2 knots are recommended for first-timers. Anything above that and they may have a bit of a tough time staying in control, say from 4 to 6 knots. Slightly more experienced kayakers can handle high speeds but we strongly recommend against it. Strong winds are undesirable because they roughen up the water causing waves which may veer the kayak off-course ad even tip it over, all while causing reduced visibility.
What to Do
It is advisable not to venture far into open water to curb the threat of strong winds, ensuring that even in their occurrence you can always paddle back to shore. Kayaks are designed to bow forward, that is, head to wind. Rudders are really helpful in assisting to correct course. Good bracing techniques help keep balance as a counter to the wind. As always, having information about wind patterns is always a masterstroke as pertains to Kayaking safety. Keeping on the ‘lea’ sides will be easier if you know where it is.
Always, and we repeat, always wear a PFD (also known as a lifejacket). This will help keep you floating on the water if you happen to fall in. We also strongly recommend buying a VHF radio in order to maintain contact with your local coastguard. Finally, always tell a friend or family member where you will be going and for how long you will be gone. This way they can raise the alarm in case something happens.
In addition to all this, environmental awareness is key. Know where you are, always know what is happening around you. This, coupled with having the proper gear and equipment and safety personnel on standby will ease your thrill-seeking mind and allow you to really enjoy the moment!