Safety is one of the most important things to keep in mind when planning an adventure down a fast flowing river or even a casual paddle on a lake. The following are some important safety tips.

Your skill level

It is important that you know your level of skill with a certain type of kayak or canoe. Get proper guidance by means of a proficiency course at your nearest club, or ask someone with experience to accompany you. Before getting in the boat, ask yourself a few “What if” questions. What if the boat capsizes? Is there enough buoyancy to keep it afloat? What if I get stuck under a tree in a fast flowing river? What if I get stuck in the suction just below a weir on a fast flowing river? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time could save your life.


Know the conditions – Plan your trip

Remember the five P’s:  Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance


A)  Weather

Take note of the weather forecast ahead of time. If you are planning a round trip on a lake, make sure you notice the wind forecast as well. To paddle back might not be as easy. And make sure you pay attention to fog.


B)  Clothing/Cold

Make sure to dress appropriately. Use paddling footwear to prevent your feet being cut open by sharp objects below the water's surface. Wet skin becomes soft and injury to your feet can happen quickly, especially when you need to carry the craft over rocks or unfamiliar terrain. Be prepared for the worst. Take warm clothes and remember that wind moving over water might generate a chill factor, which is colder than the normal day's temperature, especially if your body is wet. Make sure to wear bright clothes for easy visibility as well.


C)  Food

It is important to keep energy levels high. That means you need to be sure you take enough snacks and fluids. Make sure the snacks and fluids are secured tightly to your body or to the craft, in case, the craft capsizes so, the provisions are not lost in the water.


D)  Dangers

Are there dangers in the water to be aware of? And if so, how will you be able to handle them? For example: Crocodiles, hippo’s, sharks, weirs, fallen trees or dangerous rapids in fast flowing river. There may be big ships on your route that need to be considered as well.


E)  In case of Emergency

If something goes wrong, do you have a plan to get back home such as cell phone, flares, whistle, and flashlight? Use a dry bag to keep valuables you’re your camera and cell phone protected from water. You do not need to open the bag in order to talk on a cellphone you can safely use it while in the bag.


If you are not extremely experienced, do not paddle alone.


Lifejackets or PFDs

Lifejackets or PFD's are a very important part of a paddler’s equipment. Lifejackets have more buoyancy than personal flotation devices and are better equipped to safely carry a person in the water while unconscious. A lifejacket should be used by smaller children or paddlers who are not confident to swim.

PFDs have less buoyancy than lifejackets but they are more comfortable, allowing for greater movement than a lifejacket. This device will be considered by paddlers who are confident swimmers and by paddlers who participate in canoe racing where weight, size and comfort of movement are considered as important factors.

Lifejackets and PFDs can save lives, but in certain situations, it could be safer to dispose of them. Such a situation can be in the suction area just below a weir or when a person is stuck under a tree in fast flowing river.

Canoeing and Kayaking is a lovely experience and can be enjoyed by the whole family if safety precautions are followed.