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How Dangerous Is Kayaking? 10 Dangers and How To Avoid Them

How Dangerous Is Kayaking?

Kayaking can be a thrilling experience, but it is not without its dangers. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, it’s IMPORTANT to know what these dangers are and how to avoid them.

Key Takeaways
● Kayaking can be a fun and thrilling activity, but it is important to understand the potential dangers involved.
● One major risk is capsizing, which can lead to drowning if the kayaker is not wearing a properly fitted life jacket or does not know how to safely right their kayak.
● Weather conditions can also pose a danger, as strong winds and rough water can make it difficult to control the kayak and increase the chance of capsizing.

So is kayaking dangerous?

The potential dangers include capsizing, weather conditions, and rough waters. One of the most important things a kayaker can do to protect themselves is to wear a properly fitted PFD at all times.

In the event of a capsize, this can mean the difference between safely righting your kayak or potentially drowning.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the most common dangers of kayaking and provide tips for kayak safety while enjoying this sport. Keep reading to learn more.

10 Dangers of Kayaking

10 Dangers of Kayaking

A few major dangers come with kayaking, but these can often be AVOIDED by following basic safety precautions. Here are some of the potential risks and how to avoid real danger:


Capsizing, or flipping your kayak over, is a COMMON danger in kayaking. This can happen due to strong winds, rough waters, improper paddling techniques, and more.

To AVOID capsizing, it’s important to understand the PROPER paddling technique and to also pay attention to weather conditions before heading out on the water.

If you do happen to capsize, it’s IMPORTANT to know how to SAFELY right your kayak and get back in it. Taking a kayaking class or practising with an experienced friend can also help prepare you for this possibility.

Pro Tip: Always wear a properly fitted life jacket to protect yourself in the event of a capsize.

Incorrect PFD

A personal flotation device, or life jacket, is VITAL in kayaking. It’s important to wear one at all times and to make sure it fits properly for maximum effectiveness.

Wearing a life jacket can SAVE your life in the event of a capsize or another emergency on the water.

Weather conditions

Strong winds and rough waters can make it difficult to control your kayak and increase the chance of capsizing. As a kayaker, it’s important to know how to assess and handle these types of weather conditions before heading out on the water.

Always check the weather forecast before going kayaking. Remember, high winds and rough water can make for dangerous kayaking conditions, so it’s best to AVOID these times and opt for calmer weather.

Pro Tip: If you do encounter rough waters, try to paddle INTO the waves to maintain control of your kayak.

Collision With Other Boats

Collision With Other Boats

Colliding with another boat or object can also be a danger in kayaking. To AVOID this, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and try to paddle in areas with LESS boat traffic.

It’s also helpful to have communication devices with you, such as a WHISTLE or RADIO, in case you need to signal for help.

Wildlife encounters

Kayaking in NATURE can also bring you into contact with wildlife, such as alligators or aggressive fish. Always be aware of your surroundings and AVOID touching or disturbing any wildlife.

If you do encounter a potential threat, try to CALMLY move away from the area and notify park officials or other authorities if necessary. 

Pro TipFollow any posted signs or warnings about wildlife in the area and always paddle with a partner for added safety.

Sweepers and Strainers

Sweepers and strainers are the most dangerous obstacles in the water, such as trees or branches, that can trap a kayak and potentially lead to capsizing.

It’s important to try to AVOID these by paying attention to your surroundings and steering clear of any potential sweepers or strainers.

Pro Tip: Dont get caught out by those low-hanging branches; always wear a helmet while kayaking to protect yourself in case of an unexpected collision.

Cold Water

Cold water can also pose a danger for kayakers, as prolonged exposure can lead to COLD SHOCK. When your core body temperature drops, it can affect your ability to swim and increase the risk of drowning.

Wearing a wet suit or dry suit can HELP protect against cold water; wearing a life jacket will aid in staying afloat if necessary (especially in the open ocean).

It’s also helpful to have safety gear, such as a throw rope or hand warmers, on hand in case of an emergency.

Sun Exposure

Prolonged sun exposure can also be a danger for kayakers, as it can lead to heat exhaustion and sunburn.

To AVOID these issues, always wear sunscreen (5OSPF or higher) and bring along hats and sun-protective clothing. Stay HYDRATED by bringing plenty of water with you on your kayaking trip.

Take regular breaks in shaded areas and monitor your body for signs of heat stroke or dehydration. Sun exposure is a serious danger, and staying safe and hydrated while on the water is important.


In colder climates, staying in cold waters for too long can also lead to HYPOTHERMIA. It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather and water temperature and be prepared with EXTRA layers in case of unexpected changes in temperature.

If you start to feel hypothermia’s effects, it’s important to get out of the water and warm up as soon as possible.

Shallow Waters

Shallow Waters

Kayaking in shallow waters can also be extremely dangerous, as you may hit underwater obstacles or debris, which can damage your kayak.

This is more common in lake kayaking, so it’s important to pay attention to the depth of the water and AVOID paddling in areas with potential hazards.

To avoid this danger, RESEARCH the area before heading out and try to stick to paddling in deeper waters. It’s also helpful to have a map of the area with you during your trip.


Having some KNOWLEDGE and EXPERIENCE is important before heading out on a kayaking trip, as inexperience can lead to accidents or dangerous situations.

That’s why joining a club, taking lessons, or kayaking with experienced friends is recommended before heading out on your own. It’s also HELPFUL to stay within your skill level, kayak regularly and avoid overly challenging waters until you feel more confident in your abilities.

Pro Tip: A Kayak safety course can also provide valuable information and skills for staying safe while on the water.

Swimming Ability

Lastly, it’s important to know your own swimming abilities before kayaking. Never go out on the water alone, and ensure that you have a personal flotation device (life jacket) properly fitted at all times.

It’s also helpful to have some BASIC swimming and rescue skills in case of an emergency. Taking a kayaking safety course can also help prepare you for potential dangers on the water.

9 Safety Tips for Kayaking

9 Safety Tips for Kayaking

Overall, following basic safety precautions can help you have a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Always wear a properly fitted life jacket and make sure it is visible to other boaters.

2. Be aware of weather conditions and avoid paddling in rough waters or strong winds.

3. Watch out for potential hazards in the water, such as sweepers and strainers, and steer clear of them.

4. Dress appropriately for cold or warm temperatures and bring extra layers in case of unexpected changes in weather.

5. Stay hydrated and take breaks in shaded areas to avoid sun exposure.

6. Paddle with a partner or in a group for added safety.

7. Educate yourself on the area before heading out, including potential hazards and depth of waters.

8. Build experience and confidence through lessons, clubs, and paddling with experienced friends.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of the water and always be prepared for an emergency situation.

10. Check water and air temperature, winds and currents before heading out on your kayak.

By following these safety tips, you can have a fun and thrilling kayaking experience while also staying safe on the water. Happy paddling.

Level of Risks Kayaking

It’s important to understand the different LEVELS OF RISK involved in kayaking. For example, a high perceived risk would involve whitewater rafting, while a low perceived risk would be kayaking in a sheltered lake on calm waters.

It’s important to understand what is a potentially life-threatening scenario and take necessary PRECAUTIONS, such as wearing a life jacket, staying within your skill level, and being prepared for any unexpected situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Weirs/Low Head Dams Dangerous for Kayaking?

Weirs and low-head dams can create STRONG CURRENTS and turbulent water, posing a danger for kayakers. Weirs are built to help manage river levels, so it’s important to avoid paddling near or over these structures as they can trap and drown someone in their churning waters.

How Can You Learn To Self Rescue?

Self-rescue techniques can be learned through experienced kayaking guides, courses and clinics or by practising with experienced friends. These SKILLS are important to have in case of an emergency on the water.

What Should You Do if Your Kayak Flips Over?

If your kayak flips over, it’s important to STAY CALM and not panic. First, try to right the kayak and climb back in.
If this is impossible, hold onto the kayak or a paddle float for support and call for help. Make sure you are wearing a properly fitted life jacket at all times to stay afloat until help arrives.

How Can You Stay Safe in Cold Water?

It’s important to dress appropriately for cold water temperatures by wearing a WET SUIT or DRY SUIT and layers for added warmth. In case of falling into the water, it’s also important to plan to get back onto your kayak or reach shore as quickly as possible to avoid cold water shock.

Is Sea Kayaking More Dangerous than Lake or River Kayaking?

This can vary depending on the specific conditions, but sea kayaking can often pose more risks due to potentially rougher waters and changing weather conditions. It’s important to always assess the area before heading out and plan for any potential hazards.
Sea kayakers should also have additional skills, such as navigation and communication, to handle these added challenges.

kayaking dangers conclusion


Overall, kayaking can be a fun and thrilling activity. However, it’s important to always keep safety in mind and prepare for potential risks before heading out on the water.

By following these tips and using common sense, you can enjoy your time on the water while staying safe. Happy paddling!

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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