What Are the Dangers of Flatwater Kayaking?

Flatwater kayaking can be a magical experience.
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Flatwater kayaking is the safest form of kayaking, which makes it appealing to beginners and fun for everyone. Whether on a freshwater lake in Minnesota or in a saltwater cove in the Sea of Cortez, flatwater kayaking is a wonderful way to get out and enjoy nature. However, even though it's the safest form of kayaking and the risks are minimal, there are hazards that you must be aware of in order to stay safe. There are five things to be aware of when you are flatwater kayaking.


    Getting hypothermia is one of the most dangerous risks you take when flatwater kayaking. While you're in your kayak, the odds are much less likely that you will get hypothermia, but if you fall into the water, you must be prepared. Wear clothing that will keep you warm in case of an accident, rather than dressing for the best-case scenario. If the water is too cold for you to swim in for an hour, you're not properly dressed. It's much easier for you to throw water on yourself to cool off while you're in your boat than it is to try to put clothes on while you're in the water and getting cold.


    Weather is the biggest concern you should have when you're flatwater kayaking. A storm that moves in quickly can lead to bad weather in a hurry, meaning you're left exposed to the elements. Bad weather can mean anything from wind and swells to lightning, rain and blinding conditions. Not only should you check weather reports before you leave to go kayaking, but you should also constantly check the horizon to make certain there isn't anything rolling up on you.

Staying Vigilant of Potential Hazards

    The reason flatwater kayaking is so safe is because there aren't many hazards. However, they do exist. Be aware of where you are and what hazards you might come across. For example, if you're paddling on a reservoir, know where the dam is and stay a safe distance away. If you're paddling along a rocky shore, stay a safe distance out so you don't risk coming into contact with the rocks. If you're on a lake, watch for motor boats and take measures to make yourself visible, like wearing bright clothing and carrying a whistle.


    A common mistake people make is not realizing just how far and how fast they can move in a touring kayak. Even a beginner can move a kayak as fast or faster than they can walk. It's easy to cover a great deal of distance in just a few hours. One of the biggest dangers is getting lost and not being prepared. Without food, water or shelter, people are vulnerable to the elements. Be sure to keep track of both the amount of time you've been kayaking and how far you've gone. Unless you have experience in a touring kayak, it's not a good idea to get out of sight of your vehicle or the spot where you put in.


    Current is another of the biggest hazards of flatwater kayaking. Particularly for beginners, current can be very dangerous. The reason is that on flat water, it's hard to recognize the fact that current is moving you. However, to some degree, every body of water has current. Many beginners make the mistake of thinking that they're propelling themselves by paddling, when in fact, the current is pulling them out to sea or sending them toward a whitewater rapid. To check to see if you're in current, simply turn around 180 degrees and begin paddling. If you can move at the same rate of speed you were before you turned, you're probably not in very swift current.

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