7 Dangers of Ocean Kayaking

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Kayaking can be anywhere between peaceful to thrilling and dangerous. Whether comforting or daring in nature, the experience becomes much bigger when paddling in ocean water.

The reasons to try kayaking are endless – it’s a great workout, a stress-reliever, versatile, and adventurous.

But don’t grab a paddle just yet. While the views from a kayak are beautiful, they don’t come without risks for your life.

Sharks

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You won’t find sharks even in the most dangerous rapids, but you can certainly encounter them in the ocean, as several media outlets have reported. It’s tempting to go as deep as you can because kayaks are smaller than other boats and allow people to venture into areas they otherwise won’t be able to see.

While you probably won’t have to paddle away from a sea predator the size of the biggest sharks ever caught, don’t take any chances. Do your research and know if the area you’ll be kayaking is home to any sharks at all. Keep in mind that bull sharks are found in shallow waters.

There is no land nearby

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This is the ocean – it’s unpredictable and dangerous. The weather can suddenly change from warm and sunny to cold and extreme.

Even the best swimmers in the world will get tired eventually if they have to push through the water for hours to find land. However, the body can withstand battling big waves and cold ocean water for 6-8 hours a day for weeks in a row, as several long-distance swimmers have proven.

Hypothermia

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The most likely fatal accident is due to hypothermia following a capsize, which can be caused by wind and/or rough seas, and subsequent failure to execute a rescue, according to Mariner Kayaks.

If you don’t have sufficient rescue equipment or adequate flotation in the kayak, you may be in trouble. Most often people who find themselves in a similar situation are paddling alone and carrying no distress signals.

Other factors that can lead to hypothermia include getting lost or extremely tired, sudden drop in weather temperature or seasickness.

Lighting

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Imagine the feeling when there is nothing but sea for miles and you hear the sound of a sudden thunderstorm, and the sounds get louder and louder as it approaches you.

You have to get to shore as soon as humanly possible. When you see lightning, count off the seconds until you hear the thunder, and divide that number by 5 to get the distance in miles the lightning is from you, according to San Diego Kayak Club.

Lightning hits the highest objects around, so use low angle stroke. Put your head down. Remove anything that has metal.

Don’t ever kayak alone. Paddlers should be at least 20-30 feet away from each other.

Ships

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You have to watch out for other, especially big, boats in the area. A huge cargo ship may not even see you, and they can be deceptively fast. Never try to paddle across the path of a ship, according to Mariner Kayaks.

Groups should stay close together in order to make it easier for a large craft to notice them and avoid them. Make yourself visible – wear bright colors, life jacket and hat. Yellow, orange and red paddle blades waving up and down will be most noticeable.

Tide currents

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Currents can take you far away from where you started paddling and you may not even realize it. There are no lanes, after all. Both rip and tidal currents can be a serious challenge for kayakers. Don’t panic and paddle perpendicular to the current.  Tidal currents are a bigger problem, but getting out of one requires the same skills – just more time and energy.  

Waves

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If you don’t want waves, go on a river cruise. For sea and ocean kayaking you’ll need a specific boat because it is designed to handle waves. Most people can easily ride waves that are up to 3 feet high. Bigger breaking waves can be dangerous, especially if you don’t have a helmet. Paddling in larger waves can result in capsize.

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