Is Kayaking Dangerous? How To Prepare Yourself from these 15 Risks



If you have this question that kayaking is dangerous or not? Then don’t worry this article will give you the answer but most probably it is yes but in the end, it depends on you how you are using this boat.

In the USA, if we talk about the number of people that die in the year during boating then there is a ratio of 15% of people that died because of using kayak boats. The purpose of this article is not to scare you from the water or kayaking boating but we are trying to guide you so that you can safely boat in the water.

Perceived Risk vs Actual Risk?

Before telling you the difference between Perceived and Actual Risk I want to tell you about what is perception. Perception is an image regarding any situation which you consider or capture in your mind. We are talking about kayaking so let’s understand the perceived risk with the example related to kayaking boating.

Perceived Risk is when you capture the risk regarding kayaking boating in your mind these perceptions or risks are whatever. But you can’t surely say that these perceptions are true or wrong there is a 50% of true and a 50% chance of wrong.

For Example, Some people think that bungee jumping is kind of dangerous activity but it is not dangerous it is a harmless activity.

In short, you don’t know the result and situation you just consider the result and create the perception in your mind. Just like people say kayaking is hard then of course for those people it is difficult and dangerous.

But the people who say that kayaking is easy for them it is not dangerous. It all depends on the perception that you are creating in your mind.

The advantage of perceived risk is that you prepare yourself for the worst conditions and you know how to tackle them but sometimes it will become negative for you when perception leads you towards anxiety and depression.

Actual Risk is the risk that you are facing in the situation. Mostly accidents and death happen when the perceived risk is low and the actual risk is high. I hope this article will help you to balance these two situations.

So, in this article, I will tell you about the 15 risks that you have to avoid when you are using Kayaking.

15 Dangerous Risks you should avoid them

  1. Drowning
  2. Cold Water Shock in Kayaking
  3. Getting Lost in Kayaking
  4. Capsizing
  5. Dehydration
  6. Serve Weather
  7. Wildlife
  8. Alcohol
  9. Cold shocks during kayaking
  10. Weirs and Low Head Dams
  11. Sunburn Exposure during kayaking
  12. Strainers and Sweepers
  13. Rough water and rapids
  14. Incorrect Equipment or Incorrect Life Jacket
  15. Other Vessels

1. Drowning


This is the first dangerous risk that you should avoid when you are going kayaking for the first time. People who are going for the first time had a lot of dangers this drowning. If you think that drowning is a serious risk or not then yes it is serious.

In 2020 According to statistics, deaths from kayaking were 85% of drowning. According to United States CGS (Coast Guard Statistics), 86% of the people that are died from drowning cannot wear a life jacket.

Drownings accounted for 85% of all deaths from kayaking in 2020 in the United States, according to the US Coast Guard statistics. And 86% of drowning victims in boating accidents in the US were not wearing a life jacket. The drowning happened because of many reasons such as Capsizing, rough water, bad weather, and rough water.

How to prevent Drowning:

If you wear a life jacket then it will prevent you from drowning. If you end up in the water then Personal Flotation Device fits correctly and matches your activity and can be saved your life.

2. Cold Water Shock in Kayaking:

Cold Water Shock in Kayaking

It is not fixed that if you are wet then it is not dangerous unless you are falling into the cold water. If it happened and you are below 15 degree Celsius then the cold shock occurs to you. The few drops in the temperature create the blood vessel that can contract and push your heart to work hard and breathe of yours is restricted.

Because of cold shocks in the initial stage, Hypothermia also occurs to you. The symptoms of Hypothermia are body heat, shivering in the body, etc.

How to Prevent this:

A life jacket can save your life in this situation. When the cold shock occurs and your breath is restricted then a life jacket can help you keep your head out of the water and help you to keep alive.

3. Getting Lost in Kayaking:

Getting Lost in Kayaking

It is a scary situation when you get lost during kayaking. No matter if you are on the ocean or removed backwaters, it is easy to be lost.

It is easy to get popped if you are sea kayaking by the winds and the currents in the water. It can be more difficult for you if the fog rolls in the sky and you have no idea where you are going.

How to prevent this risk?

A navigation GPS location system can help you if you get lost in this situation. It can help you to get back to your destination because GPS uses satellite technology that tells you the exact location. If you are in a group during kayaking then you should carry a compass with you

4. Capsizing:


Capsizing is another risk that you have to prevent during Kayaking. Capsizing is very common during kayaking but the important thing is that when it happens to you? Capsizing happens mostly to the people who regularly kayak. Kayak can flip and worse if you trap under it.

Is it important that you know how to come back to your position or how to maintain your situation when you capsize? If you wear PFD and remember how to secure yourself then it will be helpful in many cases.

How to prevent Capsizing:

You should learn how to maintain yourself when capsizing before going kayaking.  If you want to avoid capsizing completely during kayak then don’t paddle when the weather and condition are rough and the water is dangerous.

5. Dehydration:


This is also a dangerous risk that you should avoid during kayaking. Many people didn’t consider that drinking water is also important during a kayaking journey. Dehydration occurs most of the time when the water leaves your body more than the water entered enters into your body.

How to avoid Dehydration during kayaking?

First, predict how much water you need according to how many days you are going kayaking. Then when the temperature is high you need to drink more water as compared to the normal water.

6. Serve Weather:

Serve Weather

This risk is dangerous for both kayakers and other boaters. The people who are going kayaking don’t contain too much protection from the rough weather. It means you have to face lightning, sun exposure, heavy rain, and roughly strong winds.

The water becomes rough when there is stormy weather that shifts your calm kayaking journey into a scary scene.

How to prevent this:

If you want to avoid this risk then you need to check the weather forecast before starting kayaking and when you feel the weather is changing then again check the forecast. It is better if you carry some supplies, clothes, and other equipment with you if you have to camp overnight in another location.

7. Wildlife:


This is also one of the risks that affect negatively your kayaking journey. Snakes, sharks Alligators, Bears, and other dangerous creatures may force you to pause your kayaking journey in the US. Also, depending on the location where you are currently.

How to avoid this risk?

Try to make some distance from the wild animal and don’t feed them. In many cases, the animals became aggressive because they think you are a threat to them so try to maintain distance from them.

8. Alcohol:

Alcoholism. Cup cognac whiskey or brandy hand man the keys to the car and irresponsible driver.

It is common sense and every person knows that Alcohol and drugs can affect you negatively when you are normal so now you are in a serious condition just imagine how much this effect you negatively. Because of drinking alcohol, your brain gets affected and it works slowly as compared to without alcohol. Alcohol also lets you to urine and it may lead to dehydration.

How to prevent Alcohol:

Don’t paddle when you drink alcohol and if you control yourself then keep alcohol with you and drink when you reached the destination and you know that you will get rest for a few hours. If you are going for one day journey then avoid alcohol because you can live at least one day without drinking alcohol.

9. Cold shocks during kayaking:

Cold shocks during kayaking

This risk happens when the weather touches high temperatures for the first time in your journey. Some sudden and extreme changes cause your blood vessel to come close and increase the flow of blood in the body. The heartbeat will also increase and it may cause your blood pressure to get high.

How to avoid this:

As I earlier mentioned that life jacket is the key asset that saves you from various kinds of risk then this dangerous risk also avoids if you wear a life jacket. Because of the life jacket, your head is up and you can breathe easily.

10. Weirs and Low Head Dams:

Weirs and Low Head Dams

This is one of the extremely dangerous risks for people that are going kayaking. Water that flows on the dam will come back itself which is called backwash. If you are stuck in this backwash it will be like you are stuck in the washing machine spin cycle.

When you pin back to the surface the running water from the flow over the dam and backwash will drag you below the surface and you will act like a cycle paddle.

How to avoid it:

You should avoid paddling when you are close to the dams. There are warning that tells you the dam is near and you have to keep a distance from it.

11. Sunburn Exposure during kayaking:

Sunburn Exposure during kayaking

This is another risk that people avoid when they are going kayaking or maybe they perceived that it is a low risk. But when the risk happens it will create several risks for you.

When the body is overheated then the heatstroke happened and it will cause many negative effects on your health like nausea, rapid breathing, heart rate increase, and flushed skin.

How to avoid sunburn:

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF
  • Apply sunscreen all over the skin which includes your hands.
  • After swimming, you need to apply sunscreen again to your body

12. Strainers and Sweepers:

Strainers and Sweepers

Let us see the individual definition of kayaking dangerous risks.

Strainers are low-hanging branches that stick out underwater and block trash in the water flow.

Sweepers are the risk that usually are low-hanging branches that are stuck above the water.

How to prevent these two risks:

  • It is best if you avoid paddling toward a strainer
  • Scout the river before putting yourself in.
  • If you can see one on a trip they do paddling quickly.

13. Rough Water and Rapids:

Rough water and rapids

This is one of the 15 dangerous risks of kayaking. The rough water is extremely dangerous to paddling when you are unskilled. It is also dangerous if you have skilled in paddling in rough water.

There is a ranking or class of whitewater rapid and the class starts at 1 and ends at 6. The 6 is the most difficult rapid water to paddle. The expert in kayaking also faces difficulties in class 6. Class 5 is also not easy to paddle

How to get avoid this risk:

  • Don’t do kayaking when the condition is serious and tough for you.
  • It is better if you see the location by walking where you are going to paddle.
  • Ask people near the location so that they will tell you about their personal experiences regarding that location.

14. Incorrect Equipment or Incorrect Life Jacket:

Incorrect Equipment or Incorrect Life Jacket

The life jacket is an important asset that keeps you safe and alive during kayaking. It is better if you wear PFD because wearing an in-filled jacket is best as compared to wearing no jacket. Make sure to carry a jacket that is fit and correctly for you.

How to avoid this:

The only way to avoid this risk is to carry a life jacket that is fit and suitable for you.

15. During Kayaking Other Vessels:

During Kayaking Other Vessels

If you are paddling in a specific area and you see there is another kayaking boat appearing on the water. It converts your kayaking journey difficult. The kayaking boats are too profile vessels and it is not okay to see a kayak boat on the water especially when there is open water.

How to avoid it:

  • Carry a flag with you to represent your boat on the open water.
  • If you see a large shipping lane then don’t paddle there.


I hope this article will help you when you are going kayaking or boating. It is important to prepare yourself before going on a kayaking journey.  

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