The Most Common Kayaking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Kayaking is a fun and exciting outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Kayaking allows you to explore nature, get some exercise, and have a great time with your friends or family. However, kayaking also comes with some risks and challenges that you need to be aware of and avoid. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common kayaking mistakes and how to prevent them from ruining your kayaking experience. By following these tips, you will be able to Kayak Safely and confidently. Let’s get started with the most common kayaking mistakes.

Why Safety Should Be Your Top Priority in Kayaking

Kayaking is not a risk-free activity. As we have seen from the statistics, many people lose their lives or suffer injuries every year due to kayaking accidents. Some of the common causes of these accidents are lack of experience, inadequate equipment, poor weather conditions, and human error. Therefore, it is essential that you take safety seriously when you go kayaking. Safety should be your top priority in kayaking because:

It can save your life and the lives of others. Kayaking can be fatal if you are not prepared for the possible hazards and emergencies that can occur on the water. For example, drowning is the leading cause of death in kayaking and canoeing incidents, accounting for 47.5% of fatalities in US whitewater kayaking accidents between 2008 and 2010. Wearing a life jacket, knowing how to swim, and avoiding alcohol can reduce your risk of drowning significantly.

It can prevent injuries and damage. Kayaking can also result in injuries and damages to yourself, your kayak, and other people or property. For example, collisions, capsizes, entrapments, and falls are some of the common types of accidents that can cause injuries such as cuts, bruises, sprains, fractures, and hypothermia. Having proper training, equipment, and navigation skills can help you avoid these accidents and minimize their impact.

It can enhance your enjoyment and satisfaction. Kayaking can be more fun and rewarding if you are safe and confident on the water. You will be able to explore new places, challenge yourself, and appreciate nature without worrying about the potential dangers or consequences. You can also share your experience with others and inspire them to join you in this amazing activity.

As you can see, safety is something that you should take seriously when you go kayaking. It is something that you should always keep in mind and practice before, during, and after your kayaking adventure. By following some simple safety tips and guidelines, you can make your kayaking experience safer, more enjoyable, and more memorable. In the next section, we will discuss some of the most important safety tips that you should follow when you go kayaking.

Common Kayaking Mistakes

Incorrect Paddling Technique

One of the most common kayaking mistakes that beginners make is using an incorrect paddling technique. Paddling is the main way of propelling and steering your kayak, so it is important that you do it right. An incorrect paddling technique can cause you to:

Waste your energy and get tired quickly. If you use too much force, paddle too fast, or use only your arms, you will burn out your muscles and lose stamina. You should use a smooth and steady rhythm, use your whole body, and apply moderate pressure on the paddle.

Lose control and stability of your kayak. If you hold the paddle too tightly, too loosely, or at the wrong angle, you will have less grip and leverage on the water. You should hold the paddle firmly but comfortably, with your hands shoulder-width apart, and keep the paddle blades perpendicular to the water.

Damage your kayak or paddle. If you hit rocks, logs, or other obstacles with your paddle, you can scratch, dent, or break your kayak or paddle. You should avoid paddling too close to the shore, lift your paddle over obstacles, and use a plastic or fiberglass paddle for durability.

To avoid these problems, you should learn and practice the correct paddling technique before you go kayaking. You can watch online videos, read books, or take lessons from a professional instructor to improve your paddling skills. You should also choose a suitable paddle for your kayak size, type, and style. By using the correct paddling technique, you will be able to kayak faster, farther, and safer.

Ignoring Weather and Water Conditions

Another common kayaking mistake that can ruin your kayaking experience is ignoring the weather and water conditions. Weather and water conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly, and they can affect your safety and comfort on the water. Ignoring the weather and water conditions can cause you to:

Encounter dangerous situations. If you kayak in strong winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, or fog, you can face difficulties in visibility, navigation, communication, and maneuverability. You can also risk being blown off course, capsized by waves, struck by lightning, or hypothermic by cold water. You should check the weather forecast before you go kayaking and avoid kayaking in adverse weather conditions.

Choose the wrong kayak or gear. If you kayak in different types of water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, or oceans, you need to use different types of kayaks and gear. For example, if you kayak in choppy or rough water, you need a more stable and maneuverable kayak than if you kayak in calm or flat water. You also need to wear appropriate clothing, footwear, and accessories for different water temperatures and weather conditions.

Violate the rules or regulations. If you kayak in public or private waterways, you need to follow the rules or regulations that apply to those areas. For example, some areas may require you to have a permit, wear a life jacket, display a light, or stay within certain boundaries. You should research the rules or regulations of the area where you plan to kayak and respect them.

To avoid these problems, you should always pay attention to the weather and water conditions before and during your kayaking trip. You should also plan ahead and prepare accordingly for the type of water body where you want to kayak. By doing so, you will be able to kayak safely and enjoyably in any weather and water condition.

Overlooking Safety Gear

A third common kayaking mistake that can have serious consequences is overlooking safety gear. Safety gear is essential for protecting yourself and others from potential hazards and emergencies on the water. Overlooking safety gear can cause you to:

Risk your life or health. The most important safety gear you must wear when you go kayaking is a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD). A life jacket can save your life if you fall into the water or capsize your kayak. It can also keep you warm and prevent hypothermia in cold water. You should also wear a helmet if you kayak in whitewater or rocky areas to protect your head from injuries.

Lack of essential tools or equipment. Besides wearing safety gear, you also need to carry some tools or equipment that can help you in case of emergencies or problems on the water. For example, you need a whistle or an air horn to signal for help or warn others of danger; a knife or scissors to cut yourself free from entanglements; a first aid kit to treat wounds or illnesses; a repair kit to fix leaks or damages; a compass or a GPS to navigate your way; and a phone or a radio to communicate with others.

Break the law or face fines. In some areas, carrying or wearing certain safety gear may be mandatory or recommended by the authorities. For example, in the US, the Coast Guard requires all recreational boats to have at least one life jacket per person on board, and some states may have additional requirements for kayakers. You should check the local laws or regulations before you go kayaking and comply with them.

To avoid these problems, you should never overlook safety gear when you go kayaking. You should always wear a life jacket and a helmet, and carry the necessary tools or equipment for your kayaking trip. You should also check your safety gear regularly and replace or repair any faulty or worn-out items. By doing so, you will be able to kayak with peace of mind and confidence.

Not Understanding Kayak Types

A fourth common kayaking mistake that can affect your performance and enjoyment is not understanding kayak types. Kayaks come in different shapes, sizes, and designs, and they are suited for different purposes and conditions. Not understanding kayak types can cause you to:

Choose the wrong kayak for your needs or preferences. If you choose a kayak that does not match your needs or preferences, you may end up with a kayak that is too big or too small, too heavy or too light, too fast or too slow, too stable or too unstable, too easy or too hard to paddle, or too comfortable or too uncomfortable to sit in. You should choose a kayak that fits your body size, skill level, kayaking style, and budget.

Use the wrong kayak for the environment or situation. If you use a kayak that is not designed for the environment or situation where you want to kayak, you may encounter problems or dangers on the water. For example, if you use a recreational kayak in rough water, you may have difficulty controlling or maneuvering it; if you use a touring kayak in narrow waterways, you may have trouble turning or navigating it; if you use a whitewater kayak in flat water, you may have trouble paddling or gliding it; if you use a fishing kayak in crowded areas, you may have trouble fishing or storing it.

Damage or ruin your kayak. If you use a kayak that is not made of the right material or quality for the environment or situation where you want to kayak, you may damage or ruin your kayak. For example, if you use a plastic kayak in hot weather, it may warp or melt; if you use a fiberglass kayak in rocky areas, it may crack or break; if you use an inflatable kayak in sharp objects, it may puncture or deflate; if you use a wooden kayak in wet conditions, it may rot or decay.

To avoid these problems, you should understand the different types of kayaks and their features and benefits. You should also know how to choose the right kayak for your needs and preferences, and how to use the right kayak for the environment and situation where you want to kayak. By doing so, you will be able to find the perfect kayak for yourself and enjoy kayaking in any setting.

Lack of Navigation Skills

A fifth common kayaking mistake that can lead to frustration and danger is lack of navigation skills. Navigation skills are important for finding your way on the water and avoiding getting lost or stranded. Lack of navigation skills can cause you to:

Lose track of your location or direction. If you do not know how to read a map, use a compass, follow landmarks, or recognize currents, you may lose track of where you are or where you are going on the water. You may also drift off course, miss your destination, or enter restricted areas.

Waste time or resources. If you do not know how to plan your route, estimate your distance, calculate your speed, or manage your time, you may waste time or resources on your kayaking trip. You may also run out of fuel, water, food, or battery power.

Encounter hazards or emergencies. If you do not know how to avoid obstacles, deal with tides, cope with weather changes, or handle emergencies, you may encounter hazards or emergencies on the water. You may also risk injury, damage, theft, or rescue.

To avoid these problems, you should learn and practice navigation skills before you go kayaking. You should also carry some navigation tools such as maps, compasses, GPS devices, phones, radios, watches, etc., and know how to use them properly. By doing so, you will be able to kayak safely and successfully in any location.

The Consequences of Kayaking Mistakes

Understanding the Risks: Kayaking mistakes can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences. Depending on the type and severity of the mistake, you may face physical, emotional, or financial harm. Some of the possible risks that you may encounter if you make kayaking mistakes are:

Kayaking accidents can result in injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severe fractures and head trauma. In some cases, kayaking accidents can even lead to death by drowning, hypothermia, or other causes. For example, in 2023, an Irish student died after a kayaking incident on the Potomac River near Washington DC. She was on a trip with the Columbia University Whitewater Kayaking Club when she capsized and was swept away by the current. In 2022, one woman died and another went missing after a group of 12 kayakers went over Bosher’s Dam in Richmond, Virginia. The dam was not marked on their map and they did not realize the danger until it was too late.

Kayaking mistakes can also cause damage or loss to your kayak, paddle, gear, or other belongings. You may have to pay for repairs or replacements or lose something valuable or sentimental. For example, in 2023, a woman who went missing off Sentosa was trying to help a fellow kayaker who capsized when she also capsized and was “swept under” by currents. Her kayak was eventually recovered, but her body was not found. In 2021, a guide and one of his clients died in a kayaking accident in Downeast Maine. They were on a sea kayaking tour when they encountered rough seas and strong winds that separated them from the rest of the group. Their kayaks and gear were later found washed ashore.

Kayaking mistakes can also affect your mental and emotional well-being. You may experience stress or fear during or after a kayaking incident, which can impair your judgment, performance, or enjoyment. You may also develop a phobia or aversion to kayaking or water activities in general. For example, in 2023, a kayaker who survived a harrowing attack by Hamas militants in Israel described the “hell” that she endured during her captivity. She was on a kibbutz near the Gaza border when she and three others were kidnapped by armed men who came out of a tunnel under the water. She said she was tortured, starved, and threatened with death for more than two weeks before she was released.

As you can see, kayaking mistakes can have dire consequences that you should be aware of. By being aware of the potential risks and learning how to avoid them, you can reduce your chances of making kayaking mistakes and enjoy your kayaking Adventure safely and happily.


Kayaking is a wonderful activity that can bring you many benefits and joys. However, it also requires some skills and knowledge that you need to acquire and improve. By avoiding some of the most common kayaking mistakes that we have discussed in this blog post, you can make your kayaking experience safer, easier, and more enjoyable. Remember to always follow the safety rules and guidelines, use the correct paddling technique, and have fun on the water. Happy kayaking!