Whether you're exploring local waterways, or plotting expeditions, or a full-out fitness fanatic or a weekend warrior, kayaking provides people of all skill levels the opportunity for unparalleled adventure. That is why American Whitewater established safety rules for kayakers to follow. These rules encompass personal responsibility, proper equipment and maintenance, and safety and rescue measures that everyone should follow.
Personal Preparedness and Responsibility
You must be able to take responsibility for yourself. This includes being a competent swimmer, and wearing a personal flotation device, such as life jacket, at all times. Practice the basic strokes until they become second nature.
For whitewater rafting, you also should wear a well-fitted helmet. If you're kayaking in cold water, you will need to wear a wetsuit. You must always be in control of the kayak, be able to stop and turn, and reach shore if there are any signs of danger. It's not recommended to kayak alone. You also should be trained in rescue skills such as CPR.
Boat and Equipment Preparedness
You should be accustomed to your equipment, and know if there's a problem. Test any new equipment in familiar, easy waters before taking it out for the day. Regularly check your gear. Look for anything that might be damaged or broken before taking it out on the water. Always secure your gear, especially sunglasses.
Know the carrying capacity of your kayak so you don't overload it. Kayaks should always have grab loops on webbing. If you do go overboard, then you can keep hold of the kayak.
Kayaking is encouraged to be a group activity and not a solo activity. You have to be able to work together with other kayakers. Groups should always evaluate conditions when going to a place they've never kayaked before, and study maps and guidebooks to familiarize themselves. On long kayaking trips that go into the wilderness kayakers should file a float plan with someone on land as well as the park office, and check in with them periodically. Alcohol and drugs should be avoided since they impair judgment.
Always practice rescue drills so you will know what to do in the event of an emergency. When a kayak gets turned over, kayakers should be able to recover with an Eskimo roll. If you do have to swim, hold on to the kayak as it has excellent flotation and is easy for rescuers to spot. Kayakers should know that if waters are too cold or appear too dangerous ahead, they should release the kayak, however, and swim to safety.