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Your gear carries you out and home, protects you from the elements, and assists you in emergencies. All of it should be in good condition and fit your body, skill level and setting. Putting a child in an adult PFD isn’t a smart idea, for example, nor is using that leaky, beater kayak you borrowed at the last minute from your sister’s boyfriend. Make sure the gear is right before your start because once out on the water, it may be too late.
Don’t launch unless you have these items.
1) A Personal Flotation Device. It’s widely held that humans have difficulty breathing underwater. Be sure your PFD fits, and wear it properly and religiously. The overwhelming majority of serious accidents (deaths and close calls) in paddlesports occur when paddlers are not wearing a Coast Guard-approved PFD.
2) A Paddle. Though the boat may seem the most elemental piece of equipment, it’s the paddle that connects your muscle motor to the water. Consider these features:
3) A Buddy. Beginning kayakers should never paddle alone. There’s safety in numbers, especially when someone needs to go for help in an emergency.
Looking cool is one matter, being too cool is another. Because immersion is a major cause of hypothermia, dress for it.
In the tropics, or anywhere it sizzles, lightweight full coverage and frequent applications of waterproof sunscreen are your best defense. Along with frequent swims to cool off. A hate with a wide brim shields you from harmful UV rays. Sturdy footwear is a must, but bulky shoes won’t fit inside most kayaks, are cumbersome, and can seriously compromise swimming. Try lightweight, low-profile watersport shoes, river sandals, or neoprene booties.
Information on this page is provided through our partnership with American Canoe Association (ACA) by staff writer Becky Molina.
For comprehensive guides on paddling, visit the ACA website.