Whether you paddle for relaxation or to push the limits, the ultimate goal is to have fun and enjoy. Being prepared allows you to deal quickly and effectively with the unexpected and to continue to enjoy your trip.
The following is a list of suggested ideas and equipment to carry with you. Tailor your safety requirements around the type of paddling you’ll be doing as it would differ for different types of water as well as the duration of your excursion.
Examples of safety equipment are:
- PFD or “life vest” – Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) are essential paddling safety items and should be worn at all times regardless of how experienced a paddler you are. They provide buoyancy to keep your head above water if you capsize. They are also useful for rolling and rescues by adding extra upward force when your upper body is in the water. In cold conditions, PFDs also provide an extra layer of insulation.
- Flotation – Ensure your kayak has adequate flotation if swamped. If not use Float bags for an extra measure of safety.
- Spray skirts – these should be carried on your sit-inside kayak (if not worn) as basic safety equipment when on expeditions or adventurous trips for in rough conditions or wet weather.
- Drinking water in waterproof containers
- Paddle leash
- Paddle Float
- Spare paddle (folding split paddle)
- Bilge pump and sponge
- Leatherman or Knife
- Flash light (waterproof) &/or strobe light for dusk or night
- Whistle, signal mirror, pencil flares, air horn ? Cell phone &/or radio in waterproof bag
- Compass / GPS
- Proper clothing, aquatic foot gear & hat. Be prepared for hot and cold weather, wet and dry.
- Helmets for shallow, rocky conditions
- Tow rope
- Throw bag 20m
- Repair kit: duct tape, spare parts, tools, etc.
- Sun screen
- First Aid kit in water-proof bag or container. Check regularly. Store your paddling first-aid kit in in an easy-to-access spot in your boat. Medical emergencies demand quick responses.
- A Survival Kit in a water tight container – imagine the basic necessities you’d need to survive if stranded somewhere. (ie: fishing hook and twine, candle, matches, water purifying tablets, energy bars)
- Map in waterproof holder
Download NSRI’s free Smartphone application called SafeTrx – Fantastic tracking app should you not arrive home as scheduled.
EMERGENCY NUMBERS – Have emergency numbers pre-programmed on your cell phone (NSRI telephone contact numbers in the area you’re paddling / 082 911 / Police, etc)
Make sure the above are stored where they will be readily accessible should they be required. Carry as many of these devices as possible and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM. Practice with them in a variety of weather conditions so you can use this equipment no matter how bad it gets. It is a good idea in warmer weather to practice capsizing and wet exiting your canoe / kayak and re-entering.
Be Safe, Be aware
- Always paddle with someone else
FILE A FLOAT PLAN – before embarking on a trip it is advisable to write a float plan giving names of people paddling, where you’re starting and finishing your trip as well as any stops along the way and estimated times of arrival and who to contact if you are overdue
DON’T PADDLE under the influence of drugs or alcohol
BE AWARE of water and weather conditions and appoint a trip leader for each outing who has knowledge of the river or body of water and expected weather conditions
BE AWARE of your paddling ability – take courses and get advice before embarking on new adventures.
If you’re interested in coastal paddling take some lessons and know how to safely paddle on the sea, know about tides, currents, river mouths, weather predictions, navigation, harbour protocol, boat traffic, know where and how to launch and beach through the surf. Know and practice what to do if?
If paddling on rivers, take a course in river paddling and safety. (Splash Whitewater Kayak School). Find out about the stretch of river to be paddled before embarking on the trip. Know how to read the river, what to look out for, how to scout, how to paddle through rapids, where the put ins and take outs are. Know and practice what to do if ?
If camping, always leave your campsites clean, take your garbage with you and make sure your campfire is dead before you move on.