We all want to get out there and start having fun. But a little bit of trip planning can really help you avoid mishaps and make your day much safer and more enjoyable.
It’s never a good idea to paddle alone. So invite a friend or two, or consider joining a trip organized by your local paddling club or shop.
Next, think about how far you want to go. If you paddle the whole time and don’t take a lot of breaks, most beginner kayakers can cover about five miles in half a day. A one-hour paddle would probably cover just a mile or two. Of course, that’s assuming favorable conditions and protected water, like a lake or harbor. That math doesn’t add up when wind or current come into play. In that case, your distance estimates will have to be much shorter.
Now, do your research. Use maps or a guide book to plan your route. And ask about good trips for beginner kayakers at your local paddling shop. Paddling clubs are another great resource.
After you’ve planned your route, share it with a trusted friend. Give them the four W's: Who, Where, When, and What to do if you don’t return on time or check in as planned.
A good rule of thumb is to tackle the tough stuff first. If you're paddling an out-and-back trip on a river, do the upstream leg first. That way, you can paddle the more difficult direction when you're fresh and full of energy.
If you're in a coastal area, be sure to check the marine forecast. It can be quite different than the inland weather report. And remember that tidal currents vary in speed and direction throughout the day. It's possible to plan your trip so that you're being pushed by the tide in both directions. But if you plan wrong, you could be paddling against the current all day.
Don't forget about the wind. Conditions are often calmest in the morning. But as the land heats up from the sun, the wind usually increases. What starts as a windless day can often change by noon.
Finally, make sure you take into account when the sun will set so you have plenty of time to get back before you lose daylight.
The more you plan your paddling trips, the more this will become second nature. So get out there and practice.
And remember: "Be smart, Be safe, and Have fun."
paddling.com has partnered with the United States Coast Guard to bring you this 8-part "Safer Paddling Series" featuring ACA-certified instructors Kate Ross Kuthe and Paul Kuthe. Watch them all as Paul and Kate share valuable safety tips, paddling technique pointers, and other various gear tips.