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Snorkeling From Your Kayak: Safety Tips And What To Bring

Combining snorkeling and kayaking is the recipe for an unforgettable time above and below the water line. These activities give you unique opportunities to view aquatic life at its most natural and least disturbed state. Snorkeling and kayaking are also incredible exercises. When combined, the result is a fantastic full-body workout that is lots of fun. However, combining these two aquatic activities does not come without its risks.

When snorkeling from a kayak you must be extra cautious and take several safety precautions. Snorkel with a visible dive flag or surface marker, and make sure your equipment and anchor are tested and in great shape. Make a plan in advance and inform others of your route. Don’t venture far from the boat. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection. Whenever possible, snorkel and kayak with a buddy.

Snorkeling from a kayak can be a perfectly safe activity as long as you take the right safety precautions and pack wisely. But once you decide to disembark from your paddling vessel and enter open water, the level of danger rises. To ensure you mitigate risk and increase enjoyment, you need to follow a few additional safety measures and double-check your packing list before embarking on an epic kayak and snorkel excursion. Keep reading to learn the key safety tips and packing essentials for snorkeling from a kayak.

Seven Safety Tips When Snorkeling From Your Kayak

1. Always Have A PFD On Board

A PFD is essential for any paddling activity, but it is even more crucial you bring a reliable PFD of some kind when snorkeling from your kayak. Getting into the water, as well as getting back into a kayak from the water are both difficult tasks. This is especially true if you have a narrow and tippy kayak.

Having a quality PFD keeps you safe, and it also keeps you buoyant. This helps give you some extra left, as well as save energy when you are finding your way safely back on your boat. In case of a capsize situation, you can easily recover and fix the problem.

2. Ensure You Have A Safe Embark and Disembark Method

Before you venture out to a snorkel spot far from shore, make sure you have a tried and tested method of getting in and out of your boat. Knowing how your boat maneuvers and moves in the water is great, but it doesn’t mean you know how it handles when getting in and out of it. Test it out in shallow and tranquil waters before venturing out to make sure you have a safe way of getting in and out, even if there are some waves or a current.

3. Make Yourself Visible With A Flag Or Float

While your kayak might be visible to boaters, this does not mean they will put two and two together that there is a paddler snorkeling underwater. This is why paddling with a dive flag or surface marker buoy of some kind is smart. It is a clear visual indicator for any passing boats, which will keep you out of the risk of getting hit by a fast-moving vessel. If you are with a group or another paddler, this is also a great way to keep tabs on each other while still having the ability to maintain some independence.

4. Use A Reliable Anchor And Rope

When you leave your kayak to snorkel you need to have the ability to trust it will be in the same location when you return. Otherwise, you may be left with a long, and altogether impossible swim back to shore. Make sure your anchor has enough weight to hold a kayak of your size and weight, and also make sure the current is not too strong for it to stay in place. Inspect the rope make sure it is not frayed and ensure the knot is secure.

5. Don’t Venture Far From The Boat

You must stay close to your boat when snorkeling from your kayak. Currents can change quickly due to weather and tide, so you never want to be far from your vessel. This ensures you will always be able to safely get back to the boat, and never lose sight of it. One helpful method is to make a daisy-like pattern in the water and use your kayak as the center, doing small oval loops, always returning to the boat but always seeing a new area.

6. Bring A Buddy Along Whenever Possible

Kayaking is more fun when you have a buddy, and it is also safer. This is even more true when you are snorkeling from your kayak. Whenever possible, bring a buddy along. If you have a tandem kayak, find a friend to sit in the other seat. If you have paddling friends, try and convince one of them to come snorkeling with you.

7. Research And Map The Location In Advance

Lastly, make sure you are familiar with the area in which you are planning to paddle and snorkel. This means knowing the coordinates, currents, depths, bottom conditions, visibility, and any other important information that can affect the quality and safety of your excursion.

It is helpful to draw a map and have an advanced plan of attack, rather than “winging it.” This leaves far fewer variables or things up to chance. If you have a map and a plan, you can also give this information to a friend so they are aware of where you are going and when you should return.

10 Items To Pack When Planning A Snorkel Trip On Your Kayak

1. Reliable Snorkel Gear

If you plan on snorkeling from your kayak then you are going to need some reliable snorkel gear. Make sure you have the snorkel and mask assembled before you leave shore. The goal is you want to make the process of getting in and out of your snorkel gear as fast and seamless as possible.

Easy-to-adjust masks and fins are always great, but especially helpful when you are snorkeling from a kayak. Test the gear before bringing it out with you, since you won’t be able to switch anything out once you are out on the water.

2. Lots Of Water

You should always bring water on any paddling trip, short or long. But when you plan to kayak and also snorkel, water becomes even more important. Kayaking and snorkeling back to back is quite a workout and is likely to deplete you of the water in your body. Since you are swimming for a portion of this workout, you might not feel as sweaty or thirsty as you would normally, but it doesn't mean you don’t need water.

Bring more water than you normally would for a kayaking distance of this kind to ensure you don’t suffer any dehydration, or find yourself thirsty and far from land.

3. Sun Sunscreen and Sun Protection

If you snorkel in the middle of your kayaking trip then you are exposing yourself to even more sun than normal. When you snorkel you tend to stay submerged in water for at least thirty minutes at a time and often longer. This means even waterproof sunblock needs to be re-applied.

When snorkeling from a kayak, keep plenty of easy-to-apply sunscreen close at hand to prevent sunburn. This, on top of protective clothing and a sizable wide-brim hat, will help mitigate the extra sun exposure you are bound to encounter on a trip of this kind.

4. Underwater Camera

Bringing a GoPro or waterproof camera on a kayak trip often yields great footage. When you add a snorkeling adventure to a kayak trip, then an underwater or waterproof camera like a GoPro becomes essential. There are few occasions more perfectly suited for an underwater camera than a snorkel and paddling journey. Make sure you bring the appropriate accessories to ensure the device stays connected to you, or floats if you happen to drop it underwater.

5. Kayak Anchor And Ample Rope

Make sure you remember to bring your kayak anchor when you plan to snorkel from your paddling vessel. It is an essential piece of gear for this type of trip unless you are paddling to a nearby island and disembarking from shore. While crucial, it can be easy to forget your kayak anchor with so many other moving parts to think of.

6. Dry Bag

A dry bag is always a good thing to have on a kayak trip. It is a great way to keep things easily accessible but at the same time safe from water. This becomes even more important when you plan on jumping in and out of the water during a paddling trip. Having a dry bag while snorkeling ensures that no matter how wet things get on the boat, everything you need to be protected will stay dry.

Shop our picks for the best dry bags.

7. Plenty Of Snacks

Paddling and snorkeling both work up quite an appetite. Doing both of these physically demanding water activities back to back you are bound to be starving in a matter of hours. Bring non-perishable and protein-rich paddling snacks to make sure you have plenty of healthy nutrition to get through this epic workout and adventure.

8. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a good idea on any paddling excursion. When you snorkel from your kayak, the risk of requiring something from your first aid kit increases. Getting in and out of the boat, as well as interacting with the water and the bottom can cause accidental cuts and scrapes. These should be addressed immediately to prevent infection or any unnecessary loss of blood. Make sure you pack your paddler’s first aid kit with bandages and disinfectant, as well as other essentials.

9. A Quality PFD

As mentioned in the previous section, a PFD is essential whenever you paddle. But when you plan on leaving your boat, a PFD becomes even more essential. You might not want to snorkel with a PFD on, but you should always wear it when entering and exiting the water. Therefore, make sure it is a floatation device that is easy to put on and off when in and out of the water.

10. Clips And Bungees To Secure Your Gear

Lastly, when you take a kayak trip that involves a snorkeling element, you must have ample bungees and clips to secure your belongings. There is an increased risk of your boat tipping over slightly or even capsizing when you jump out of it and climb back in. Therefore, having your belongings secured to the boat becomes more important than ever.

Make sure your paddle is connected to a leash, your dry bag is secured with bungees, and that everything is either in a sealed compartment or securely connected to the boat.

Final Advice On Snorkeling From Your Kayak

Snorkeling from your kayak can be a magical experience. It allows you to be one with nature above and below the water, and you can reach some shallow secret spots that larger boats can’t get to. While snorkeling in a kayak can be epic, it also has some dangers.

Make sure you inspect all your gear, including your anchor, snorkel gear, and PFD before your trip. Secure all your belongings so nothing falls in, and remember to bring lots of water, sun protection, nutritious snacks, and bring a friend along if you can. Taking the appropriate safety precautions and bringing the right items along for the ride will ensure you have an amazing, stress-free, and safe time on this type of paddling trip.


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