Water safety is critical to any successful fun-filled outing.

Always try out new skills or more challenging conditions in a class or with experienced paddlers to spot you. You must be prepared to help your paddling partners.

  • Be able to safely carry and load your kayak onto your car and tie it securely
  • Get in and out of your kayak without tipping over, from the shore and from a low dock
  • Fasten and release your spray skirt (Attaching a whiffle ball or carabineer to the loop will make it easier to find and grab)
  • “Wet Exit” your kayak after a capsize. (Although scary the first time, you will be amazed at how easy it is)
  • “Self Rescue” get back into your boat all by yourself
  • Control your boat using the basic strokes: forward, reverse and turning
  • Doing deep water assisted rescues
  • Rescuing a disabled paddler
  • Towing a disabled or tired paddler
  • High and Low braces to prevent capsizing
  • Sculling Strokes for support
  • Draw Strokes to move yourself laterally
  • Emergency Stop
  • Operating a Rudder or Skeg

Sea Kayaking Skills

  • Navigate using tide tables, nautical charts and a compass
  • Read channel markers and buoys
  • Follow nautical “rules of the road”
  • Properly use a marine VHF radio
  • Obtain marine weather forecasts and “read” the weather on the water.
With more experienced paddlers to spot you:

  • Practice paddling in following seas, currents & eddies
  • Practice in wind, turning in all directions
  • Practice in surf zones, including launching and landing

USE GOOD JUDGMENT ~ Know Yourself!

The “Go” or “No-Go” Decision:  The most important skill is to develop good judgment about when to paddle and when to stay on the beach.  You are responsible for your own safety. Do not put yourself or those who would have to rescue you at risk.

Compare your skills to the worst case scenario:  Can you and the rest of your group handle the conditions?


  • Weather looks good.
  • Everyone is healthy with all required equipment.


  • Someone feels sick.
  • You are late for the tide or daylight remaining.
  • You forgot your spray skirt.
  • The wind is picking up.
  • Thunderstorms or fog are moving in.
  • …Or any other unexpected adverse conditions.


Learn and use these emergency signals.

DISTRESS (EMERGENCY): Wave one blade of your paddle vertically, high overhead.

LOST YOUR PADDLE: Raise and lower both arms outstretched (same signal boaters use). Three long, loud whistle blasts is the universal distress signal, but in wind people may not hear a whistle.

I’M OKAY: Tap the top of your head with a hand, elbow bent (same signal divers use). Also two short blasts on your whistle (“toot, toot”).

SAFE ON SHORE: Let people know your kayak has not washed up without you! Use a cockpit cover or place your paddle securely and visibly across the cockpit or deck if you leave your kayak unattended.
Be sure you are above high tide or tie your kayak securely!  Put a sticker with your name, address, and phone in your kayak so you can be contacted if it’s found…this could save the Coast Guard a search and rescue.