Kayaking safety checklist

Kayaking safety checklist

Kayaking safety. Before you head off on your paddle, whether it’s a jolly flat water adventure or a white water thrill, you need to do your kayaking safety checks.

It’s not just about the state of your boat or paddle though, there’s a few more things to consider before you head out for some time on the water.

Take a look at our kayaking safety checklist, make a note of the list and think about the points before every paddle. It’s good to be prepared!

Kayaking Safety Checklist

  1. Have you checked your kayak for holes or damage? Every time you get on the water, you should do a quick check. Check for holes, deep scratches or general wear and tear and make any repairs to ensure your boat is watertight before heading out.
  2. Have you got your buoyancy aid or PFD? These should always be worn when kayaking. It might also be worth considering whether you need a helmet too, depending on the type of water you are paddling.
  3. Have you got all your paddling equipment? Boat, paddle, BA or PFD and helmet if you’re on moving water!
  4. Clothing… have you got the right clothes for the job? Find out more about the types of clothing you can wear when kayaking in our article Kayak clothing: what you need to wear on the water . In short have you packed your: cag, wetsuit/paddle top and shorts, wet boots, BA, helmet and spraydeck?

kayak safety checklist

Now we’ve dealt with the equipment aspect of the check, it’s worth also thinking about…

  1. Always take your mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. You should always have a way of calling for help! Keep it close by too. If you can’t reach it, it’s no use. Think about taking a charging pack with you too, just incase you run out of battery on longer paddles.
  2. Have you packed a mini repair kit? We don’t expect things to go wrong, but preparation will help ensure they don’t. Simply carrying some duct tape and a basic repair kit can be a lifesaver! Think about airbags and floats too. Has your boat got sufficient buoyancy?
  3. Have you packed your dry bag with the essentials for the paddle ahead? Drinking water, hot drinks, snacks, suncream, spare clothes, warm clothing, towel, hats/gloves. You need to be prepared to paddle in the warm summer weather. It’s worth also considering a small first aid kit with things like plasters, painkillers, bandages, rehydration sachets, antiseptic wipes and insect spray.
  4. Plan ahead for your trip. Know you’re planned route and check for any hazards before you head out. Have you got a map, trail map or some sort of navigation equipment if you need it? If you’re on a canal you can probably get away with it (although we always recommend having something!), but for trips on the sea, open water or rivers, it’s best to know exactly where you are and where you are going. Some sort of navigation equipment like a GPS or simple map and compass is a must-have! Also make sure you let somebody else know where you are going and when you expect to return.
  5. Check the weather, wind, tide and water levels before you head out. It’s always important to be prepared for the conditions you might face. On the sea you the weather can change as you leave the beach, especially when it comes to offshore winds.
  6. Know your limits. Don’t push the boundaries when you don’t have to. Paddle in areas you know and are suitably experienced for. If you want to push on further, why not take a few courses or join a club first to get the skills you need? Or find your local club to paddle with. Better safe than sorry!

From a hygiene perspective…

Unfortunately, the water your paddling on isn’t always as clean as it looks. Looks great in pictures, but perhaps not under a microscope! Just remember:

  1. Don’t drink from the water you’re paddling on. Always take water with you on the trip – remember you’ll need more in warm weather as you are exercising despite it being fun!
  2. Take a good bath or shower as soon as you can once you’ve been on the water 
  3. Cover any cuts properly before paddling – you don’t want the river or canal water getting into it
  4. Make sure you wash your hands properly, or use antibacterial spray before eating anything 


Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back, just incase they need to raise the alarm. And don’t forget your Paddle UK membership card if you’re on a licenced waterway!

Want to learn more about staying safe on the water? Take our free Go Paddling eLearning here!