Kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding make for some thrilling adventures, exploring many different environments like rivers, lakes, beaches and the coastline. Prioritising safety comes first, and with the right approach, you’ll have an enjoyable experience on the water.
Here are the five key steps to stay paddle safe:

  • Always wear a buoyancy aid or personal floatation device (PFD)
  • Carry a mobile phone
  • Check the weather
  • Tell someone where you’re going
  • Know your limits

Always wear a buoyancy aid or PFD

No matter what type of kayak, canoe, paddleboard or type of water, you should always wear a buoyancy aid. They are designed to assist buoyancy in the water, keeping you afloat and supporting you if you fall in. They also have the benefit of keeping you warm.

Choose a well-fitting and visible buoyancy aid
Check out our How to choose a PFD guide here.

Carry a mobile phone

Having a way to communicate with your friends, family and the emergency services when you are out paddling is essential. Keeping the phone on you and not on your craft so you cannot be separated from your means of calling for help. Modern phones are generally waterproof, but we recommend putting your phone in a waterproof pouch or case that you can secure in a pocket or around your neck.

If you need help, call 999, and ask for:

  • Fire and rescue service when inland
  • Coastguard when on tidal water

Check the weather

Weather can be unpredictable. Check the weather forecast for where you are planning to paddle and understand the effect it may have on your journey (river levels, tide times, wind direction). 

Wind, rain and also generally being wet can affect your body temperature, so understand the conditions you might face and wear the appropriate clothing – having a jacket on hand is a good idea. 

Avoid dangerous weather conditions, such as thunder, lightning, or flooding, and be prepared to change your plans to stay safe. Offshore winds in particular can be very dangerous and should be avoided.

Useful weather apps – Met Office, Windy app, My tide times, River app
Check out our Awesome apps for paddlers blog post here.

Tell someone where you’re going

Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Ask them to call for help if you are not back when expected.

Some useful paddlers tracking and location apps are:

  • PaddleLogger / RYA Safetrix
  • What3Words
  • OS Locate

Know your limits

It’s easy to get into difficulty and sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop; or even when not to start in the first place. Recognise your and your paddling buddies’ ability and expertise. Make smart decisions on the day that everyone agrees with.

Think about where you paddle and make sure you know how the location can change in different conditions. Never paddle alone, always paddle with others.

Build up your skills beforehand and gain confidence – try a course.