Kayak enthusiasts love paddling for many reasons: it provides a great upper-body workout, it relieves stress, and it is accessible for nearly everyone. Still, some question the safety of the sport. Is kayaking really safe?
The answer is a resounding yes, so long as paddlers are aware of and abide by the boating rules in their area. Pennsylvania has several simple safety rules that kayakers must follow while in the state’s waterways. Arguably the most important regulations involve the use of life jackets – or personal flotation devices (PFDs).
Personal Floatation Devices
The easiest and best way to make kayaking safe is to wear a PFD whenever you launch. Some paddlers feel safe simply having PFDs at the ready, but PFDs are difficult to put on if you capsize. Upended kayakers have their hands busy with their boat and paddle. If they are in rough water, the situation could quickly become dangerous.
According to the Boat U.S. Foundation, a PFD is the “single most important piece of equipment on your boat, and the most important consideration should be size.” In fact, more than two-thirds of all boating fatalities are drowning incidents and 90% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.
You will want your PFD to fit snugly, but comfortably to offer the best protection. Come see the staff at Performance Kayak to try on and select the best PFD for your use. There are many kinds of PFDs available, whether you need one for recreational kayaking, fishing, sea kayaking, or whitewater kayaking.
PA Fish & Boat Commission law maintains that each person in a kayak must have a personal floatation device (PFD) at the ready, and any boater age 12 or under must wear the PFD at all times while in the water. In the months of November through April, every paddler must be wearing a PFD at all times while boating. Again, remember that wearing a PFD at all times is the best way to protect yourself and prevent any difficulties from becoming dangerous. Accidents may happen at any time during the year.
In addition to wearing PFDs, Pennsylvania law also requires early-morning or late-evening paddlers to have a hand-held light onboard. The light may be used to signal other boaters and to avoid collision. In addition, boaters must carry a whistle or other sound-producing device in case they need to signal others for help.
In addition, it is important to be focused and present while on the water. No one should paddle while under the influence of any substances. Alcohol is prohibited in all PA State Parks or on PFBC property while operating a kayak.
If you are new to kayaking, consider taking an introductory class to learn about paddling technique and safety. Performance Kayak staff offer one-to-one and group paddling classes, tours, and other introductory events throughout the year. These events offer a great opportunity to learn about the sport and to meet others who share your interest in paddling.
Kayaking offers many rewards, but the responsibility of being safe lies in the hands of the paddler. Wearing PFDs, educating yourself as a boater, and following state laws will help ensure that each launch is a safe one.