Kayak Safety Article

by PennPaddler

Title: Kayak Safety
Author: Ryan Calkins

Article:
When you are out on the river, you need to be careful for your own good. Being safe is a very important part of any sport, kayaking is no exception. Take some things into consideration before you set out for your next trip.

Equipment – It is so important to be safe when you are on the river. Safety starts with the equipment you bring with you. A life jacket and a helmet go hand in hand when you are paddling on whitewater. You can’t have only one of them. If you only have your helmet, or only have your life jacket, don’t even get in the water. You must have them both. Clothing is another thing that is important. Make sure you bring the proper clothing, check the weather forecasts for temperature and other things. Bring more clothing than you think necessary. On the river you can go into hypothermia even if the air temperature is 60 degrees. We’ll talk about dealing with hypothermia and hyperthermia a little farther down this page. Invest in a wetsuit or drysuit if you need to. Also make sure to pack a water tight first-aid kit.

Conduct – On the river there are certain things you should and should not do. One thing you should never do is paddle alone. Always bring someone with you when you go to the river, even if they are just going to wait at the put-out point to make sure you’re safe. Another thing to never combine with paddling is alcohol. Don’t drink before or during kayaking. You need to be on your toes when you are in whitewater. Set up camp after a day of great river runs, and have your drinks there next to a nice fire. Also take some time to scout your runs, and take into consideration that the river is more agressive under the surface.

If you get wet – Sometimes you are going to fall in the drink and have to bail out, it’s ok, just do a few things to keep yourself safe. First of all, don’t panic, then try to hold on to your kayak and your paddle, as long as it doesn’t hinder your safety. Hold your kayak perpendicular to the flow of the river (point the bow and stern of the kayak at the river banks). Second, keep your head as high out of the water as you can to see anything coming your way in the river. Third, point your feet down stream so if you hit anything, you’re feet will hit first and you can push yourself away from obstacles. Then begin moving towards the nearest bank, when you get there don’t stand up until you are in water that is no higher than your knees. Watch your step on slippery, unstable ground.

Hypothermia – Hypothermia is reduction of temperature in the body’s core. This can happen when you are kayaking. The cold water can draw the heat out of you body, this is called conduction. Some signs of hypothermia include blue lips, uncontrollable shivering, fatigue, irritability, and lack of coordination. Here’s how to handle it: Get off the river, put on layers of dry clothes, move your large muscles to warm them up, injest warm beverages. What not to do: don’t get in a sleeping bag with another person to warm up. When blood pools in the muscles during extreme hypothermia it becomes acidic. If you warm your blood too fast, the blood could still be acidic when it returns to the heart, and cause cardiac problems. So warm up slowly.

Hyperthermia – The opposite of hypothermia is hyperthermia. This is when the body overheats which is also possible during kayaking. Some signs of hyperthermia are: excessive sweating, fatigue, pale skin, nausea, weakness, and confusion. How to deal with it: get to shade, rest, fan the subject somehow, cover in wet clothing, injest water (no ice) with a very small amount of salt if available. Drink moderately, don’t injest it all at once. If still feeling bad, seek professional help quickly, it could be heat stroke. During heat stroke the heart accelerates as the body temperature passes 104 degrees. This is not good. Get somewhere quick where there is professional help.

About the author: Ryan Calkins is creator and owner of http://www.kayakforlife.com

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