5 Lifesaving Tips for Kayaks and Paddle Boards

Kayaks, paddle boards and other paddling vessels have become quite popular within the RV and camping communities. Its hard not to notice all of the brightly-colored kayaks, paddle boards, rafts and canoes adorning the tops of trucks and cars or secured on the backs of RV’s. Unfortunately though, most kayakers and paddlers aren’t aware of the safety measures that will keep them afloat instead of becoming a statistic.

In this blog, we’re providing a little Public Service Announcement about something we’ve dealt with, especially in the summer months, during our Coast Guard tours of duty. So, please don’t mind us as we don our preverbal blue uniforms to share some information that could potentially save your life on the water.

First, before we get on with our lifesaving tips, we’d like to discuss BOAT IDENTIFICATION…

According to Coast Guard sources, each report requiring a response of a Coast Guard Search and Rescue crew looking for the owner of the derelict vessel takes countless hours and over $110,000 per case.

Coast Guard “Billions” Wasted in Unmanned Kayak Reports

These are not trouble makers in the definition of ‘derelict’. However, lost kayaks and canoes are a huge headache for those who search hours and even days for potential missing persons simply because their kayaks were found washed up on a beach or floating upside down.

If you already own or when you get your kayak, we suggest you print your name and immediate contact info in permanent marking on and inside your vessel where it can be clearly identified. For reassurance, cover it in clear tape to help prevent it from rubbing off.

Doing that, your craft is identifiable in case of loss or theft. But more importantly, you’ve helped mitigate using Coast Guard and local authorities search and rescue assets and resources.

5 Lifesaving Tips for Kayaks, Paddle Boards, Rafts and Canoes…

Float Plan

Before stepping foot into kayaks or boats, we highly encourage paddlers and operators to leave a FLOAT PLAN. Regardless of size, if it has a motor or even if you’re going out for just a 20 minute jaunt, a float plan is a must.

A float plan is a sheet of information that identifies where your intended route and location will be. It will list your emergency contact as well as your own. This small bit of information will, in the event of a ‘real’ search and rescue situation, escalate search methods.

As Coasties, we’ve been on those cases where a Search and Rescue case has sadly turned into a Search and Recovery. Don’t let this happen to you and your family.


Be a Weather Watcher

We can’t stress this enough! PAY ATTENTION TO THE SKY! Before you head out to the water, check the day’s weather forecast and radar. If it looks like it may storm, it’s best just to wait it out or go another day. If you do go out, its imperative to know how to recognize and read the clouds, wind direction, currents and tidal variations. Remember, you may be paddling down current heading out and battle against the current coming back to your destination.

Be aware of your natural surroundings and always…ALWAYS RESPECT THE WATER AND WEATHER.

Check out our RV Tips for Weather Emergencies. Some of it will apply to these activities.

Wear your Personal Floatation Device (PFD)

“When you fall out of the boat, you’ll want to float”

ALWAYS wear your personal floatation device while boarding kayaks, paddle boards, canoes and rafts! We know its not the most stylish, however, being dead isn’t sexy either. Its not a matter of IF you’ll fall in but WHEN you’ll fall in. You’ll want to be prepared for that moment. Even if you’re the most skilled swimmer, wear it!

Dress for submersion!

Make certain when choosing your PFD, that a) it’s Coast Guard approved and b) it fits properly. Though they come in different colors, we personally recommend wearing one that is of a bright color for visibility purposes. Also, we recommend replacing your PFD every couple years as the sun degrades the fabric. Age and elements may affect it’s buoyancy.

Like kayaks, paddle boards, rafts or canoes, we suggest writing your name and phone number on your PFD for the same reason as labeling your watercraft.

Dress Accordingly

In addition to wearing your PFD, consider wearing a brimmed hat, wick-away long sleeve shirt and quick-dry pants.  If the water temperature is cooler, you may want to invest in a wetsuit.

In a waterproof sac, you can pack a light waterproof paddling or sailing jacket . Polarized glare-free sport sunglasses are a must to wear. Don’t forget your Croakies Floating Sunglass Strap so you don’t lose your sunglasses in the water.

Oh, and don’t forget your SPF 50 sunscreen as the sun’s glare is intensified on the water. And if you’re going to be kayaking or paddling through the bayous and shady inlets and coves, insect repellent might be a good idea to have as well.

Its a no-brainer that you’re going to be taking your phone, so a waterproof case with lanyard is a great idea!

Stay Hydrated and Know Your Limits!

Its summer and the water’s atmosphere breeds alcohol use. We’re not saying you can’t enjoy a few beers but not while you’re paddling. Alcohol consumption impairs thought, reasoning and ability to make sound judgements and decisions. Alcohol affects are actually magnified on the water because of sun and dehydration. Adding to that, consider this…BWI’s (boating while intoxicated) are an arrestable offense. You can be cited on the water for intoxication just the same as operating a motor vehicle.

Check out KayakGuru’s take on BWI’s

So, if you’re going to take something to drink, take your Camelback Eddy Water Bottle or Nalgene 48 ounce Solo Tritan Wide Mouth Bottle filled with water.  Save the brews and alcoholic beverages for when you get back home or to your RV.


On another note, its easy to forget or not recognize your physical capabilities and limits once you go out on the water. Be mindful of the distance that you’ve paddled away from your departure location. Pay attention to your time spent on the water. Sun, wind, and other elements can bring on fatigue.

Adding to all we’ve said above, learn and practice the Coast Guard Navigation Rules of the Road while paddling or operating your watercraft on the water. You need to know what to do when others are on the water with you, around you, and approaching or overtaking your watercraft. You are responsible for your own boat, safety and yourself.

So, that about wraps up our Paddlers’ Lifesaving Tips PSA. Enjoy yourselves out there but be mindful that the water, no matter if its the ocean, lake, river or even a pond can be unforgiving if you don’t practice safe procedures. Be a responsible and sensible paddler or boat operator.



MUST-READ DISCLAIMER: We are not spokespersons or or for the United States Coast Guard. However, we are sharing our knowledge and experiences we’ve dealt with during our previous tenures while conducting Lifesaving, Search and Rescue and Marine Law Enforcement. The information we provided in this blog are common sense and reminders. We highly  recommend, no matter how big or small your craft is, taking a boating safety class as well as swimming lessons. We also suggest acquainting yourself with each state’s maritime laws that you paddle in as well as the Coast Guard Navigation Rules of the Road.






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