Kayak Safely on Busy Waterways [Video]

kayaking a busy waterway
(photo courtesy of Tomasz Furmanek)

“Paddling on busy waterways is like swimming in shark-infested waters. You’re immediately in the food chain at the bottom!” says Ken Whiting, host of of this PaddleTales episode.

Kayakers are smaller, slower and hard to see. Because of that, it’s important that we, as kayakers, not expect the bigger boats to accommodate us.

Watch the video below to learn how to kayak safely on busy waterways:

Know Where the Deeper Channels Are

The bigger, faster motorboats stick to the deeper channels on the water. These channels are marked by red and green buoys, and those colors mean something.

Remember: “Red, right, returning.” That means when you’re returning, the red buoys should be on your right hand side when you’re in the main channel. The green buoys will be on your left.

The reason paddlers should know that rule? So we know how to avoid the channels where the bigger boats will be!

Stick Close to Shore When Possible

The closer you stick to the shoreline, the less likely bigger boats will cross paths with you. It’s easy for kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards to use shallower water and it’s a good way to stay out of the way of bigger boats.

kayak group

Keep your group together when crossing busy channels

When You Cross Channels or Big Water

When you must cross a channel or big water where there’s bigger and faster boat traffic:

  • Cross as quickly as you can…
  • Cross perpendicular, if you can—the shortest distance across…
  • If you’re in a group, stick close together so you’re one unit. Don’t make a long string of small, slow boats that other boaters have to navigate around.

How to Deal with Boat Wake

Motorized boats can kick up a pretty decent wake that paddlers need to know how to deal with.

Ideally, you’ll hit the boat wake) at a 90º angle, which is how you’ll stay the most stable. If you’re on a SUP board you might consider dropping to your knees to get through the wake, especially if you’re a beginner.

kayaking across boat wake

Steer into boat wake at a 90º angle for the best stability

Be Easily Seen by Other Boaters

High visibility is important for kayakers, even on bright sunny days with great weather conditions. Wear bright colors, have a bright PFD, use a brightly-colored kayak, use a high-visibility paddle—all are ways to be easily seen by others.

Consider a PFD that has reflective material integrated into it (many paddling PFDs do) if you paddle at dusk or dawn. Or buy a roll of reflective tape and add some strips yourself.

Yak Attack sells their VISIPole made for kayaks with an orange visibility flag and a top-mounted light.

SUPer on the water

This is NOT being highly-visible to other boaters!

You can’t really be too bright for other boaters. They’re not necessarily looking for kayakers out there, so you want to be conspicuous.

Be seen, be safe and have fun out on the water!

We want to help you find the paddle that’s right for you! Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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