Kayaking when You’re not a Swimmer- Here’s How to Do It!

It’s pretty obvious that swimming and kayaking kind of go together and no swimmer should ever think that kayaking isn’t dangerous in their situation. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it in a safe way (we may not understand why not learn how to swim first, but this is not our place to judge!)

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who, whatever the reasons, are afraid of water so learning how to swim is a no go for them. This doesn’t mean that that show no interest in the water sports. By all means, some may even find the courage to go kayaking with a friend, without having the guts to do it on their own.

This takes us to the most natural question: can people actually go kayaking when they don’t know how to swim? This may sound incredible to anyone, but you may absolutely try kayaking even if you don’t know how to swim. Nevertheless, you’re not going to be able do it unless you learn how to float yourself or lose that fear you get every time you touch the water.

Is it dangerous for one that cannot swim to kayak?

Truth be told, swimming isn’t a fundamental skill in kayaking. However, if you’re really afraid of water and you’re unable to float yourself in the water, it’s wiser that you don’t try kayaking in the first place.

Many experienced kayakers are going to tell you that it’s only a matter of time until your kayak is going to flip over. Even if this may not be entirely true, the risk for falling when kayaking is always there. You may very well be on a calm river (check the selection of kayaks for river here https://truthreels.com/best-fishing-kayak-reviews/for-river/), and still have a slight chance for capsizing.

If you don’t know how to float, chances are that you’re going to get more panic as the capsize is happening. Which is going to worsen the whole situation.

Can you kayak if you can’t swim?

The most important skill to achieve when it comes to kayaking is in fact getting familiar with water, and it’s barely about being a great swimmer.

As a matter of fact, kayak is an alternative to swimming. It’s a safe, effective and easy method to travel on a river/lake without getting yourself wet (this depends also on the model of kayak you’re choosing, though). Therefore, if you know how to roll your kayak without exit, you may not even need to swim anyway.

As long as you’re doing due diligence and work on some specific skills, you may very well become a kayaker without knowing how to swim. Scroll down for the useful tips!

So you’re a non-swimmer and soon-to-be kayaker- but how come?

Becoming a kayaker as a non-swimmer isn’t ideal, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Take a kayak lesson

Don’t feel bad about taking a kayak lesson; all kayakers should take a kayak lesson, no matter how great of a swimmer they may be. There are plenty of options out there and you shouldn’t pay more than $75 for a kayak lesson.

If you’re a non-swimmer, you should look for a lesson that is going to teach you how to do a Wet Exit. Once you’re mastering this very specific skill, swimming isn’t going to be an issue for your kayaking. If everything goes by the book, your coach should teach you and help you perform a wet exit until you get it right. It may not seem easy from the first trial, which is why you shouldn’t stop until you get it right.

You will soon find out that a kayak is actually able to float itself. Therefore, even if you’re not capable to float yourself in the water, your kayak work as a huge floatation device that you may always grab for staying safe. Quality of your kayak has nothing to do with it and you can even pay less than $500 for a kayak and still be able to flip it back https://truthreels.com/best-fishing-kayak-reviews/under-500/

If everything goes according to the plan, you should be capable to wet exit and get back in your kayak with some help from your coach in less than 1 minute. For this amount of time, it’s more than obvious that no swimming is actually required.

  • Buy a life vest or a PFD

One thing that any kayaker cannot do without is the PFD- personal flotation device (some call it a life jacket). You should never ever go kayaking without wearing the PFD the proper way, especially when you’re a non-swimmer.

The PFD is going to help you float and only few people cannot float without some sort of help. Most of them simply lack the experience of floating, but this can be practiced in the pool or a shallow water. As a matter of fact, most of us are capable to float for a good amount of time really easy while wearing the PFD.  Even if you’re a great swimmer, you should still wear the PFD as it’s going to help you get back in the kayak.

Here are some tips when selecting your PFD:

  • It has to be comfortable, so it’s not a good idea to buy it online (unless you tried it on in store first). Flexibility, cut and efficiency are various so you need to watch out for the lemons.
  • Try on the PFD! Take it by the shoulders, lifting it upwards until you feel the fabric jamming under your armpits. Turn your head right and left, simulating the performance in water. You should be able to see over your shoulder. If the V-neck of the vest is crunching against the chin, it’s best that you keep looking.
  • The buoyancy is fundamental and it’s the back floatation that counts the most. Stay away from a PFD that only has a skimpy or a skeleton foam back. the standard procedure is to float fast on your back, feet held high, using your feet and paddling to avoid rocks. Any foam on chest is useless.
  • The arm function counts a lot too. No need to try your PFD while kneeling or standing. You need to move your arms a lot in a padding motion. If the vest chafes under your armpits, don’t buy it as it’s going to be awful on the long run. The chafing part is a good sign when selecting and a deal breaker a lot of times!
  • Try to maintain your arms chest high, drawing them inward as far as you can. Is the vest bunching up in front, blocking your arm motion? If so, it’s best to look elsewhere as the flexibility of your PFD is also a selling point.
  • Some PFD are really trick to put on or to take off. Even if you wish for your PFD to stay on in case of an emergency, you still don’t want to spend half on hour trying to take it off/putting it on. A traditional, yet rugged and durable, front vertical zipper at the front may be the single thing your PFD needs.
  • Breathability is another feature not to skip when selecting your PFD, especially when you’re kayaking in the summer. You want your PFD to provide a snug fit as a loose-fitting is no good in the water. However, you need to find the right balance between comfort and safety. You want to be able to loosen the air flow on a hot summer day, but to tighten it back in no time if rough water is ahead. If your PFD is difficult to adjust, you’re going to wear it looser most of the time, which poses a high risk for your safety.
  • Don’t forget to get a bright color for the PFD so that it contrasts against the water. The faster you are seen, the higher the chances for being rescued in time.
  • You’re stronger than your fear

If you’re not a swimmer, it’s the fear inside of you that stops you from learning how to swim. Your PFD is going to help you float, but if you’re terrified by the water, you may get numb simply when you get in the water. Sure, a  standup kayak may work better for you (for the freedom feel it gives), but you may get in the water, sooner or later (here’s something to check if you’re looking for this type of boat
https://truthreels.com/best-fishing-kayak-reviews/stand-up/).

Not being afraid in the water counts the most if you’re determined to kayak without learning how to swim. You need to get used to that feel of falling into the water so that you don’t get scared later on. As it’s going to happen when you’re kayaking and you’re going to need to keep your calm so that you can find your way out. The PFD is going to keep you up and that you don’t really have a good reason for getting panic.

One last piece of advice

Being afraid of water is fine and you shouldn’t even think about kayaking if the mere thought of water gets you all scared.

The good news is that you may try kayaking even if you don’t know how to swim. However, you’re going to need to learn how to float yourself with any help from anyone. Once you learn that you can totally rely on yourself and your PFD, kayaking isn’t going to be mission impossible anymore.

RESOURCES

https://kayakingventure.com/kayaks-swim/

https://paddling.com/learn/how-to-pick-a-pfd/

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/personal-flotation-device.html