Is Kayaking Safe for Non Swimmers

Are you afraid of the water, but still want to get out and explore? Are you a thrill seeker who wants to try something different? Maybe you are just someone who enjoys being around nature. No matter your reasons for wanting to kayak, it is important that you know what precautions need to be taken before getting on the water.

That said, you may wonder if it safe to kayak if you cannot swim. Well, you do not need to be an experienced swimmer to kayak, but you will need to take certain precautions. With a little bit of research and preparation, even non-swimmers can enjoy the thrill of kayaking.

In this article, you will learn different aspects of going kayaking when you can’t swim such as safety precautions, accessories and tips to help you through.

Keep reading for deeper insight.

Can You Go Kayaking If You Cannot Swim?

As already said, yes, you can go kayaking even if you do not know how to swim. However, there are a few factors that need to be taken into consideration before going out on the water: your comfort level and your ability to follow safety precautions.

For example, if you plan to kayak in calm waters then it probably would not be an issue but if you plan to kayak in an area with waves and currents such as the ocean, then it might not be for you.

Another factor to consider is what type of kayak will work best for you? Yes, size does matter when deciding which one will fit your needs so take the time needed to find the right one for your situation.

On the other hand, you might get more of a thrill out of kayaking by going on a white water river. If this is the case, make sure you take all safety precautions and wear any recommended accessories before getting in the water.

Can You Learn To Swim While Kayaking?

This is a great question for non-swimmers feeling a little nervous about getting into the kayak yet they do not know how to swim. The answer is yes, you can learn how to better your swimming while kayaking.

You do not have to be an experienced swimmer or even be able to tread water when trying it but with some basic paddling skills and practicing techniques such as breath control and kicking, you can increase your comfort level.

If you are already an experienced swimmer, then kayaking will definitely help you improve your stroke and overall water safety.

Kayaking does not need to be scary for non-swimmers, even if it is your first time on the water. As mentioned above, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare yourself beforehand, so that once you hit the water all will go well.

For example, take lessons with a certified instructor or take part in some practice sessions ahead of time (always under staff supervision) to learn how to use the equipment properly like paddles and life jackets.

Will a Life Jacket Help?

Being out on the water in a kayak is much safer when wearing a life jacket. Whether you are a good swimmer or not, it is safe to say that you should always wear one for protection.

Regardless of your ability, if caught in an unexpected situation such as a strong wave tipping over your kayak, the last thing you would want to do is try to swim for safety.

A life jacket will help give you some added buoyancy so that you can stay afloat until someone rescues you from the water. In addition, it will also prevent any added injury from occurring due to hitting rocks, trees or anything else the surface of the water may have under it.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all life jackets are alike so it is important to get the right one for your body type and size. Also, make sure you know how to put one on properly so it is comfortable enough while out on the water.

Ideal Life Jackets Non-Swimmers

There are two different types of life jackets recommended for non-swimmer kayakers: U.S Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) and inflatable PFDs.

U.S Coast Guard Approved PFD
Inflatable PFD

A standard type will save you from drowning but an inflatable one provides more safety features such as a fitted neckline and multiple grab handles which will be easier to find and hold onto if you are ever in the water.

Are There Chances Of Kayaks Tipping Over?

If given the right amount of force such as hitting submerged rocks or other objects then yes, kayaks can easily tip over. With that said, always try to avoid going where there could be debris on the surface.

Even if you are a good swimmer, it does not take much time out of your day for this type of accident to happen. Keep your eyes open and make sure you do not run into anything once getting into the water even with a life jacket.

Can You Fall off a Kayak

Yes, just like how it is possible to fall off a boat, it is also possible to fall off a kayak. So even if you are wearing your inflatable PFD or other protective gear make sure you continue to be careful while exploring the water.

Can You Get Back into a Kayak if you fall? This is a common concern among non-swimmers that want to go kayaking but are worried with what could happen in an unexpected situation. While it is harder to get back into a kayak that has tipped over, it is not impossible.

With the right balance and coordination, you can pull yourself up onto top of your kayak without hurting yourself too much in the process. The key here is making sure you have something sturdy enough on which to hold onto and that you have enough upper body strength to pull yourself up without hurting your arms and legs . Do not try to take the risk of balancing on top of a kayak if it has turned over. Instead, wait for someone to rescue you from the water instead of trying to climb back into something that can easily tip over again.

Rescue Services

Ideally, the best way to be rescued is by having at least 2 other people around who can help each other out in times of need such as tipping over or getting lost out on the water. So make sure before going kayaking with others whether non swimmers or not you all go over safety protocols and what to do in case of an emergency.

It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to kayaking for non-swimmers. In addition, if you do not have any others around make sure you wear your inflatable PFD the entire time and avoid going where there could be debris on the surface.

No matter what your level of swimming ability is it is encouraged that everyone have a life jacket or personal flotation device on while out on the water in order to stay as safe as possible.

Know how to put one on properly each time before heading out just in case something happens unexpectedly so you are prepared physically and mentally.

Just being aware of your surroundings can help keep yourself more secure which will also give peace of mind knowing that help can be called if there is an emergency.

Safety Tips for Non-Swimmer Kayakers

  • Wear a life jacket: a standard type will save you from drowning but an inflatable one provides more safety features such as a fitted neckline and multiple grab handles which will be easier to find and hold onto if you are ever in the water.
  • Make sure you have strength to pull yourself up onto kayak if it capsizes.
  • Avoid areas with debris on surface of water.
  • Wait for rescue instead of trying to climb onto kayak after it has capsized.
  • Know your location so you can guide rescuers to you.
  • Have at least 2 other people around who can help each other out if something goes wrong.
  • Stick to calm waters and avoid choppy waters.
  • Don’t go kayaking at night unless you have someone else to accompany you.
  • Avoid going into shallow waters where your kayak will get stuck on ground below water if it tips over.
  • Go to an area with no electrical wires or swimmers nearby or near shorelines so you have something to hold onto if you tip over

Can Kayaking Help You Learn How To Swim?

Kayaking itself does not teach someone to swim but it does work out a lot to the same muscles that you would use if you were to take a swim class or practice your swimming. However, it will help with general upper body strength and balance which certainly can’t hurt when it comes to learning how to swim better


It is safe to say that kayaking itself is not dangerous for non-swimmers as long as you are in a proper location and wearing your inflatable PFD. Thus, even if you cannot swim, you can still kayak as long as you know how to kayak and are able to follow all the safety measures given.

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