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Is Kayaking Safe For Non-Swimmers?

Have you ever wondered:  is kayaking safe for non-swimmers?

Kayaking is a wonderful outdoor activity for you to enjoy nature up close, looking for peace and rejuvenating your mind and body.

This easy-to-learn sport offers a lot of experience and it is an effective form of exercise that helps to improve endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility.

Sometimes people compare canoe vs kayak. For non-swimmers and beginners, the kayak is easier to paddle but once you can control the kayak, you will have no trouble controlling the canoe.

Read on to learn more about:

  • Whether kayaking is suitable and safe for beginners or non-swimmers
  • Tips for non-swimmers when kayaking
  • What happens if your kayak flips over and how to flip it back 
  • The importance of a life jacket and how to choose a suitable life jacket for yourself


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Is Kayaking Safe For Beginners?

is kayaking safe for non swimmers

Like cycling, kayaking is a great sport for beginners and it is also a safe activity for those who are just starting out.

No matter where your kayaking spot is, you need to have a good basic skill set before heading off on an adventure.

If you have good balance, strength, and the ability to paddle without tiring too quickly, kayaking will be safe for you.

Kayaking is not recommended if you have any of these conditions:

1. Serious heart condition

2. Lower back problems

3. Overweight

4. Very tall

5. Have poor balance

The reason kayaking is not recommended for overweight people is because it changes the center of balance and they will be highly likely to flip while kayaking.

The same goes for very tall beginners – their center of gravity is higher than average people which will make them more likely to flip.

Besides that, ask yourself whether you are fit enough to kayak because kayaking requires good endurance and being able to properly paddle against the current.

If you are not in any of the unrecommended categories, then it is safe for you.

Is kayaking safe for kids? Is kayaking safe during pregnancy? The answer is yes, but these categories of people need to be under the supervision of others.

For all my pregnant mamas out there, please note that kayaking is only safe during the first trimester. In any event, you should always check with your doctor first before embarking on your kayaking adventures if you are pregnant!

The most important thing is to wear a suitable life jacket while kayaking.

Can You Kayak If You Can’t Swim?


People who can’t swim often refuse to join any water activity. If you’re one of these you have missed enjoying some of the most amazing experiences!

The only risk while kayaking is if the kayak tips over or a paddle winds up in the water but it will not happen because paddling for beginners is usually in calm waters.

You don’t have to be able to swim to enjoy kayaking. Many people who don’t know how to swim still enjoy kayaking as long as they ensure that they do not end up kayaking alone. It is always best to ensure that you kayak in a group or with others who know how to swim. 

Is Kayaking Safe For Non-Swimmers?

Kayaking for non-swimmers will be hard during their first time as they tend to overthink any worse-case scenarios. Then, it will not be too safe. That’s why you need to kayak in a group.

Eventually, you will get over it. You have to have courage and believe that nothing would happen if you follow the rules and instructions.

Here are some tips for non-swimmers who are keen to pursue kayaking:

is kayaking safe for non swimmers

Group Kayaking

Kayak with a group because you need someone nearby to assist you if you end up in the water. It is better if the group has someone who can swim and has experience in kayaking.

Go For A Short And Simple Trip

Kayaking further than the shoreline can increase your anxiety level so you need to avoid it. Make sure the location you choose has a predictable and calm water current.

Be Honest 

There is no shame in being unable to swim. You are not the only person who doesn’t know how to swim. To avoid any unfortunate circumstances, your paddling partner or kayaking group needs to know your swimming ability.

Take Kayaking Lessons

Take some kayaking lessons before you experience the real scenario. This is one way you can boost your confidence. You will practice in a controlled environment and under the watchful eyes of a good instructor.

Put on a life jacket

Best life jacket for non-swimmers

Use a life jacket and never take it off until you are safely standing on the dry side. Plus, you are legally required to have a PFD (personal floatation device) because kayaks are legally considered vessels by the US Coast Guard and local marine police. Don’t forget to double-check your safety gear before you start kayaking.

If you ask me, is kayaking safe for non-swimmers? Yes, if you wear a suitable life jacket. 

Do You Need To Be Fit For Kayaking?

Kayaking is a simple activity that doesn’t require you to walk or run. If you fall under this category, you might enjoy kayaking.

You also need to know that kayaking requires arm strength to paddle so if you are a first-timer, your hands and arms may ache for a few days.

The core is the most important part of your body to strengthen for sea kayaking. You need to be stable and have good posture to be able to control the kayak. So make sure you strengthen your core if you’re thinking of taking on kayaking as a serious and frequent activity!

Exercises such as planks are very helpful if you want to make some preparations before trying this activity. Start with 10 seconds per day and increase the duration gradually.

The more flexible you are, the easier you can control the kayak. 

Is A Kayak Easy To Flip?

is kayaking safe for non swimmers

Generally, kayaks are safe to use and they hardly tip over but there is always the risk of tipping. For beginners usually, they will do this activity somewhere with calm water. It is very rare for a kayak to flip on calm water unless you are not staying still in the kayak.

To make sure your kayak doesn’t flip, check on the type of kayak you will be using and the water type you are going to paddle in. Make sure it is suitable for beginners.

Recreational kayaks are beginner friendly because they are extremely hard to flip. Don’t worry too much if you are using this type of kayak.

Let’s say your kayak flips over, this is what you can do to get back on your kayak:

Step 1 

You need to flip back your kayak to the correct position. Position yourself at the side of your kayak, near to where your seat is. Grab the edge of the opposite side of your upside-down kayak with both of your hands.

Then, pull it towards you and use your knees to push the part of the kayak that is closest to you to help propel the kayak. The faster you complete this step, the lower the chance water will leak into the compartments or hull.

Step 2

Once your kayak is up the right way, look for the paddle. Make sure it is secure. Use one hand to grab one side of your kayak, let your legs come up to the surface, and pull yourself over the kayak until your abdomen is located over the seat.

Make sure you are stable inside the kayak before you go to the next step.

Step 3

Turn your body around so that your butt is on the seat and now you can put your legs back into the position.

Now, you can continue paddling your kayak again.

Can You Drown On A Kayak?

Life jackets use the principle of buoyancy to work. The amount of water displaced by an object is equal to its weight. When you are in the water, the buoyancy force exerted is equal to your weight. 

Having a life jacket alone will not save your life. You need to wear a life jacket that fits well, can protect you from injuries due to impact, and ensure maximum safety till you are saved.

There is always the possibility of drowning when you are doing water activities. It is the risk that you need to be aware of if you decide to do any on-the-water activities. Especially when you are paddling in deep waters by yourself and you have no swimming skills. 

It also doesn’t mean you should avoid these activities if you can’t swim. It can be an advantage if you know how to swim but it is far from being an essential requirement. Swimmers also have a risk of drowning while kayaking.

You can prevent drowning by using a correctly-fitted life vest, learning basic self-rescue, knowing how to cope with fear and regain control in a potentially life-threatening situation.

Can A Life Jacket Keep You Afloat?

A suitable quality life jacket for kayaking will keep you floating.

People always ask, “Is sea kayaking dangerous?” or “is kayaking dangerous in a lake?” As long as you are wearing safety equipment for kayaking, the answer will be no.

What Type Of Life Jacket Is The Best For Non-Swimmers?

Before you pick one, you need to understand the types of personal floatation devices (PFD) that are available. Look for PFDs that have been approved by the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

2 main things you have to consider when deciding on the best life jacket to buy:

1. The buoyancy

2. The type of activities you plan to do

Then, you need to find the right size for you. A well-fitted life jacket should feel snug. 

How To Know If It Is Not The Right Size For You?

It is too big if you cannot fasten it into a tight fit and it is too small if you cannot comfortably secure it.

Generally, there are 3 sizes of life jackets which are for children, youth and adults.

Although each manufacturer has different sizing standards, it will not be a major problem because the life jackets will have adjustable straps that you can adjust to get a secure fit.

Another way is you can measure your chest and compare it to the sizing recommendations provided by the manufacturer of the life jacket.

Other Things To Consider When Buying A Non-Swimmer Life Jacket

1. Material

This is an essential factor to consider. The most durable option is nylon. Another material you can consider is neoprene as it is comfortable and it increases buoyancy. 

Due to its high cost, manufacturers didn’t usually produce life jackets solely from this material or if there is any, the price would be higher than average. You can also opt for a mixture of neoprene and nylon.

2. Extra Features

Bells and whistles are the extra features of the life jackets you need to pay attention to. Other features include mouthpiece tubes for inflation and adjustable straps. It is good if you look for a life jacket with the features that meet your needs.

Choose a life jacket with a bright color or reflective tape to make you more visible from a distance.

3. Protection

Is kayaking safe for non-swimmers? Not if you don’t wear any protective equipment while doing this activity.

The weight capacity of the life jacket has to correspond with your weight. Other than that, consider the buoyancy rating of the life jacket to see whether it is suitable for the particular activity you will use it.

If you are still confused and don’t know which life jacket you should buy, I have a quick list for you.

Best life jacket for non-swimmers:

1. Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest

Best life jacket for non-swimmers

2. Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

Best life jacket for non-swimmers

3. OMOUBOI Inflatable Life Jacket For Non-Swimmer

Best life jacket for non-swimmers


Kayaking is not only good for your health. You also get to unwind yourself by enjoying the view depending on where your location is going to be.

If you were ever wondering to yourself “are kayaks safe?” you have the answer now. 

It is never too late to try new activities as long as you are brave enough to overcome your fear. Who knows – this might be the most suitable exercise for you.

Now, I would like to ask you, is kayaking safe for non-swimmers? With all that we’ve read so far, I very much reckon that it is! 🙂