Floating by yourself

For those of you that have been kayaking for awhile, how long was it before you kayaked alone? Were you on a lake or did you go down a river? Okay ladies, do you go kayaking by yourself or do you always have someone with you?

We started by taking a couple of sea kayak classes in which we practiced self-rescue. We knew we wanted sea kayaks, but couldn’t afford two at once. We bought one single kayak and took turns paddling(in appropriate conditions) until we decided on and could afford a second boat.

Maiden voyage

Is there a difference between paddling a yak by yourself, and going out in a canoe by yourself?

Why would you NOT go by yourself? I prefer to go by myself, as people generally bother me lol. That’s just me though.

Although safest to paddle with a
buddy, solo paddling can be a great escape and exploration. Please just be sure you can self-rescue or walk to shore, wear a well fitted life jacket, file a float plan, dress for the weather, wind, and water, carry a spare paddle & clothes, have water & snacks and a bit of first aid gear, some emergency signalling stuff (little compass, map, mirror, whistle, smoke/flare(s), and have good communications - cell phone in a waterproof pouch (be sure you have service). Most fit in a dry bag or two. Others may have more hints. Enjoy, R

Been paddling alone from the get go

– Last Updated: Apr-03-10 9:41 AM EST –

Occasionally rivers, but shuttles payable by one get expensive. Thats where groups are handy.

For that reason too I have had to be creative when arranging fly ins as the charges go both ways.

Been paddling alone(I dont know what floating is other than an inner tube) from Florida to Northern Ontario. Often do not see anyone for two weeks.

More to the story…
Kathy neglected to mention that she can’t swim. And that she doesn’t have a self-rescue.

Of course, the river we normally go kayaking on is narrow and not very deep, but it also has fairly long stretches where there is no good place to land due to the shore being heavily forested and/or steep (cliffs in some places) and if your boat gets away from you, there’s often no place to walk on the shore…

There is more to everyones story
and I think the place to start with is instruction.

I forgot to say that when I first soloed I was taking twice a week kayaking classes.

I did not start soloing by crossing Long Island Sound…merely by staying along the shore for several miles.

Accurate risk management is the first priority in any solo outing. It does not matter if its the first or the last. And this is a discussion best had with yourself and not listening to others explots.

I’m going to say this as nicely as possible. Kathy, please learn to swim!!! If you can learn to paddle a boat…you can learn to swim. There is no such thing as an avid paddler that hasn’t tipped over at least once. Even if someone is there, and even if you have a pfd, when you tip you’re in danger and plenty of people drown even with company around and while wearing a pfd every year. Please dont be one of them. All public pools and most gyms with a pool offer swimming lessons. Take the time to learn to swim, you’ll be glad you did…and will probably feel empowered doing so. Put away your kayak until you can swim, none of us want to read about you drowning on here.

kayaking alone
When I first started paddling, I would paddle alone anywhere I would swim alone.

Someone else noted that you can’t swim, so then it would be where you would get in the water alone… sorta limiting if you can’t swim.

I think if you can not swim and you ended up in the water inadvertently, you may panic and it could present challenges to you to re-enter your kayak and then continue paddling. Why don’t you take a swimming lesson so that you can progress in your paddling?


80% of the time I solo kayak on our rivers and lakes in N. California. Not completely solo as my Border Collie is my paddle partner and rides in back on my Tarpon 160. Both of us wear a PDF! Might add that in the winter/spring months when water is cold, I almost always paddle with a friend(s) as cold water can be deadly. But for warm weather, nothing beats a 2-3 day paddle trip, dog on board, quiet, peaceful, snapping photos, camping under the stars…almost a religious experience when in the mountains and star gazing.

Never paddled with another
All of my trips have been solo. No wait. One time my wife went with me, but she was in the inflatable tahiti and didn’t enjoy it much.

Another couple of weeks and I will be taking all four kids and my wife on short trips around our small bay though.

We will be getting out a lot more often in the next few months too.

paddling alone – it’s about judgment
I do most of my paddling alone on an inland lake in North Carolina – though I wish I lived about 150 miles closer to the saltmarshes and blackwater streams that I love. My lake is pretty benign; your river may not be. But there might be other, safer places for you to paddle alone. (I started out on a small reservoir.)

There was a guy in a class I took who couldn’t swim. Didn’t seem to bother him too much. So I think that you could paddle alone too if you really, really practiced being in the water wearing flotation – so that you DON’T panic if you’re ever out of your boat. You’d need to get comfortable. Ideally, you could just float and paddle yourself to shore if you ever had to.

The thing I try to think about is the margin of safety – keeping it high, reducing risk as much as I can.

Winter paddles to check on an eagle’s nest are the riskiest ones for me. I dress for cold water, take an entire change of clothes in a drybag, carry a cell phone and stay near shore. I figure that if I capsize I have at least 3 options: and roll or swim to shore are preferred. I just try not to be stupid.

Like some other people who replied to your post, I love paddling alone, being in nature, and emptying my head of every thought except what I’m seeing around me.

Ginger in NC

Kayakmedic – trip reports?
Kayakmedic, I do like the sound of your postings about long trips. Do you write up your trips the way JackL does?

G in NC

paddling solo
started solo from the get, still do it majority of the time. I like lakes, all sizes.

Took lessons very quickly into it & still take a bunch and paddle all over the state.

Skills/Technique bores some people. To me it’s a game between me & myself. But it also has very real repercussions when and where I paddle, solo or not. It informs my judgement how I handle myself solo or how I contribute to group safety.

I like to swim, learned as a kid. Seems natural to do water sports…Why would someone NOT want to learn?

OP by being a nonswimmer and unskilled in rescues you may already be paddling past your limits and on a safety margin that is thin to nonexistent. Going solo strips away more of the safety cushion, and from what Jeff posted you don’t have the skills to make up for that.

Most of the time you’ll arrive OK and none of this will seem relevant.

It’s that one time that you can’t foresee. Even on the tamest river or calmest pond things will happen - weather changes, equipment fails, people get hurt or sick, or separated. What have you got in reserve for coping w. that?

Answer that truthfully & you’ll be able to make the best decision for yourself. Best to you.

Deborah in Michigan

Still pond on a moonlit night:: Heaven!
I’ve been kayaking solo for many years—ponds, lakes, sheltered ocean harbors, flat rivers, day, night, March through December. I’ve been in conditions that made me nervous a few times, but have never had a mishap on the water (ok, just one: 20 feet from shore, caused by a dog). I love solo kayaking. Keys to safe solo kayaking:

– Know your ability and don’t exceed it.

– Carry safety equipment and know how to use it

– Don’t take chances

– Know your route

– Leave extra time in case you get lost

– Carry an emergency kit containing food, clothing, shelter, and fire on day trips to remote areas. See backpacker’s list of “Ten Essentials.”

– Make sure your kayak can handle the conditions

– Don’t take chances in cold water.

– Learn about wilderness survival

There are calm, warm days when it would be hard to get in trouble on a small pond. Start small and build your confidence.

Common sense…

– Last Updated: Apr-03-10 7:03 PM EST –

A beginner, just getting into kayaking (from her profile), has no self rescue skills, and can't swim(according to a significant other?).

Asking strangers if they solo; because (in all liklihood), she is interested in soloing, and is seeking support, OR " the answer she wants to hear".
I'm betting significant other doesn't think she should be soloing.

Many of the strangers tell her what "they do", but don't really address the central issue.
The lady can't swim!

Obvious(I've heard all of them) rationalization; "Lots of people who paddle can't swim; they are ok if they wear their pfd".

My "personal opinion": Learn to swim before considering soloing, and paddle with a partner until you can swim; even if you always wear a pfd.
Preferably a partner who knows CPR.

On a wide, moving water river, or in the middle of a lake, you are not going to "float" to shore.

You will also not "float" out of harm's way if you are on a moving water river & you capsize "upstream" of a strainer.

You will not float to shore if you capsize, and injure yourself in deep water.

If the water is cold; how long do you have before you start experiencing hypothermia? How long will it take you to "float" to shore.

If your dump bag is in your boat when you capsize, will you need it's contents? Can you get to it if the boat is drifting downstream, or will the boat wait on you to float to it?
How long will it take you to "float" to your boat, retreive your dump bag & then "float" to shore?

If someone who is paddling with you capsizes & injures themselves in deep water, will your lack of swimming skills be a positive or negative factor?

You happen upon a "stranger" who is in the middle of a lake or a river, and needs your assistance.
Will your help them?
Will your lack of swimming skills be a positive or negative factor?

Substitute stranger for a loved one.

I could be wrong..........
Ex Lifeguard Instructor
Ex Water Safey Instructor
Ex Canoeing Instructor
Ex Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor

Mnay times

– Last Updated: Apr-03-10 6:34 PM EST –

flatwater and whitewater, canoes and kayaks.

On whitewater, on rivers up to Class III, easy Class IV. Sometimes I was alone in the sense that I had no paddling companions, but was on a popular river with other boaters and/or rafters who may or may not have been able and willing to offer assistance in case of a mishap.

Other times I was truely alone, the only person paddling the creek or river. I had many, many swims and self rescues but never lost a boat, and haven't been killed yet.

I usually took a bicycle for a shuttle if I didn't expect to be able to hitch a ride.

Dumbest was paddling moderately steep creeks in spring flood by my lonesome. Not generally recommended.

I never learned to swim when I was a kid. I developed quite a fear of water, and in spite of taking swimming lessons a few times, never made real progress. I discovered an easy opportunity to learn to swim as a young adult, and by that point, I was sensible enough to give it my best shot in spite of my uneasiness around water. This was before I became such an avid paddler, but I did spend a lot of time in small boats, and figured learning to swim only made sense.

It was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, and for the next several years I truly ENJOYED improving my swimming skills (actually, I still do, but I don’t improve as rapidly anymore). Not even considering the safety aspect, falling out of your boat, or even running the risk of falling out, is a whole different experience if you are comfortable in the water than if you are not.

ignorant question
since I know how to swim I have no idea what it feels otherwise but I’m thinking that if I wear a PFD I do not really need to know how to swim because I’m being held up by the pfd. After that realization it’s just moving your hands and feet to move along isn’t it?