Solo Kayaking Advice?


So with nicer weather approaching, I’ve been really excited to get out on the water but I have a small problem and I was hoping to get some seasoned advice. I don’t have anyone to kayak with. My husband and I both have kayaks but due to our jobs we work nearly completely opposite shifts. I work weekends, he works week days so while I’m up and ready to go out on a Monday, he’s working. I know I can’t really ask for destinations local to me but does anyone have any advice on safely kayaking alone, especially as a lady?

I have a waterproof phone case with floatation devices on it and always let people know where I’m going, and when I’m leaving, and always wear a lifevest the entire trip when I’m alone. Because I can’t get someone to pick me up or drop me off, I feel limited to lakes which I don’t mind but I feel much safer on rivers. I’d say I’m an intermediate kayak-er. There is a river nearby that I can paddle upstream and come back down near me but otherwise, am I limited to lakes? Thanks!!

Curious the responses you get. I posted this question two years ago and got excellent feedback about solo ocean paddling:

I took a lot of classes, have great rescue skills I practice regularly, have appropriate gear, and yet I still find myself not out very much because like you, I have an unusual schedule that leaves me either paddling alone or not at all. I’m not really afraid of paddling alone so much as I feel I don’t have the kayak community’s “blessing”. At all our kayak club meetings, they always stress the importance of having someone with you, including some lectures from the Body, Boat, Blade folks who I definitely respect. Most of the meet ups are on weekends when I work so I cant attend.

I want to get out more often. Essentially I just want to hear from other people that do it too.

Solo paddling
I do most of my paddling solo, actually prefer it that way. I’ve come across many women that paddle solo and common courtesy has always prevailed.

If you’re comfortable with your ability, don’t let fear get in your way. Chances are you’ll meet nice people like me.

Get Into Racing
For then there will usually be racers who might share your schedule? I suggest this to increase the probability of hooking up with paddlers. However, be warned that race training is boring and the sessions don’t usually last more than an hour and a half. But by hooking up with racers, your paddling skills will improve to such an extent that you will have gained a lot of confidence to paddle on your own and by yourself. My feelings on this is that paddling by yourself is much safer than driving to the put in by yourself. The roads are more dangerous than any river, lake or ocean.

Very encouraging
I remembered from posting on here that there were many people that paddle solo, but in person nobody has admitted it to me. Maybe it’s a dirty secret lol?

It hasn’t entirely been fear or lack of partners keeping me home for the last few months, but more 50+mph gusts. Been staying fresh in the pool though. Glad spring is here and weather should hopefully improve soon!

Solo paddler
Since I am retired and my husband is not, I do much of paddling solo. I don’t take any risks and am very judicious about weather and location. It sounds like you have a good handle on what you need to do.

I do most of my solo paddling on lakes. There’s a bunch of us retired folks who get together to do the river so we can set up a shuttle. You don’t say how old you are, but maybe you could find a group?

Solo, yes!
Not an ocean paddling gal, but I do paddle Lake Michigan and our larger inland lakes in Northern Michigan - as well as the inland lake I live on. Did about 500 miles last summer, all of it solo except for maybe 30 miles when I paddled in local coastal relay segments with a few other people. Most of the time I’ll use Google maps to plan my trips and the mileage I want to paddle. I don’t do big crossings solo.

Like Sonny, I have taken classes, learned self rescue and practice it. Plan to continue classes this summer so I can improve my weak points and learn new skills. I carry safety gear, including a spare paddle, pump, paddle float, and of course always wear a PFD. I wear my PFD even at pool practice with a lifeguard present and five other kayakers in the pool. It’s non-negotiable gear.

I always text my float plan to a relative and let them know when I’m off the water, check (and double check) weather, and carry a cell phone in a waterproof bag. The USCG has a nifty app that I keep open on my phone. I can also get water temp and wave height from that app. Also use the pro version of Windfinder.

There are no kayak clubs in my area, so I don’t hear lectures about the dangers of paddling solo (except once in a while here on I ignore such advice anyway. I’m independent in nature and love the freedom of being on my own schedule, going where I want to go, and at the pace I choose.

Joined two meetups. One has yet to schedule an event and the other does only very slow rivers midweek, when I’m at work.

I’ve never paddled a river - except once during a boat demo and that doesn’t really count.

My only advice would be to enjoy every moment you can get on the water. You can paddle solo safely provided you have good self rescue skills. If you don’t have them, you could take a class then practice close to shore.

I’m unsure what you meant about paddling safely alone because you’re a lady. If you think you’re lacking in strength for boat handling, you can always start weight training with resistance bands.

I’ve had some extraordinary joyful moments while paddling. All very personal moments which I don’t think would have happened had I not been alone.

I know I’m not the OP
…but I find your post very encouraging :slight_smile: Thanks for the advice about that app. I just downloaded it to my phone - looks great!

Can’t wait for the weather to break so I can get out there.

Very careful on the drive …to and from…that is the most dangerous part :} and enjoy

Best Wishes


Being Irish American
Murphy’s Law follows me. I am a pessimist also in certain things. If I waited to paddle with someone all the time I would have about 10% of the time out as I do. I’ve been kayaking about 8 years boating many more since 14 now 63. I can’t stand appointments so scheduling paddle events is hard and a PITA at times. Solo I go when I want to for as long as I want to and as fast as I want to. Had a good guy I met who moved away and we were kind of matched and competitive. I go with my wife but only later May to Sept she does’t like the cold or dry suit thing. I go all year as long as the water won’t freeze on the kayak. When warmer I go out at night I like to leave before dark and could be out till 4 am.

I listen too the weather on VHF before and as I go.

I have multiple lights on kayak and on my vest.

Communications is a cell phone in waterproof case. VHF on the kayak and another on the kayak.

Float bags in the kayak & PDF on me.

Paddle around Long Island in the bays and Jones Inlet sheltered waters to me unless I go out the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean.

I use common sense and know my limits.

Can’t roll but can get back in.

Cold dry suit, balaclava, layers below. Use finger-less gloves over 35* but bring Pogies, neo gloves, and mittens. She laughs but there are no stores out there. Hard / foam paddle float in the winter. Small tarp also in kayak 8x8.

Float plan to her. ICE (in case emergency) number in kayak.

Ok could I die out there sure but it beats dying looking at a hospital ceiling. I think I am more likely to get killed on the highway with nuts out there driving.

If I was a women I would be careful with where and who I met if you don’t know them. Sorry the way the world is now I would be that way.

Again she laughs or use to because of all the prep and gear I take but not so much now as she has learn more about the sport.

As for lakes they can be real rough if big. I raced off-shore boats for years and roughest race I was in was Grand Haven Michigan. Don’t let the word lake fool you.

I went out and met a local group by chance few weeks ago. I paddled 45 minutes each way to get to the same area and cruised after that a bit. So I did 14 miles that day. Was looking to go back out in other kayak but she came home early. People I ran into that day probably did 4-5 miles on the water and drove up to an hour each way. Not really worth it to me. I slid off the dock at home but still want 10 miles minimum. To go what they go through for a short paddle is not for me so solo is better but I did like running into the group.

I cal the USCG if I need help no clue what you do on a river or smaller lakes. Take into consideration how long for help if you need it.

If you are comfortable on your local stream, lock up a bike downstream at the takeout to shuttle yourself back to the vehicle. use the same lock to secure the kayak while you pedal.

I sure hope this doesn’t sound snarky, but here goes anyway. You say you are an intermediate, but I’m not so sure that would be my assessment. By the time you are an intermediate, you should have the confidence and competence to make a prudent decision about when and where to go paddling alone, or with company.

Most of the time, I end up going alone and much of the time, I prefer that, because then I only have to be concerned about what kind of mischief I might get into. I do have a buddy that is still learning and he is coming along fine, but he is very good about knowing his limitations, but I still feel responsible to not take him beyond his comfort zone.

yeah, ignore this post
Because you’re asking advice about a new situation doesn’t make me doubt your self-assessment, it makes me applaud it. Someone who either suppresses their concerns or has none, that’s the person who needs to be questioned.

I think rookie offers a perfect example. But my mother also paddles almost entirely solo at age 76. She’s educated herself on boat handling and self-recovery and errs on the side of safety whenever by herself, and I always know where she has headed to paddle.

I think the OP is concerned for
personal safety not boat handling skills

I solo. It used to be that if I wanted to I HAD to solo because my schedule was different from others.

I still solo sometimes day trips and at least once a year for a wilderness trip.

The only problems I have had with two legged pests was dining out before the trip and getting predatory questions in the restaurant. Now I talk to no one then.

Here is the thing about solo
paddling - you have to exercise judgement.

Most problems in paddling are caused long before the boat hits the water, you just don’t discover that you’ve left something behind or misjudged the conditions until you are faced with the problem that exposes your error.

When paddling alone, I pick the safest option of paddling places that I can. If the ocean is more than so rough, I paddle Elkhorn Slough. If Monterey bay is calm, but the open ocean will see changing conditions later in the day, I stay in the bay. I don’t always paddle the place where I ideally wish to be, but I do paddle.

I inspect my gear before loading it. I use a checklist to ensure that nothing is forgotten. I supply an intended paddling plan with my wife and stick to that, even when tempted by conditions to do more. If I relocate (since weather reports are often of dubious value), I let someone know of the change in plans.

Even when conditions are ideal, I go no further out than I wish to swim back, since the loss of the boat is the worst possible outcome. If there are other paddlers in the vicinity, I maintain some visual contact of them, or boats in the area. I bring signaling gear, flotation gear, immersion gear, and I use them, even if it means being too hot at times.

I ensure my roll is effective before I go far beyond the surf entry, even if it is cool and wet outside. This also ensures that my immersion protection is up to the conditions of the day.

I do all of this despite the fact that I was a competitive swimmer and water polo player in college. I am confident that if I am a mile out to sea, I could, barring shark attack or other injury, safely swim to shore. If there is someone who could take chances with this, I may be that person.

The thing is that nobody is at their best at all times. We make mistakes, forget to bring something, forget that nature is capricious and unforgiving of those mistakes. Our skills deteriorate over time and our bodies (after say, a winter layoff), may not be as effective this year as they were previously.

In baseball, the saying goes that the ball will find the worst fielder on the team at the worst possible moment. The corollary in paddling is that nature will find your weakness and expose it. If you are taking great chances, that weakness is more easily exposed.

So, if you wish to paddle alone, exercise good judgement and you will probably be fine. I prefer to paddle with one or two others.

There are times when being alone on a boat on the bay or in the ocean where the experience speaks to the soul and refreshes the mind. When the conditions are just right, the sea mammals splash and breathe great noisy lungfuls, the birds call, and fish jump. Shadows of movement in the water below suggest that there is life, beauty, experience, and mysteries wherever you look. The boat moves swiftly, easily, and nearly soundlessly through the water, and everything feels just so right, so vibrant, so full, so satisfying. This is when solo paddling is at its best.


One comment
What ever communication device you carry (cell/VHF/PLB) have it on YOU. NOT on the boat. Every time I read tragedy story one common theme is they lost the boat. then…

So true…
So true!

Solo, as a woman
I’ve always felt safer, as a woman alone, in my kayak than on land. The bad guys aren’t in boats. I used to monitor an eagle nest that required me to walk in alone on an old logging road offf a heavily used highway. I hated the sense of vulnerability I felt. When the weather warmed up and I could get to that nest in my boat, I was so relieved!

Interesting difference here where I paddle: club members aren’t adamant about paddling with others. They save the passion for wearing a life vest and dressing for immersion.

Good luck to you. I think paddling solo is great.


– Last Updated: Mar-25-16 7:09 PM EST –

yoyu have a dry suit n all safety devices, VHF PLB Laser cell phone better a smart phone with weather radar access, paddling a civilized area with CG/ER

without a long fetch, gross rips, opposing winds tides, surprise weather, drunks in motorboats

and are in excellent physical condition capable of swimming 2 miles.

then you would be OK in good weather.

do you know of Philip.AK ?

see Homer to Kodiak via the Barrens.

from West Coast Paddler trips reports see also Alexsidles

back..forgot the river. he preceding is open water.

I bicycle n follow the stats. We are in constant danger cycling urban areas, areas with oil workers, poverty minorities.

A narrow river is prob no different.

The Saco ? are you planning a solo Saco paddle ?

are there party spots along your river or any river ?

I carry Mace. Out West A gun is possible. Bundy et al.....

The FBI or ? may have crime reports for your area.

You need a friend. The racer/club idea is excellent. Ekilson paddles in clubs. No one has attacked him lately ?