Solo Kayaking Advice?

solo or non-solo
I’m a 65 (soon to be 66) female who often paddles solo because most of my friends are younger and still working and I am mostly retired. Also, few are as enthusiastic about kayaking as I am. If I did not have several extra kayaks and full sets of gear for them for my friends to use I doubt that I would have half as many opportunities to paddle with others. But I did recently discover, through a local MeetUp post, a woman who works a varying schedule and enjoys local outings on weekdays. We starting meeting once every few weeks last Summer for moderate distance river paddles. Having two vehicles to run a shuttle greatly increases your options.

I’m also fortunate in having several major rivers near home that are dam controlled so that they have very moderate flow rates. At average gauge levels, I can paddle up or downstream or both at about the same level of effort. If you could find some rivers like that near you it could offer the same option. I have also experimented with paddling solo using a bicycle for a self retrieval shuttle. There are some nice mid sized rivers that ran through small towns around here where you can safely cable lock a bike at municipal parks at your takeout downstream, then tether the boat when you get there and ride the bike back upstream to bring back your car.

There are also popular rivers where local outfitters will provide a shuttle for a few dollars to paddlers with their own boats if you can coordinate your timing with their commercial raft and kayak rental trips.

As far as being a woman alone paddling, I have never had any reservations about that any of the places I go. I agree with other’s comments – we are safer from creeps out on the water than on land.

I’m a cyclist
Solo paddler here also.

As a cyclist first, kayak 2nd, and a frequenter of the Allegheny River Trail, I’ve been wanting to do this only the opposite direction. Drop the boat off 15 miles upstream and lock it to a tree. Drop the car off at the trail head and cycle up to the boat. Have a nice lunch, then float back down to the car.

You probably are
Safer paddling alone, as long as the other boaters are in kayaks. It seems that the sport is attractive to a particularly decent group of people. Sadly, I cannot say the same of those in powerboats, or worse, PWC’s.

Sadly, we often share the water with those folk as well, and even male paddlers may find themselves felling uncomfortable around the yahoos, drunks, and morons I have encountered on the water.



I know it wasn’t my thread but I feel like I got more out of it than anyone else hahah!

Thanks to your encouragement I went out alone today and it was beautiful! I saw about a dozen harbor porpoise, just as many harbor seals, tons of birds, glass calm… just gorgeous. Missed paddling with killer whales by about two hours. Got to see them from shore, but it would have been way too much of a task to get my drysuit on again, put the boat on the car, and rush down to launch again. It will happen some day…

That’s super, sonnyjane!
I know you’ve had good training and paddle safely - so glad to learn there’ll be no more days inside when your heart’s out on the water.

I am there now, what I do
And my preferred paddling is to offshore islands when I am in Maine. Solo can be pretty limiting if you are also prudent, unfortunately.

So here is what I have tried -

Meetup groups. It is a few bucks a year to join. They often have paddles at unusual times because it is a mix of working folks and retirees. I can’t say the last one I tried fit my idea of the ideal way to manage a large group, but they all got home safely if not together. Find out who the leaders are that match your comfort zone, then follow their paddles.

Timing -

If you are on a body of water of any scale, get away early enough to be back home by 10am. Mid-morning is when the wind will start coming up in the summer if there is enough water to create onshore and offshore wind.

Get better at paddling, especially stuff like self-rescue -

If you can’t get back in your boat on the water by yourself in moderate conditions, don’t go out further than swimming distance from shore until you can.

Carry a VHF with weather alert -

When it starts beeping it might mean a storm coming in, wither over open water or a summer thunderstorm.

Those are the big ones. Of course carry a change of clothing and some food in case you have to sit out a surprise storm.

Sorry for taking so long to reply!

But yes, personal safety is mostly my concern. I will be looking into self rescue classes for sure, I do want to continually work on improving my boat handling skills as well though. And I’ll have to take a look into combining biking with drop offs.

I’ve only had two odd run ins with people, but I’m sure there will be many more.

no worries!
it’s advice and I appreciate it!

I said intermediate because I’ve been kayaking rivers for a few years at places around me and I’m pretty confident in my handling skills but I’ve always used a shuttle service to do drop offs but I want to expand the places I’ve been going to. I was using rentals or a family member would load up their kayak until I bought one for myself last year, so yes, I guess I am a beginner. I just meant that I wasn’t COMPLETELY new. I’m not upset at all by your comment :).

I also wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to be safe, especially since kayaking on lakes is completely new to me, I’ve done rivers enough that I’m not worried about them but lakes are just so big and open.

fantastic advice!!

I never thought about lights, but I’ve also never gone out past maybe 7pm. I will look into those for sure. I do have a waterproof phone case AND flotation devices attached to my phone. I was taking a picture of a bird with my phone and an orb weaver spider fell on my neck from a tree, and in my brief swatting I threw my phone overboard. It had a waterproof case but it sank to the bottom of the river. So now everything I have has something to keep it floating. I will put emergency numbers in my kayak, that’s a really great idea!

Thanks for the priceless advice!

thank you thank you!!
Hello! Thank you SO much for this awesome post!!! I guess by being a lady I did mean some strength issues, I’m pretty fit but I guess lack of confidence the last few times + tangling with a bulky kayak at 5’3 made me feel silly but I shouldn’t! Safety applies to all genders :slight_smile: I’ll have to look into a spare paddle, thank you for that advice! I never take my lifevest off and it does have a whistle attached.

I bet Lake Michigan is gorgeous! And wow, 500 miles?! I’m maybe an hour from Lake Erie, I’ll have to see how far Lake Michigan is for maybe a weekend trip.

As far as I know there aren’t kayak clubs but maybe I can check within a few hours because I’d love to do a self rescue class. I wrote down those apps. Your post really really excited me! The best way I can describe my feelings about this overall are, it’s like when you first learn how to drive. The freedom is scary and exciting and I just need to learn how to handle it and enjoy it! Thank you!

I’m 29, but I love meeting new people and I wouldn’t mind going with any age group really. Unfortunately most of my friends are not very outdoorsy. It’s really reassuring hearing that you do most of your paddling on lakes when solo. I’ve done the lake near me twice but it was completely different from the river trips I’ve taken so maybe I just need to do it more often to get a better feel for it. Thanks!!

I’ll have to take a look around and see if there are any racers, even if I have to drive a bit. There aren’t any kayak clubs locally but maybe if I check out near Lake Erie, which isn’t too far away for a long day trip. There isn’t an ocean nearby (unless I hop on a plane!) but I would actually love to improve on my paddling skills!

You’re absolutely right
Nature is unforgiving and I think this was one of my concerns in the back of my mind, thank you for expressing it and addressing it! I know magooch mentioned that I should have the right judgement and confidence for claiming to be an intermediate and maybe I am a beginner, but skill labels aside - I just want to make sure I’m prepared and safe and gathering as much advice as I can and as I continue to grow as a kayak enthusiast!

With some of the great ideas for additional safety things from here, I will have to make a checklist for sure. I’m really excited to start working on it. I’m not familiar with immersion gear at all. Would you recommend this for all types of water? I’m going to go look into it around the forums right now. Thanks Rick!

I’d really love the opportunity to do some ocean kayaking, that sounds absolutely breathtaking. If its outside, I love it. Nature is truly amazing in so many ways! Thanks Rick!

@dc9mm - I have two flotation straps that are attached to my phone that I keep either around my ankle or wrist. I launched my phone into the water last year after a spider crawled on my neck. It’s good to know to keep it on my person, thank you!

Lady kayakers!
Luckily I’ve only had two run ins with people directly but I’ve seen plenty of idiots and try my best to avoid them. I met a man with an absolutely gorgeous boat so my husband and I stopped to talk to him and he made an indirect racial comment to my husband about me (I’m half Korean) but I quickly brushed it aside by sharing stories about the local area, since I did grow up in the same rural area. That, and drunks college boys but I could easily paddle away from them since they were tipped. The water draws all sorts of creatures to it :wink:

That packrafting video is BEAUTIFUL! It looks like so much fun!!! That island looks absolutely gorgeous!

I’m going to look into cycling drop offs eventually, when I do I’ll definitely take your advice to look at crime reports in the area and see how safe it is.

I’m not sure what Saco is?

Inspiring :slight_smile:
I hope I’m 65 and paddling actively! The ladies in my family aren’t very active and my friends aren’t either. I actually can’t say I know anyone in your age range that is out and about doing those activities. I’d LOVE to get my mother out on the water but she can’t swim so she’s hesitant. I’m working on it though!

I’ll look around and see if there are more options for paddling both up and downstream, the one closest to me is really calm and I’m able to do that. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions for biking so I’m really going to explore my options with that! Same thing with local outfitters! Thanks!

And sonnyjane, I took FOREVER to get back here and reply to everyone but I’m really glad you got lots of advice from this too! I’m glad I’m not the only one looking for the same advice :slight_smile: if we’re both pretty active on here I’d love to share our experiences with each other as we both learn! And porpoises? That sounds incredible! I’m in Ohio so the wildlife is different here and I’m a bird enthusiast but that sounds like an incredible experience! I hope you get to paddle with them some time!!

I’m going to practice self rescue, I’m strong enough to get back in but it’s all been self-taught and I’m sure there’s tips I can get and practice is always good.

I just looked at the VHF radios. Do you used a handheld floating one or a mounted one? Thanks!

I would love to go paddling in Maine. I haven’t been to Maine in over 10 years but it looks so beautiful.

Go for it!
Maybe my best times in life were on long solo expeditions on water, mountains, and recently motorcycles. There will always be nay-sayers and life can be risky. So what. Have the courage to live and take calculated chances. Just do your prep and make good decisions. And sooner or later you’ll get tested regardless. That’s being alive!

VHS and other safety gear

– Last Updated: Mar-31-16 4:09 PM EST –


After reading both volumes of the "Deep Trouble" books, I became an ardent believer in the philosophy that if you don't have it on you, you don't have it.