Can You Drown While Kayaking?

Kayaking is a popular recreational activity, with more than 12.7 million Americans participating in the sport every year. While kayaking is generally considered a safe activity, it has its inherent dangers, including the possibility of drowning.

When kayaking, there are many dangers that you may face. But is drowning one of them? Regardless of where you kayak, many kayakers, especially amateurs, fear the possibility of drowning. But on the other hand, experienced kayakers may not really fear drowning.

So, if you are new to the sport and wondering if you drown while kayaking, this article will help you understand. But still, it will also help you know the measures to take to avoid the danger of drowning while kayaking.

Can You Drown While Kayaking?

It is possible to drown while kayaking, even if you’re a strong swimmer. This is primarily because kayaking puts you in an enclosed boat with limited visibility. But it doesn’t mean that you should avoid the sport entirely.

However, it does mean that you need to be extra careful when paddling around in your kayak.

It is important to remember that water can be dangerous no matter how good of a swimmer you are or what type of equipment you use. There’s always a risk of drowning and death due to unexpected hazards such as waves and currents, sharp underwater objects, and animals.

How Do People Drown While Kayaking?

The most common way people drown while kayaking is by capsizing their boat. This can happen for various reasons, including poor design, an insufficient number of rescue devices, or the failure to use them properly. Additionally, if something happens, such as capsizing or flipping, you have little time to react and get out before you drown.

Capsizing occurs when your kayak flips over on its side or upside down in deep water. The weight of your gear adds to the risk of capsizing because it makes it harder for you to swim to safety.

Flipping over is another concern for new kayakers because it can happen unexpectedly when waves or strong winds are present. When this happens, it puts your head underwater and prevents you from breathing until you escape from underneath the watercraft.

Further, people fall out of the kayak and drown. If you are not wearing life jackets, you are at a higher risk of drowning.

You can also get stuck on rocks or other objects below the water’s surface and cannot move forward or backwards with your paddle strokes. If stuck, water currents can knock you off or sweep you, leading you to drown.

How Often Do People Drown Kayaking?

Despite kayaking being a popular sport and the risk of drowning being imminent, the number of people who die is relatively low.

According to the Outdoor Foundation and the US Coast Guard, there were 54 kayaking-related deaths. Out of these, 43 were attributed to drowning. Within the same year, there were 113 cases of kayaking accidents, which means about half were fatal, with fifty-five cases booked as capsizing.

The data shows a high number of drowning incidents when kayaking accidents happen. However, this is a small number in relation to other water accidents, although even one death is too many deaths.

Safety Measures To Consider To Avoid Drowning When Kayaking

Here are some safety measures that you should consider:

  1. Always wear a life jacket while kayaking

Even if you are an expert kayaker, it is vital to wear a life jacket. If you fall into the water accidentally, wearing this device will keep you afloat until help arrives. You can also use it during rough weather conditions when the waves may hit you from time to time.

  1. Never drink alcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol before or during your kayaking adventure. Getting drunk affects your motor skills and makes them unstable on the water surface.

Also, refrain from smoking cigarettes as this might distract you from watching out for other boats or other objects in the water, which could cause serious injuries or even death if they hit you directly on your head or face.

  1. Remove all sharp objects

Ensure no sharp objects are in your bag that could damage the kayak. Sharp objects may cause puncture marks on their surface, causing leakage and increasing the chances of the kayak going underwater and drowning.

  1. Learn the basics

Knowing how to right your kayak if it flips over is important. Most kayaks have a self-bailer system which allows water to drain out through a hole in the bottom of the boat as you paddle.

If your kayak has no drain plug, you will need to avoid getting water in your kayak when exiting or entering it. Make sure you know how to roll your kayak up and down before taking off on any waterway.

  1. Keep paddles close

Keep your paddle close by when on the water or even just leaving shore for a quick trip downriver or lakefront beach walk. This is because paddles can be used as an emergency floatation device if needed.

Still, more importantly, they can be used as an effective signaling device when out of sight from other boaters or people on shore who may notice something amiss with your boat and come to check up on you.

  1. Use sunglasses or sunblocks

Wear sunblock and sunglasses whenever possible when out on the water. They prevent you from getting burned or temporarily blinded by bright sunlight reflecting off the water’s surface around you.


The general consensus is that you can indeed drown while kayaking. While this is possible through any method of water-based recreation, it does have a higher rate of occurrence in kayaking.

So long as you’re taking the proper precautions, however, you should be able to stay safe on the water. The key is to have a working knowledge of water safety and what you need to do to keep safe when kayaking. In case of any trouble, it is best to ask for help since trying to outdo nature might make things worse. Remember that the key here is safety and not risking your life.