The short answer – Yes! Of course you can!
If swimming isn’t one of your best skills, not to worry, that’s what life jackets are made for.
90% of the time when you’re kayaking you’re never really IN the water anyway so don’t fret.
Kayaking is a sport or hobby anyone can enjoy and shouldn’t be put off of the idea that you need to be able to swim!
Even the greatest sailboat captains don’t know how to swim!
Wearing a life jacket
Whenever you are kayaking, it’s always good practice to wear a lifejacket or a PFD (Personal Floatation Device). If you’re kayaking with an instructor, you will be advised to wear a life jacket anyway.
Having a lifejacket on you though doesn’t require you to swim to stay afloat; the lifejacket does all this for you!
You’re basically unsinkable when wearing one!
You could literally stay in the water for hours without even having to move your arms.
Lifejackets are made of Nylon and polyvinyl chloride foam –these are very durable and buoyant materials that simply help you to stay afloat.
They come in a variety of sizes, colours and fits so you’ll have no problem in finding a lifejacket for your size.
Wetsuits also do play a small role in keeping you afloat.
The neoprene material used in wetsuits have buoyant properties to them which will give you that added bit of floatation and peace of mind knowing you won’t sink.
So just how safe is kayaking for non-swimmers?
As I said, when your kayaking it is best to have a lifejacket on you at all times so you don’t need to be able to swim.
The kayak itself though is very safe, stable and sturdy.
Kayaks are designed to hold a fair amount of weight above the water’s surface. They go through rigorous testing to make sure that they are completely reliable and pass industry tests so that you can kayak safely on any water type.
I feel that with non-swimmers, it tends to be the fear of being out on open water that stops them from trying out kayaking.
If you really do feel nervous about kayaking though, maybe try kayaking on calmer waters such as a lake or a slow moving river. You’ll be able to get a feel for the open water and realise just how easy it is.
Once you build up more confidence then, you can move onto rougher waters such as the sea or fast moving rivers.
Now, you probably have heard or seen times when a kayak does flip over. These are rare circumstances as long as you’re kayaking safely and not violently moving side to side.
However, on the off chance that you find that your kayak has overturned, there are a few techniques you should be aware of.
Escaping from a flipped over kayak
This is one of the main fears people find when kayaking is this fear of the kayak flipping or capsizing when you’re still inside.
Now, as much as this can seem like a scary thought, it is this exact thought that is scarier than the actual experience.
So, in this unlikely event that your kayak is to capsize and depending on the type of kayak you have, there are very easy ways to safely come to the water’s surface.
If you have a sit-on kayak, you won’t be actually inside the kayak so if they kayak flips, you’ll simply slide off and fall into the water. It’s just a matter of flipping the kayak back over again.
If you have a sit-in kayak, you’re lower half of your body will be in the actual body or hull of the kayak.
So, there are 2 ways you can easily and effectively escape:
This is a self-rescuing technique that allows you to flip your kayak back to the surface after it flips without having to come out of the kayak.
So, if you’re kayak flips and you’re upside down:
Relax, although it seems scary just try not to panic and think each step through
Lean forward towards the front of the kayak and move your paddle to one side of the kayak, just having it outside the water’s surface
Now start to sweep down with your paddle with a downward motion, this will start to process of you flipping upright.
At the same time now, force your knees and drive them into the top of the cockpit as you continue to sweep with the paddle
As you’re driving your knees into the cockpit and also sweeping, start to rotate your body on the same side you’re sweeping
With this one fluent motion, you’ll start to exit the water and come back to normal stance.
This is a technique used if you’re simply looking to exit the kayak and flip it around once you’re on top again.
Once you flip, again don’t panic – just think each step through
If you’re wearing a splash skirt, unclip it from the cockpit
Push yourself off the cockpit and flip your legs out of the kayak
Simply come to the surface and turn your kayak back around again
If you are ever in this position where the kayak flips on you, you just need to think on each step and remember not to panic.
An instructor will help to keep you right and talk you through each step but if you’re out on your own, these capsizing techniques will certainly help.
So don’t worry if swimming isn’t your strong suit. Being ontop or inside a kayak, you’ll rarely be in the actual water itself unless your kayak overturns which is unlikely.
Having a lifejacket on is there so you don’t need the ability to swim. It will keep you safe, afloat and well-visible.
If you have any questions at all, simply drop me a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.