Can’t swim? No Problem! 3 Kayaking tips for non-swimmer

In this post, I’m going to talk about how dangerous is kayaking to Someone who can’t swim and how actually you can go kayaking even you don’t know how to swim.

One of my friend. He had never participated in any water sports including kayaking because he can not swim at all. He had an enormous fear of water, particularly when he imagined himself going under the water. Despite the fear, he always wants to go kayaking with me. He loves the idea of kayaking that you can explore the nature. But he’s so afraid of flipping his kayak and he worries about he might not be able to save himself. 

So, Can people go kayaking if they don’t know how to swim? My answer is: Yes, you definitely can go kayaking if you don’t know how to swim. But if you don’t know how to float yourself or you get panic every time when you touch the water, my answer will be a big No. 

kayak non-swimmer


How dangerous is kayaking to Someone who can’t swim?

It is very dangerous to go kayaking if you’re not familiar with water.

As I just mentioned, swimming is not a required skill in kayaking. But if you’re someone who had a huge fear(just like my friend) and can not float yourself in the water, then kayaking is extremely dangerous for you!

There are plenty of scenarios that your kayak will flip over. (See article: Do kayaks flip over easily?) Falling just happens while kayaking, even when you kayak in the relatively calm water you still have the chance to capsize.

People who don’t know how to float tend to be more panic when the capsize happens. That is going to cause a serious problem.


Go kayaking even you don’t know how to swim

So, How about my friend? Does he never have the chance to go kayaking with me? Absolutely not.

As you might understand now, the essential skill for kayaking is not about swimming is more about getting familiar with water.

The kayak itself is the alternative to swimming. It is one of the most efficient, safe and easy ways to travel on a river or lake without getting wet. So, if you learn how to roll your kayak without exit, you won’t even have the chance to swim unless you really want to.

You are still able to go kayaking even you don’t know how to swim. Follow the rest of the post. When you learn some specific skills and prepare the right mindset. You can enjoy the quality time on the water just like my friend.


3 Kayaking tips for non-swimmer


Take a Kayak lesson

Taking a basic kayak lesson is not only for those who can not swim, it is also important for every kayaking beginners. There are a lot of lessons you can choose from on the internet. The price is around $50-$75.

In this post, I won’t reveal too many details. I will focus on how the lesson helps those kayakers who can not swim.

For the beginning kayaker, you should find a lesson that includes a crucial skill called wet exit. When you can master this skill, swimming is not a required skill for kayaking. Based on my experience, during the lesson, a coach will assist you to perform a wet exit till you succeed. At first, you might find it not so easy to learn, but the coach will ensure your safety while directing you through the steps of an assisted rescue to get back in the kayak easily and quickly.

You will get used to it and you will find out that the kayak can float itself. So, even you can not float yourself in the water, your kayak is a giant floatation device that always there for you to grab it and keep you safe.

Hopefully, by the end of the lesson, you will be able to wet exit and re-enter your kayak with another paddler’s assistance in less than one minute. That’s the time you will realize, there is No swimming required actually.

Check out this video. (how to wet exit)


Get a life jacket  

According to the coastal law, every kayaker must wear a PFD at all times when kayaking. PFD stands for Personal Flotation Device or you can call it life jacket.

You never go kayaking without a PFD especially when you don’t know how to swim. A life jacket will help you float. Only a very small percentage of humans cannot float without aid. Most of them are lacking the experience of float, you can try them on in the swimming pool or any water that you won’t be panic in. All people should have the ability to float for an extended period of time with little effort while wearing a PFD.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, kayak itself is huge floatation device but you cannot grab it while you try to re-enter it. So, when you wearing a PFD, it will help you float if you come out of your kayak and it helps you re-enter your kayak with less effort. Even if you’re the best swimmer in the world, a PFD will help you a lot when you trying to re-enter a kayak.

Anyway, buy yourself a good looking and well functional PFD, it will probably save your life someday.

Check out this video to know how to choose your PFD.


Conquer your Fear

Back to the story of my friend. For people like him, the most difficult hurdle for go kayaking is the fear itself inside their head.

Even though the life jacket will help them to float, sometimes people with a strong fear of the water may get panic when they falling into the water. Instead of acting rationally to easily help themselves, they may struggle in the water and cause a lot of problems for themselves and their fellow kayakers.

If you think that you are the one who might panic when you falling into the water, I strongly suggest you spend some trail time in a PFD, in a swimming pool or a calm lake. You can have zero skill in swimming, but you cannot be afraid of water.

That’s why I recommend you to have the lesson in the first place, once you get used to falling into the water, you’ll know the situation in advance. When it actually happens in kayaking, you can stay calm and rescue yourself. Just remember that the jacket will always keep you up and there is no need to be panic.

One more thing, if you are a total beginner at kayaking. I will highly suggest you buy a Sit-on-top kayak for yourself. Although you might get wet quite often. But when you do fall into the water, the sit-on-top kayak will allow you to get back in quickly. All of the sit-on-up kayak’s cockpits are wide and open, so you won’t get trapped in.

fear of the water



This is a serious topic, I do understand the feeling of fear of the water. I don’t want anybody taking the risk of losing their lives.

My friend until now has no idea about swimming, but he can float himself without any help. Anyway, he enjoys the life of kayaking probably more than I do. Hope those guys who have the same problem can conquer your fear and enjoy the peace on the water.

If you find any information wrong or outdated, please kindly leave your comment below, I will update it as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading. Happy Kayaking.

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Natasha Baihly
5 years ago

Hi Jim,
Thanks for adding a link to our website in your post!
We certainly appreciate it. If you ever would like to do
a story on one of our Paddle & Pour Tours or other kayaking adventures,
let us know. We’d be glad to host you.

2 years ago

Such an amazing cover on kayaking for the non-swimmers. And I liked the way you figure out the points. However, your take on Conquer the Fear is more than good. Overall, you’ve included everything.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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