Kayaking presents many unique challenges, which is why carrying out a thorough risk assessment before you take to the water is vital. We’ve created a kayaking risk assessment checklist which identifies the common hazards associated with kayaking, the risks they create and the steps you can take to minimise their impact.


Muscle injuries

There are two ways in which kayakers can suffer muscle injuries – either while loading and unloading their kayak, or during paddling. Here’s a list of precautions which will help alleviate the risk of muscle injuries.

• Make sure at least two people carry each kayak.

• Use at least two people to share the load when moving boats or equipment.

• Research proper lifting techniques or ask your instructor to demonstrate these to you.

• Ensure you are wearing a tightly fitted buoyancy aid.

• Ensure that a proper warm-up routine is carried out before every paddle.

• Practice paddling techniques that avoid injury.

• Ensure you receive training in rescue techniques that avoid excessive strain when handling waterlogged boats and heavy kayaks in the water.



If you’re paddling in deep waters like lakes, rivers and seas, there is a risk of drowning (albeit a relatively low risk as you’re in a kayak).

Here are some measures to help minimise this risk. If you’re a novice kayaker, ensure that these steps are put in place by your instructor or group leader.

• Buoyancy aids must be worn and correctly fitted.

• Keep away from bank and canal side edges.

• Leaders with a Level 2 Coach Award or above must hold a first aid certificate.

• Leaders must be trained to carry out resuscitation techniques.

• The appropriate safety and rescue methods for kayaking should be included in club training.

• A capsize drill with all novices must be demonstrated in controlled conditions.

• There must be an appropriate group to leader ratio for the environment. The typical industry standard is one leader to four kayakers.


Severe weather

Some of the best kayaking spots are known for their volatile weather conditions. While battling wind, waves and rain can sometimes be enthralling; sometimes it can be dangerous – especially when you’re up against severe tides or currents.

To stop the weather from causing significant problems while you’re in the water, you or your leader should:

• Allow for the worst possible weather.

• Obtain a reliable local weather forecast and be ready to assess conditions and change plans as appropriate.

• Map out suitable emergency escape routes in the event of bad weather.

• Continually observe the weather while kayaking and where necessary, take suitable action to eliminate or reduce its associated risks.



Again, there is only a moderate probability of suffering from hypothermia while kayaking.

Hypothermia is the term which is used to describe a drop in body temperature and can be brought on by a number of factors, including inadequate clothing in cold weather, falling into cold water and getting cold in wet clothes. Therefore, the following steps should be taken:

• Leaders must ensure all kayakers are appropriately clothed for kayaking.

• Leaders must have spare clothing, hot drinks and high energy foods available, in the event a kayaker suffers from hypothermia.

• If going on a kayaking trip, leaders will ensure that their group carries appropriate equipment to deal with mild and severe hypothermia.

• All club members must undertake training that includes preventing, diagnosing and dealing with hypothermia.


Contaminated water

When you’re kayaking, you are at risk of coming into contact with contaminated water – perhaps it could infect a wound, or you could accidentally swallow it. In the most extreme cases, this can result in waterborne diseases like Leptospirosis, which causes headaches, muscle pains and fevers. To manage the risks of contaminated water, there are a few steps you can take.

• The water quality must be assessed before paddling.

• All cuts and grazes must be covered with waterproof plasters.

• Wash your hands before eating after you’ve been kayaking.

• Equipment needs to be rinsed with clean fresh water after each activity.



Even the most skilled and experienced kayakers can collide with other paddlers or solid objects such as rocks. While most of these collisions are fairly minor, the occasional collision could result in injury or damage to the kayak. To avoid this happening:

• Leaders must be suitably trained to identify potential dangers.

• You must modify your activity if risks to other water users from kayaking are identified.

• Beginners must be separated from other water users.

• If you’re kayaking in harbours and estuaries, be aware of commercial, amateur and deep draught shipping that can collide with small craft.

• Operations of other water users on site should be identified and assessed.


In addition to the above measures, having kayaking insurance before you paddle is a necessity. At Insure4Boats, we provide Water Sports Equipment & Third Party Liability to protect you if you injure another person, damage another kayak or have your kayak damaged or stolen.

Get an instant online quote with us today and protect yourself against the risks that come with kayaking.

Please note the information provided on this page should not be taken as advice and has been written as a matter of opinion. For more on insurance cover and policy wording, see our homepage.