Kayaking is a mainstream water sport that allows for people to paddle in groups or on their own. Those that are first venturing into the realm of kayaking often wonder whether or not it’s odd to go on kayaking trips alone because of worrisome friends or relatives.
It’s not out of the ordinary for paddlers to go on kayaking trips alone. Many kayakers prefer the freedom and solitude of a solo kayaking expedition. Although solo paddling is riskier, kayakers can ensure their own personal safety by taking necessary precautions beforehand.
So if you were worried about the social stigma surrounding solo kayaking trips, know that you’re not alone! There are many prominent reasons why kayakers choose to go solo, which we will discuss in greater detail below. Read until the end to see if a solo kayaking trip is something that’s right for you.
Why Kayaking Alone is a Normal Thing for Paddlers to Do
For whatever reason, people that are not intimately familiar with kayaking often frown upon the idea of kayaking alone. Whether it be a concerned family member or an intense social extrovert, they likely don’t understand the appeal of kayaking alone.
It can be difficult to explain to these individuals in words just how captivating the experience of a solo kayaking trip can be. Fortunately, you don’t have to take on this task by yourself. Below, I drew from the experiences of multiple members of the kayaking community—along with my own personal experiences—to accurately depict the reasons why kayaking alone is so common.
Affords You Time to Meditate and Think Privately
People choose to kayak alone instead of with other people because of the meditative benefits of solo paddling.
Whenever someone mentions the word meditation, people automatically jump to perceptions of voodoo spiritual anomalies. People perceive it to be some extreme behavior that lies well beyond the norm. Unfortunately, people fail to realize that meditation can come in various forms, like jogging, yoga… or even kayaking!
Rarely do we ever get the chance to wipe our brains of the everyday stresses of life. With the growing emphasis on technology, it’s harder than ever to find solace from these everyday rigors. Since everyone can connect with a few taps on a phone screen, people have a difficult experience taking time away for themselves.
Kayaking alone offers a form of self-reflection like none other. You can remove yourself from the constant bustle of civilization and delve deep into your own thoughts. There’s an altogether different kind of clarity that accompanies the solitude of a solo kayaking trip.
Plus, the pure silence of a solo kayaking trip is priceless. The only real sounds that you ever hear are the light rustle of the waves brushing against the hull and the natural calls of the surrounding wildlife. Solo kayakers take great satisfaction in this unfettered silence. With a kayaking partner, this stream of golden silence will inevitably get interrupted.
Easier to Build a Strong, Spiritual Connection with Nature
Speaking of nature, that’s the next prominent reason why certain kayakers choose to go it alone.
Witnessing nature in its rawest form is one of the biggest appeals of kayaking. Rather than being surrounded by an artificial landscape—like how most people spend their lives—kayaking grants paddlers the rare opportunity to thrust themselves into the thick of nature without any hint of human intervention.
This connection with the wilderness is compounded when kayakers choose to venture off independently. Without anyone else around to disturb the wilderness sights, a solo kayaker can more easily immerse themselves into the environment and forget the familiarities of civilization.
Accompanying paddlers can disrupt this oneness with nature, even if it was not their intention to do so. For example, large paddling groups tend to scatter wildlife by chatting loudly or traveling too close to shore.
A kayaker that’s out on their own can better hold themselves in check and enjoy the natural sights of wildlife. Some of the best moments in kayaking are the times where you just lay back, watch the birds circle around, and snatch a fish with their beak. It’s one thing to see it on the Discovery Channel, but it’s much more satisfying to see it in person!
Don’t Have to Worry About a Group Holding You Back
Organizing a group kayaking trip can be somewhat of a hassle. Trying to find a good time that fits everyone’s schedules and coordinate where to go can take up a big chunk of time. By the time that you actually launch out onto the water, you may not even feel like kayaking anymore.
Part of the allure of solo kayaking is the element of spontaneity. You don’t have to wait on other people when you decide to embark on a kayaking expedition alone. Whenever you want to go kayaking, you can set about that task immediately, with no planning period required.
Plus, solo kayakers like to bask in the freedom of exploring wherever they want, whenever they want. On an independent kayaking trip, you can start and stop anytime, regardless of what point on the trip it is. Finding a solid spot on the water to unwind and savor a couple of cold ones is about as relaxing as it gets in kayaking.
Moreover, you can paddle at whatever pace is ideal for your current fitness level. If you want to push your limits, you can do so. If you want to scale back and go for a leisurely cruise, you can do that as well.
In a larger group, your intentions may not align with what the group has in mind. Consequently, you may not be able to take breaks as needed or go at the pace you desire.
Lastly, the experience is all yours on a solo kayaking trip. For some people, this may not make much of a difference. For others, however, it can mean a lot. There’s something special about notching a solo kayaking experience under your belt and knowing that it’s a memory all your own. Connecting with others can definitely be empowering, but sometimes indulging in the “power of one” can be exactly what you need.
Is Kayaking Alone Something Worth Doing?
Now that we’ve discussed the most notable reasons why people kayak alone, you’re probably wondering if solo kayaking is actually something worth trying out.
There’s no denying that a solo kayaking trip is much more dangerous than paddling with a group. If something goes wrong, there’s no one else there to offer support. Nonetheless, many kayakers—myself included—can attest to the tremendous value of solo paddling, even though it does involve a moderately high degree of risk.
Nowadays, societal norms tend to push us towards one well-trodden proven path.
Consequently, people are steadily becoming more and more risk-averse. Unfortunately, people overlook the fact that all the greatest memories in life begin with risk.
There are numerous instances in life where taking risks is necessary to your own personal development and happiness. Whether it be conquering your feelings of timidity to perform on stage, devoting money to a personal business venture, or jumping out of your comfort zone to meet your first love, it all starts with risk.
Solo kayaking definitely falls within the area of positive risk—that is, if you take all the proper safety precautions.
When you’re out there all alone, all of your senses are heightened. The knowledge that you’re left to your own devices ultimately fuels the adrenaline within you, unlocking an entirely different side to your being. It’s akin to a reset button, rebooting your system and reshaping your perspective to one of enlightenment.
Some people shy away from this feeling, while others embrace it. If you’re the type of person that welcomes the challenge of new, unfamiliar experiences, solo kayaking may be the ideal activity for you.
Things to Consider Before Kayaking Alone
Before experimenting with solo kayaking, there are a few things you should take into account to ensure your own safety. This way, you can still have a high-quality paddling experience without putting yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily.
Consider… Your Age, Fitness and Experience Level
First, you need to take a good hard look at yourself and objectively determine whether or not you’re prepared for a solo kayaking trip. Depending on your age, level of fitness, and kayaking experience, you may not be ready for a solo expedition just yet.
For example, if you don’t know how to swim, you can seriously jeopardize your safety. Solo kayaking in the middle of a large body of water far from shore without a life jacket definitely wouldn’t be the smartest idea. As an aside, you should always wear a personal flotation device when you go kayaking, even when you’re with a group!
There are other prerequisite skills you should be intimately familiar with, such as knowing how to perform a self-rescue. Your kayak can flip over when you least expect it, so you must know how to reposition yourself back into the kayak before an actual emergency arises.
Practicing the fundamentals of self-rescue may seem tedious, but it’s a tremendous confidence boost knowing that you can handle yourself in this situation if needed. To learn the basics of how to perform a kayaking self-rescue, watch the video tutorial below!
The best way to acquire the skills necessary for a solo kayaking expedition is to gather some experience by taking kayaking lessons or paddling in a group beforehand. Once you nail down the fundamentals and have sufficient experience, you’ll be more than prepared for a solo kayaking journey.
Consider… Telling Someone Where You’re Going
Next up, you should strongly consider informing a third party where you’re kayaking and what time you expect to return.
It’s good to get in the habit of doing this, as it offers solo kayakers an extra layer of protection in the case of an emergency. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate ordeal. A simple text message or call will do the trick just fine.
If this is too much of a hassle for you, I recommend downloading the Life360 tracking app. This app provides your real-time location to family members and loved ones on a private digital map. In addition, users can automatically notify their loved ones when they arrive or leave a particular destination, which is perfect for solo kayaking trips (source).
Bringing along other forms of communication as well doesn’t hurt. For example, you should always bring a whistle just in case of an emergency. The best way to avoid forgetting your whistle at home is to attach it to your PFD.
Moreover, you may want to consider packing a marine VHF radio. If you plan to venture far away from shore, this piece of equipment can act as safety insurance since it keeps you in constant contact with the Coast Guard and other boaters within the local vicinity (source).
In the event of an emergency, remember that channel 16 is the universal frequency for distress calls. This radio frequency is reserved for crises only.
All of these safety precautions may seem like overkill, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, you’re not doing this only for your sake. You’re taking these additional precautions for the sake of your loved ones’ sanity as well.
Consider… The Difficulty of Your Chosen Kayaking Location
The last point to consider is the area where you intend to go kayaking. Some areas are more conducive to solo kayaking than others, particularly if it’s your first time experimenting with this sort of thing.
Generally, it would be best if you avoided solo kayaking in whitewater conditions. Under these circumstances, it’s far more likely for you to capsize and injure yourself. Regardless of how fit or prepared you think you are, a strong hit to the head can incapacitate anyone. In flatwater conditions, the likelihood of injury is far less.
Aside from avoiding whitewater, you should also monitor how far away from shore you are. As a general rule of thumb, you should always be visible to people on the shoreline. If you cannot be seen from shore, you should take extra precautionary measures to guarantee your own personal safety. At the very least, remain in cell phone range if you’re far from shore.
When you’re just starting to solo kayak, you should stick to high-traffic areas. It would be best if you only kayaked in isolated, secluded areas when you’re extremely comfortable being out on your own.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to popular opinion, kayaking alone is not weird. There are many kayakers out there that prefer solo kayaking to group kayaking. So if you’re thinking about a solo paddling trip, don’t be afraid to try it out! Just make sure you implement the safety tips above, and you’ll have a great time on the water.