1. Learn how to make a bilge pump

A sea kayak bilge pump

Having a method for emptying a flooded cockpit is essential. Some kayakers use foot-operated bilge pumps, while others use electric.

[ Further reading: How To Build Your Own Homemade Kayak Bilge Pump ]

2. Stay visible on the water


It is crucial to stay visible on the water. Sea kayaks are small compared to the various other crafts on the water, and for your safety and the safety of others, you need to be seen.

From choosing your clothing and paddle color to thinking about accessories to make yourself more visible, especially in fog or grey conditions, this is an essential skill.

[ Further reading: Learn how to be better seen on the water ]

3. Know how to scout surf in your kayak

A kayaker paddles into big ocean waves.

If you choose to paddle in exposed coastal areas, you’ll have little choice but to launch or land your kayak in a surf zone. Breaking surf represents one of the greatest challenges to any paddler.

It’s vitally important to choose the right beach for prevailing conditions because surf is an incredibly dynamic and powerful environment that offers both amazing play possibilities and potentially devastating beat-downs.

[ Further reading: Learn How To Scout Surf In Your Kayak ]

 4. Construct a tow line

Tools to construct a sea kayak tow line

A kayak tow line is a vital tool to have in your rescue kit. It can make rescues easier, less complicated and faster. Leon Sommé of Body Boat Blade International shows you how to make your own.

[ Video: How To Build A Sea Kayak Contact Tow Line ]

5. Pull off the sea kayak scramble self-rescue

Sea kayak scramble self rescue

Knowing how to rescue yourself after a swim in the water is an important skill. This is especially true if you kayak alone or will be going on open-water trips or undertaking big crossings. The pros at the Ontario Sea Kayak Centre show you how to pull off the sea kayak scramble self-rescue.

[ Video: Sea Kayak Scramble Self Rescue ]

6. Understand marine VHF radio use

A kayaker holds a marine vhf radio

If you are spending extended periods of time on the water in your sea kayak, you should know the fundamentals of communication by marine VHF radio.

These radios are key for emergencies or to communicate with other watercraft, especially on large, open bodies of water.

[ Video: Marine VHF Radio Essentials ]

7. How to re-enter and roll your kayak

A kayaker rescues themselves in the ocean.

Have a swim on your sea kayaking trip? Learn how to rescue yourself by re-entering and rolling your kayak with these expert tips and tricks.

[ Video: Master The Sea Kayak Re-Enter and Roll For Faster Self Rescue] 



  1. Rescue (self as well as assisted) skills and proper use of a marine radio absolutely belong on this list. The rest are helpful, more if you are into rougher conditions regularly, but not the most important.

    I’d think being able to read water conditions, handling currents, and proper stroke techniques to prevent injury should rank higher.

  2. So the Scramble Rescue shows a hand pump in action. What about how to make a hand pump, cost near nil. Pump-out time, possibly half a minute or less and no flat batteries problem.

    As for the Scramble Rescue, it takes less than half the time to do the Lunge. No balancing problems and far quicker. The way the paddler gets on to the aft deck in the Scramble is done cross the cockpit with a twist as they go so they are now sitting in the cockpit with their feet in the water. Feet in the water provides stability while pumping. Rotate and put feet in the cockpit and good to go.

    As for Robert Nissenbaum’s comments, Yes.


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