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Overcoming Your Kayaking Fears

As we get ready to launch many of our trips, we often get asked, "What body of water is this?" to which we excitedly reply, "You are about to kayak in the Pacific Ocean!" Paddling in the largest body of water on the planet, especially in the Gulf of Alaska, can be very intimidating to some people. Fear starts to creep in...Is it safe? Will I flip over? Are there sharks? etc. etc.

If you are one of those people, this blog is for you! Don't let fear stop you from paddling in one of the most beautiful places this planet has to offer. Here are some common fears we hear from potential guests and hopefully we can help answer them for you ahead of time to put to rest any fears you may have.

Don't let your fears make you miss out on views like this!

Don't let your fears make you miss out on views like this!

Will my kayak flip over? Everybody who paddles with us will be put in a tandem kayak with another guest or guide. Tandem kayaks are extremely stable and it would take a lot to flip one over. We take out thousands of people every summer and on average have one capsize per summer with some summer having none. Usually if a kayak capsizes, somebody in the boat was doing something they should not have been doing which is why we do a detailed safety talk before any trip gets on the water.

How cold is the water and will I freeze to death if I do capsize? Water temperature typically ranges from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the summer. If you did happen to capsize your kayak, typically the worse thing that will happen is you will be cold for a little bit. There are lots of rumors of how people die within 5 minutes of these Alaskan cold waters and that is not true at all...it takes about 6 minutes for that to happen. Just kidding! After an initial 60-90 cold water shock, your body will actually adjust to the water temperature and our guides will have you back in your kayak long before we would have to worry about hypothermia. 

Will I get stuck in my kayak? Again, if you are the very rare person that finds themselves upside down in a kayak, water will flood your cockpit and displace you out of your boat. Your personal flotation device (PFD) will also be working to bring you to the surface of the water so you will be out and breathing within seconds.

Are there sharks? Will the whales eat me? The two main sharks we have are the salmon shark and sleeper shark. Both are extremely rare to see and do not interact with humans. And one of the most incredible things to see from a kayak is one of our local humpback whales or orca pods. Whales have a great sense of their surroundings and are not interested in eating you.

It's Alaska...won't it be super cold? It is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit as I currently write this so Alaska does have its hot days. Typically summer temperatures range from the 50s-60s degrees Fahrenheit. While that may seem chilly to many people, it is actually a great temperature to be on the water and the physical activity you will be doing helps warm you up even more. We always recommend wearing synthetic layers and water proof/resistant jacket and pants to retain your body heat and we even supply paddling poagies for your hands if you are worried about your hands getting cold. 

Do I need experience to go on a trip? We love teaching people to kayak who have never done it before! We would recommend doing our shorter 3 hour trip if you are new to kayaking, but we take out guests every day who have never kayaked. We supply all the gear you need and spend roughly 30 minutes talking about paddling technique, the kayaks, and important safety information before we even get in the boats. You gotta learn sometime so why not with a professionally trained guide?!

What safety gear do guides bring along with them? All of our guides are medically trained Wilderness First Responders and carry first aid kits with them on all trips. They also carry a boat repair kit in case any issues arise with your kayak. A bilge pump and sponge are carried to get any large or small amounts of water out of your kayak. Guides carry a large dry bag of spare clothes for any guests that would capsize. If a guest is in the water and is having trouble getting back into the kayak, our guides carry a stirrup strap that serves as a stepping stool to climb back into the boat. And if that does not work, a paddle float is used to create an outrigger which makes it much easier to climb back in. Each guide wears a tow rope and has the ability to tow boats if guests get tired, injured, or are having trouble maneuvering their kayak safely. And each guide straps a spare paddle to the deck of their kayak in case a guest loses or breaks their paddle. 

Will I regret not kayaking with Sunny Cove? Absolutely! Put those fears behind you and sign up today. Alaska is an incredible place to kayak and all your friends will be super impressed and jealous when you get back home and tell them of your Alaskan kayaking adventure. We hope to see you on the water!

~ Danny