Safety Tips for Kayak and Canoe Paddling in Florida

Florida is a paddling paradise with more than 1,000 miles of coastline and more than 1,700 miles of rivers, streams and creeks. Whether paddling by kayak or canoe, have fun but be safe and prepared too. Our common sense tips for safe paddling are geared to recreational paddlers – paddling in calm waters, close to shore.

In addition to general tips for safe paddling, respect Florida’s unique environment while exploring its waterways:

  • Bring food and water, suntan lotion, a wide-brimmed hat, and insect repellent.
  • Be watchful of the weather, especially during hurricane season. Be aware of tides, wind, water levels and currents.
  • Do not mix alcohol or drugs with paddling.
  • Paddling is a continuous activity. Practice basic paddling strokes before setting out, and choose destinations that meet your level of expertise.
  • Know what to do if you capsize:
  • Stay with your vessel and don’t panic;
  • Find and hold onto your paddle;
  • Float on your back, feet downstream;
  • Stay upstream in currents – don’t get caught between your vessel and the shore or rocks.
  • Don’t paddle alone. Some areas are remote and you will not be able to get cell phone reception; alert a friend or relative Inflatable paddle board to your plans so help can be called in the event you don’t return.
  • Do not overload your vessel and tie down gear. Carry a waterproof marine chart. Bring a dry bag for items you don’t want to get wet. Your dry bag should include a first aid kit, as well as dry clothing should you capsize.
  • Watch out for motor boats and fishermen. Respect nature and do not approach or antagonize wildlife.
  • Be a good environmental citizen, bring reusable containers and pick up your trash. Keep our state beautiful!

Florida state regulations applying to paddling:

  • A personal flotation device must be available for each person on board (children under 6 must wear them). A sound device (such as a plastic whistle) is required, and a white light must be available between sunset and sunrise to avoid collisions.
  • If powered (electric or gas) vessel registration rules apply.
  • In The Everglades, collecting plants and animals, and feeding wildlife are illegal (this is a good rule of thumb when paddling anywhere).
  • If you’re fishing from your kayak or canoe, separate licenses are required for freshwater and saltwater fishing.

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