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Kayakers out at sea in Torbay, Devon

Kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking is one of the most popular watersports in the UK and Ireland. Whether you’re a start-up novice or a seasoned pro, everyone’s on the same wavelength when it comes to staying safe on the water. Find out how we can help you prepare for your next trip
Call 999 and ask for the coastguard if you get in trouble at the coast. For the latest advice, visit our beach safety page.

How to call for help

From open seas to glittering lakes, kayaking is one of the best ways to enjoy the wonders of the water. But it's important that you're able to raise the alarm in an emergency. Take a means of calling for help as part of your kayaking kit and keep it on you, within reach, at all times.  
Our gallery below can help you decide which device is best for you – and our video shows you how to use it to call for help on the water. 

‘His phone was in a difficult-to-access hatch’

The consequences of going out on a kayak or canoe without a means to call for help can be heartbreaking – and, sadly, they are a reality for people like Ellie and Jeremy Jackson. A simple decision about what to take with you can mean all the difference for families, friends and even our volunteer lifeboat crews. Watch our short films to hear their stories.

Kayakers paddling at sea

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid

Even if you’re kayaking close to shore, conditions can turn quickly. Wearing a buoyancy aid or lifejacket can make the critical difference.

If you unexpectedly find yourself in the water and you’re wearing a lifejacket, you’re four times more likely to survive*. 

* Professor Mike Tipton, 2012

Always check the weather conditions and sea forecast before heading out

Weather and tides

Don’t let the weather spoil your day. Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off. Get regular updates if you’re planning to be out for any length of time. And be prepared to change your plans or cancel the trip if the forecast is unfavourable.

Check the weather

Met Office  - inshore waters forecast

As well as providing an inshore waters forecast, the RYA SafeTrx app tracks your voyages and alerts emergency contacts if you fail to return home on time.

Check the tides

Admiralty EasyTide – the UK government’s tidal prediction service.

Kayaker carrying a mobile phone in a pouch

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard


Find a training session at your local canoe club to help you learn. British CanoeingCanoeing Ireland or Canoe Wales run a range of courses. It's important to learn and practise techniques to get back onboard your kayak, should you capsize.

Paddle in a group where possible. If you're exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced kayakers in the area.



216 lifeboat launches to kayakers and canoeists in 2020*

24 lives saved from kayaking or canoeing incidents in 2016*

204 kayakers or canoeists were rescued by our crews in 2016*

200 kayakers or canoeists assisted by RNLI lifeguards in 2020*

*Source: RNLI lifeboat return of service data, UK and Ireland 2016 and 2020
Kayaking training session on the beach

What we can do for you

We will always do our best to get to you if you find yourself in trouble near the water. But we can help in other ways too. From our Kayaking Safety: Guidance from the RNLI (PDF 3.1MB) to booking a safety presentation at your club, get useful advice on the kayak equipment you need to enjoy your next trip without stress.