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Kayak Snorkeling

Kayaking and . . .   (Fill in the blank). 

There doesn’t seem to be an end to all the aquatic adventures you can enjoy from your kayak.  These versatile vessels seem to do it all. You can camp with your kayak, fish from your kayak, exercise in your kayak. And yes, you can even snorkel. Seriously, a kayak can greatly enhance your snorkeling experience. 

Benefits of Kayak Snorkeling

  • Exercise
  • Kayaking itself is always a great workout. Whether you are enhancing your core or building your upper body, you can get the gains by paddling. You also get cardio in as well. And that is all before you even enter the water with your snorkel gear. 

  • Unique locations
  • Kayaks let you get to places boats can’t. You can find friendly little coves and secluded bays. But these paddle crafts also increase your range beyond the beach as you can paddle out to places much further away than you can swim. 

  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Using a non-motorized kayak cuts down on fossil fuels from boats and noise pollution from loud motors. Kayaks are stealthy and nimble so you can quietly enjoy the marine life without disturbing the environment. 

    Safety Tips for Kayak Snorkeling

  • Always wear a PFD
  • You should always wear a good quality personal flotation device when paddling a kayak. If you choose to take it off while you are snorkeling, make sure that you secure it properly to the kayak so you don’t lose it. It is also important that you put it on again before re-entering the kayak. Getting back in your kayak is a difficult task and having that extra buoyancy can help. It also protects you if you capsize the boat or have an emergency. It will help keep your head above water and allow you to rest. 

  • Make yourself visible
  • Remember that when you are in the water as a snorkeler, you aren’t very visible to other boats and kayakers in the area. Your bright-colored kayak might get their attention, but that doesn’t mean they know a swimmer is in the water. In addition to your kayak, it is wise to include a flag or surface buoy that can warn others that snorkelers are near the kayak. 

  • Use a reliable anchor or rope
  • When you get where you are going to snorkel, you need a way to keep your kayak in place. An anchor can help secure your kayak or rope can tie off to an island or reef, if it is safe and prudent to do so. (Remember to protect delicate marine environments). You can also tie your kayak off to your PFD and have it float behind you like a dog on a leash. Take care that you have enough line to swim around but not so much that you foul it among others in your group. 

  • Paddle leash & bungees
  • Since you are leaving your kayak to snorkel, you want to have your hands free. This is when it becomes incredibly important to secure your items in the kayak. Make sure you have bungeed down everything of value – particularly your paddle. Many kayaks come with a “paddle park” or bungee system, but if yours doesn’t, take a paddle leash or take extra care that your paddle is secured. You don’t want to surface from a snorkel to discover that your means of getting home has floated away and you are facing a long (sometimes impossible) swim. 

  • Safe embark / disembark method
  • This is probably the most difficult part of kayak snorkeling: leaving and re-entering the kayak. While kayaks are quite stable, there is a danger of capsizing when you are actively trying to leave one. Practice in shallow water before you attempt to paddle out willy-nilly and find yourself stuck. Here are some tips for entering and exiting in open water. (If you have shallow water, rocks, or reefs to mount from all the better.)

    Before exiting, put on your mask / snorkel / fins as well as PFD and secure all items. To exit the kayak, turn and dangle your legs off the side. Brace two hands on the sides of the kayak to lift your butt off the seat and slide into the water at the same time. Try to maintain weight on the opposite arm as you lower yourself into the water and then push off from the kayak. (Bend the arm on the side you are entering from to try to keep the kayak level.)

    To re-enter the kayak, you will need to approach from the bow or stern. If you try to enter from the side, you risk flipping the kayak over. If your equipment is stowed in the stern, you will likely be entering from the bow (front) of the kayak. Grab the kayak and place it between your legs. You will be straddling the kayak. Push the kayak down under the water as you straddle it and then pull yourself face down onto the ‘yak. Keep your body low and as close to the kayak as you can. Keep hauling yourself forward to the center. Once you reach the seat, carefully roll over and sit up. Take your time. It isn’t graceful, but it gets the job down. 

  • Stay close to your kayak
  • It is extremely important that you stay close to your kayak. First, your kayak is your transportation and you don’t want to get separated from your way of getting home. It doesn’t take much current to push you and your kayak apart so stay aware of it and don’t venture too far away. Second, your kayak makes you visible to others in the area so you don’t get a speed boat going over your head. 

  • Bring a buddy
  • Whenever you go out on the water, it is always a good idea to bring a friend. You can share the enjoyment, help each other in an emergency, and make memories together. 

  • Leave a float plan
  • Make sure that you research your kayak trip before you go. Being familiar with the area means you know where to put in and out, locations of good snorkeling, how to protect marine life, and other variables that will help ensure a good time. Most importantly, you should leave that plan with a friend or family member back on land. Someone should be aware of where you are going and when you are expected to be back. 

    Items to Pack for Kayak Snorkeling

  • Reliable snorkel gear
  • If you are going to snorkel from your kayak, you better have the right gear. Make sure that it is ready to go from your launch. You want to be as seamless as possible getting it on and off so you aren’t fumbling in a bobbing kayak. Adjust all straps and buckles before you head out. 

  • Appropriate clothing
  • Since you are planning to get wet, make sure that you are dressed appropriately in a swimsuit or wetsuit. Bringing a towel or clothes to slip over after you exit the water is helpful as well.

  • Water, water, water
  • You might not even realize what a workout you are getting or how quickly you are dehydrating when you are in the water. Make sure that you pack enough water AND drink it! Stay hydrated.

  • Sun protection
  • If you are out on open water, you aren’t likely to find a lot of shade. In addition to the sizzling rays of the sun, there is also reflection off the water – a recipe for disaster if you aren’t prepared. Apply and reapply sunscreen, especially after going in the water. But don’t rely on sunscreen alone. Bring protective clothing: lightweight, sun-resistant, long-sleeved options are a wise investment. A wide-brimmed hat is also a must-have. 

  • Snacks
  • Exerting yourself, paddling and swimming, means that you are going to be hungry. Plan for it. Pack some non-perishable, protein-rich options: trail mix, protein pudding cups, energy snacks, etc.

  • Flag, bungees, PFD, anchor, rope
  • All of these things were mentioned above in the safety section, but they are included here in the packing sections so you don’t forget them! Ensure your day out is safe by planning ahead and thinking through the variables. 

  • First Aid Kit
  • Always include a first aid kit whenever you go on an adventure. It is better to be safe than sorry. We posted ideas on stocking your own first aid kit

  • Dry Bag
  • A dry bag is a great investment if you want to make kayak snorkeling your thing. If you are snorkeling from your kayak, things will get wet. It is inevitable. Instead of fighting it, embrace it and plan for it. A dry bag is excellent to hold all the items that you are leaving in your kayak while you snorkel. The advantage is that it can be secured to your kayak and if it capsizes you are only rushing to grab one thing, rather than all.the.things. 


    Snorkeling from your kayak is an excellent summer adventure. Try it out today. Happy Paddling!

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