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|While the equipment listed below emphasizes the needs of sea kayakers, the descriptions of water conditions and risk apply to all those in small boats.|
|Level One||Limited Risk (with correct management)
Protected waters; no significant currents; seas normally 1 foot or less.
Accessible shoreline along the entire trip; phone & shelter within 1 mile of all points of shoreline.
Recommended for all paddlers. (These trips are the safest because paddlers never have to venture far from shore or to a water depth of more than 5 feet.)
Equipment should include life jacket, emergency whistle, spare clothes.
|Level Two||Limited Risk
(with correct management)
Protected waters; minimal currents; seas normally 2 feet or less.
Accessible shoreline along all or nearly all of the trip.
Recommended for intermediate and for experienced paddlers, or for novice paddlers if accompanied by more experienced paddlers.
Equipment required same as Level One plus spray skirt, paddle float, and pump.
|Level Three||Moderate Risk
(with correct management)
May include protected waters with stretches of inaccessible shoreline (due to cliffs, rocks, piers, dams, etc.), or open waters with accessible shoreline. Likely to include moderate currents and seas of greater than 2 feet.
May involve crossings of up to 2 miles.
Recommended for experienced paddlers in well-organized groups. Recommended in warm water months only, unless all paddlers are equipped with dry suits.
Equipment required includes (but is not necessarily limited to) Level One equipment plus chart, compass, paddle float, pump, flares, horn, spare paddle, repair kit, first aid kit, and tow rope.
|Level Four||Significant Risk,
even with correct management.
Includes open waters; paddlers should be prepared to face strong currents, high winds and / or big seas.
May involve crossings of 2 - 5 miles or long stretches of inaccessible shoreline.
Recommended for highly experienced paddlers in well-organized groups only. Recommended for warm water months only, unless all paddlers are equipped with dry suits.
Equipment required includes all Level Three plus VHF radio and survival gear.
|Level Five||High levels of
Risk, even with the best possible risk management.
Include open waters; paddlers should expect to face extremely strong currents, high winds and / or big seas.
May involve crossings of more than 5 miles or long stretches of inaccessible shoreline.
Recommended for the most experienced paddlers in well-organized groups trained in rescue techniques only. Recommended for warm water months only, unless all paddlers are equipped with dry suits.
Equipment required includes all Level Three plus VHF radio, survival gear, and GPS device.
|A Few Words on Safety and Risk:
For the vast majority of paddlers in the vast majority of conditions,
paddling is a safe sport without undue risks. And yet, because weather, wind,
water, and human medical conditions can be so unpredictable, it is important to
acknowledge that some degree of risk is present each time you go out in a boat.
The key to a long, happy, and safe paddling life is not to eliminate risk (impossible!) but to manage risk correctly.
Even a Level 1 trip is a risky enterprise if you paddle alone, in cold waters, without a life jacket and have limited swimming ability. On the other hand, a Level 3 or 4 trip can be relatively safe if you paddle on a well-planned trip and in an organized group, have proper training and equipment, and choose the timing of the trip carefully according to weather reports, marine reports, and water temperatures.
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