Due to challenging weather conditions, kayaking should not be attempted by the novice or anyone who is not properly trained, conditioned, and equipped. Safety requires good planning and common sense. Sea kayaking is potentially hazardous, even for experienced kayakers. Please follow these saftey recommendations:
Use the buddy system.
There are no lifeguards on duty. Kayaking is at your own risk. Stay together and paddle within the skills of the least experienced paddler in the group.
Obtain current weather and sea conditions.
The conditions around the islands are considered "open ocean." Extreme weather conditions may be encountered at any time and sea conditions may become dangerous without warning.There is no place where visitors will be kayaking in a protected cove. Always observe and evaluate sea conditions before entering the water. Be alert to wind, wave, and currents at all times.
Do not travel down wind (with the wind) as you will have to return into a headwind.
Wind and waves typically come out of the northwest or west. Winds tend to increase in the afternoon. Morning hours can be a better time for kayaking, and other watersports. Challengin Santa Ana or east winds may occur at anytime, but are most common from September through April.
Do not exceed your skill level.
If you are new to sea kayaking or other watersports, stay close to your launch area and paddle with an experienced kayaker. Ask National Park Service personnel or kayak guides if you have questions concerning weather, safety, etc. Be capable of re-entering your kayak from the water.
Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Kayakers should always file a float plan with family and/or friends and inform them of your departure and return. The float plan should include: 1) the number of boats and boaters on the trip as well as the color, size, and type of craft used; 2) names and addresses for the boaters , as well as emergency phone numbers; 3) any survival and special emergency equipment should be listed (EPIRB, VHF, food rations, flares, etc.); and 4) the place, date, and time of departure and return should be logged as well as destination(s). This information can be invaluable for a search operation if something goes wrong. Remember to be flexible with your plans. Weather should always determine your course of action.
If you are kayaking across the channel, kayakers should also file a formal float plan with the harbormaster before departing and contact island rangers at the beginning and end of the paddle.
Carefully select and equip your paddlecraft.
Craft should be of a sea kayak design and kayakers must have the following items:
- Lifejackets-all paddlers must have lifejackets.
- Helmets-always wear a helmet when paddling below cliffs and in sea caves.
- VHF radio, tow line, compass, throw bag, first aid kit, signaling device (airhorn, whistle, or signal mirror). Carry these items with you and know how to use them.
- Wetsuits are highly recommended. Water temperatures remain cold throughout the year.
Sea caves can be very dangerous-large waves or swells can fill a cave unexpectedly. Even on calm days, the wake from large ships in the channel can pose a danger to kayakers in caves. Be extremely careful and wear a helmet at all times when exploring sea caves. Always observe and evaluate sea conditions before entering any sea cave.
Major shipping lanes lie between the islands and the mainland. Kayakers should be aware of their location and use caution when crossing them. All kayakers should listen to the USCG notice to mariners broadcast on VHF channel 22 since the waters in and surrounding the park are sometimes closed for military operations.
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