Hurricane kayaking must be approached with caution. While most of the country shudders at the idea of getting hit by a hurricane, kayakers have a bit of a different take on the situation. Every stage of a tropical storm or hurricane offers kayakers paddling opportunities that they otherwise don’t have. Of course this depends on where in the country one lives, what type of kayaking they do, and their respective skill level.
Hurricane Sea, Surf, and Whitewater Kayaking
Sea kayakers could benefit from the calm waters a hurricane provides days before the storm hits or after it has passed. Seas are often placid during these times due to pressure systems in the area before and after the storm. Of course, immediately before an approaching hurricane and while a hurricane is off shore the coast is a maelstrom that only the insane go near. That is, unless you’re a surf kayaker or a sea kayaker that enjoys playing in the surf. And once the storm has passed whitewater kayaking will inevitably heat up as that is when the flooding occurs.
Things to Think About Before Paddling Before, During, or After a Hurricane
While a storm might provide some long awaited paddling conditions, it is often wise to forgo the decision to enter the chaos, difficult as that might be. Here are some things to consider as you decide whether or not to kayak before, during, or after a hurricane.
Help is Not Readily AvailableBefore, during, and after a hurricane, emergency responders are always busy with preparations, helping those in dire situations, and caught in the chaos that hurricane’s bring. Even before a storm, chaos is undoubtedly underway as people scurry about in often inclement weather making last minute preparations for the impact. If you go kayaking during these times chances are you’re completely on your own and help is not right around the corner.
Floodstage Paddling is DangerousKayaking during flooding is extremely dangerous. There is so much more to contend with than just higher water. There will be debris in the water such as garbage cans, rusty metal, and of course lots of trees. Rivers will change with flooding and those waves, holes, and boulders won’t be where you thought they were. It is best to wait until after the flooding peaks before doing any whitewater paddling.
Unpredictable Currents and Rogue WavesThe ocean becomes extremely unpredictable even after a hurricane. Just when things seems completely calm and the storm has long gone or even days before the storm rogue waves can come through and turn an otherwise placid day on the ocean into a nightmare. Also, all of the churning up of the ocean can cause unpredictable currents unnoticed from the shore. It will only be when it’s too late when you realize that you’re in currents that you can’t fight.
Evacuation and the LawOften the best surf is in an evacuation zone. It might actually be illegal for you to go kayaking as a hurricane approaches. You’ll be driving one way and everyone else will be driving the other. Surfers routinely push this limit and surf kayakers are beginning to also. The last thing we should be doing in these situations is giving the people in charge of evacuations and the state of emergency something else to worry about, being kayakers to chase down.
People Will Be HurtingPeople often lose their homes, their cars, their businesses, loved ones, everything in hurricanes. Do we really want to go be-bopping through their back yard in a kayak when they are hurting? There is a certain kayaking etiquette that is good to observe in these situations.
Above all else, hurricane kayaking it is just about safety and exercising some basic kayaking common sense. Also, make sure you have your own evacuation plan down pat in case you need to get out of dodge on short notice. Be safe out there!