How To Paddle A Kayak Without Getting Wet?

How To Paddle A Kayak Without Getting Wet?

If you are paddling during the heat of summer, you might need to get wet to stay cool.

When the water and air temperatures are a little cooler, however, it’s useful to know how to paddle a kayak without getting wet. 

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies and kayaking accessories that will help you stay dry in your kayak.

Plus, the type of kayak you use for your paddling adventures will play a role in how easy it is to keep water off you while kayaking.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to stay dry while kayaking.

We’ll also recommend several kayak features to look for if you are buying a new kayak for paddling in locations where it’s imperative to avoid getting wet.

So let’s get into it! 

How To Paddle A Kayak Without Getting Wet?

Paddling a kayak without getting wet requires a multi-faceted approach.

Your paddling technique, clothing choices, accessories, and the amount of attention you pay to the weather will all factor into a dry kayaking experience. 

The cleanest answer we can give, however, is to make sure that your kayak paddle has drip guards and that they are positioned properly (more on that later).

Aside from that, one of the best kayak spray skirts can go a long way towards at least keeping your lower half dry. 

Let’s discuss a little more about these two points and cover a few more strategies for dry kayaking adventures. 

How To Stay Dry While Kayaking?

Please keep in mind that none of these strategies should be considered ”˜standalone solutions’.

Depending on your location and the weather in your region, you may need to employ several of these ideas concurrently if you want to paddle a kayak without getting wet. 

Ensure Proper Drip Guard Placement

Drip guards are an often overlooked feature of even the best kayak paddles.

They wrap around the shaft of the paddle and their purpose is to stop water from running down the paddle shaft onto your hands and then dripping into your kayak’s cockpit. 

However, these drip guards are usually made of rubber and they can sometimes stretch and expand over time.

If you rent a kayak from a local company, it’s also common to get a paddle that is completely missing its drip guards. 

If you want to paddle without getting wet, however, your paddle needs to have two drip guards and they need to be positioned correctly.

Your drip guards should be slid out and away from the center of the paddle shaft so that they are as close to the blades as possible. 

As you paddle, the blade that was just in the water will rise up and any water on it will begin to drip towards the center of the paddle shaft.

If your drip guards are positioned properly, water will hit them and drip down off your paddle and back into the water outside of your kayak. 

If your drip guards are too close to the center of your paddle shaft, they will cause water to drip down onto your kayak or, in the worst case, onto you in the cockpit.

So your drip guards should be tight and positioned properly if you want to stay dry while kayaking. 

Paddle With A Spray Skirt

The next strategy for avoiding getting wet while kayaking is to paddle with a spray skirt.

These skirts come in many different designs, but they usually include a neoprene seal that goes around your waist and some sort of bungee or string that secures around the lip of your kayak’s cockpit. 

Some spray skirts come in a sort of ”˜overall’ style with straps that go over your shoulders.

These skirts are most easily used if you put them onto your body before entering your kayak and securing the bottom edge around the lip of the cockpit. 

It is possible, however, to put a spray skirt on while you are on the water.

It just may require that you take other kayak clothing items or your PFD off to get the skirt on underneath. 

So that’s why it can be useful to decide whether or not you want to wear a spray skirt for the day’s paddle while you are still on land. 

It is worth noting, however, that these spray skirts will only keep your lower half dry.

If you’re out in the rain or in wavy conditions with a lot of splashing water, it won’t do much for your upper body, hands, or head. 

That said, it can make a huge difference in the comfort of your lower body when you paddle in cold or wet conditions.

Not only will a spray skirt keep your lower body dry, but it will also trap more heat inside your kayak’s cockpit to keep you warmer. 

Wear A Drysuit

If you know that the chance of rain or splashing water is particularly high, you can also wear a drysuit for kayaking.

The best drysuits for kayaking will keep you dry and warm even when conditions are at their worst. 

One of the best things about drysuits is that you can wear more traditional clothing layers underneath them.

These suits seal around your neck, wrists, and ankles to keep all water from entering. 

This means you can layer up underneath to stay as warm as possible and this is why folks that paddle year-round almost always have a kayaking drysuit in their arsenal.

Plus, you won’t have to worry about quickly layering up or getting a spray skirt in place if weather conditions change. 

The only downside to drysuits is that they don’t breathe very well in warmer climates.

So if you’re concerned about staying dry while kayaking in places with lots of rain but very warm temperatures, you may be better off wearing a more traditional rain jacket in conjunction with a spray skirt. 

Know The Chance of Rain Before You Go

This recommendation is so simple that we almost forgot to include it.

The easiest (and arguably most obvious) way to paddle a kayak without getting wet is to be sure that the chance of precipitation is absolutely zero before you go paddling. 

Checking the weather early and often is a good strategy for all levels of kayakers, but it’s especially important for those of you that want to stay as dry as possible.

Of course, the chance of precipitation isn’t the only weather factor you should pay attention to during your weather checks. 

You should also note the average wind speed, wind gusts, and wind direction on the body of water you are about to paddle on.

This is because windy and wavy conditions make it more likely for kayakers to capsize. 

For our money, the Ventusky app is one of the best resources we’ve found for up-to-date wind and weather information for kayakers. 

Choose Time And Location Wisely

Another factor that many beginning kayakers don’t consider is when and where they plan their paddles.

For example, heading out on the water at mid-day on a busy holiday weekend is going to expose you to more motorized boat traffic. 

Unfortunately, more boat traffic also tends to come with a higher potential for encountering irresponsible boaters.

Many kayakers have done everything else right and wound up going for an unexpected swim due to the irresponsible actions of other folks on the water. 

So if you want to avoid the possibility of encountering other boaters or even kayakers that make it harder for you to paddle without getting wet, you should also choose the time and location of your kayaking adventures wisely. 

If you can, getting early morning starts will help you avoid the busiest times of the day.

This also tends to be when the surface waters on many lakes and coastal waterways are at their calmest. 

In addition, paddling during the week will also help you avoid the crowds if you are a remote worker or you have the kind of schedule flexibility that will allow it. 

Master A ”˜Dock-Start’ Technique

An unfortunate reality of getting started on a kayaking adventure is that you usually have to walk into the water in order to get into your kayak.

If you want to paddle without truly getting wet at all, however, you need to learn how to enter your kayak from a dock

There are some pretty cool EZ Launch docks out there these days that are primarily made to make kayaking more accessible for folks with disabilities.

These docks can also be used for dry starts when you don’t want to get your feet wet. 

That said, you don’t necessarily need an EZ Launch dock in order to launch a kayak without getting wet.

Just remember that you will also need to know how to exit your kayak and safely get back onto the dock at the end of your paddle! 

How To Choose A Kayak That Will Keep You Dry(ish)

The type of kayak you choose for your adventures will also play a large role in how wet you get while paddling.

So here are a few tips for choosing a kayak that will keep you drier in any conditions. 

Sit-on-Top Versus Sit-Inside

If staying dry is your top priority, we recommend going with a sit-inside kayak over one of the best sit-on-top kayaks.

This is because sit-on-top kayaks have scupper holes. These allow water to drain out of the cockpit naturally. 

What that does, however, is also allows a small amount of water into the cockpit from underneath.

The actual amount of water is usually minimal, but it can increase when you’re using a sit-on-top kayak in adverse weather conditions. 

Sit-inside kayaks, on the other hand, have completely sealed hulls with a covered cockpit that’s better for keeping you dry.

Plus, only a sit-inside kayak will give you the option of attaching a kayak spray skirt to further keep water out of the cockpit and your body heat inside. 

Kayak Depth

The depth of kayaks is not a feature that we typically discuss, but it does come into play when you are concerned with not getting wet while kayaking

. A deeper sit-inside kayak will provide more protection from splashing water entering the cockpit. 

In other words, there will be larger ”˜walls’ on the sides of the kayak to keep waves from splashing inside.

So if you are trying to choose between two kayaks, pick the deeper model if you are concerned with staying as dry as possible. 

Cockpit Dimensions

Because we recommend sit-inside kayaks for those that want to paddle a kayak without getting wet, you should also take note of the cockpit’s dimensions before buying a kayak.

A smaller cockpit will provide less of an opening for rain or splashing water to enter. 

In addition, you will need to know your kayak’s cockpit dimensions if you are going to buy a compatible spray skirt for it.

Because if you really want to stay dry, a spray skirt is one accessory that you should keep on your kayak at all times. 

Final Thoughts

Staying dry while kayaking may not be of huge importance to you if the weather is always warm where you typically paddle.

For those of you that live in, or travel to, cooler climates to paddle, however, staying dry can make a huge difference in your comfort level and the amount of time you are willing to spend out on the water. 

The dangers of hypothermia increase exponentially once you are wet, which is why all kayakers should be familiar with air and water temperature formulas for safe paddling conditions. 

Knowing whether or not it’s safe to head out for a paddle is the first step towards preventing injuries and fatalities while kayaking.

Not to end on a somber note, but it is really important that all kayakers (especially those in colder regions) become students of the weather and how it impacts the safety of their paddling adventures. 

We hope you have found these tips on how to paddle a kayak without getting wet useful and we wish you the driest of paddling trips in the coming months.

Let us know where you plan to paddle in the near future by commenting below! 

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Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.