Kayaks come in a variety of styles and sizes, and like
canoes are almond-shaped and powered by paddling. Kayaks tend to be smaller
than canoes, sometimes covered by a deck and spray skirt, and seat one or two
kayakers, who sit with legs extended in front of them. Kayakers almost always
use a two-bladed paddle. Beginners should be careful of overexertion. If girls
aren’t accustomed to using oars, they may experience strained arm muscles.
Kayaking is not recommended for Girl Scout Daisies; Class III and Class IV
whitewater is not recommended for Brownies; Class IV whitewater is not
recommended for Juniors.
You must seek council permission for activities with uncontrollable and highly
changeable environment conditions, such as unclassified rivers and some
watercraft trips; girls are never allowed on Class V and above whitewater.
Know where to go kayaking.
Just about any body of water (lake, stream, river, ocean) is suitable for
kayaking, so long as the proper equipment, instructions, and safety precautions
are used. Kayaking is done only on
water that has been approved by your Girl Scout council or that has been run
and rated, and on whitewater only up to Class IV difficulty, as defined by the
American Version of the International Scale of River Difficulty.
The American Whitewater Association
provides information about American and some international river locations,
classes, and levels. Connect with your Girl Scout council for site suggestions.
Include girls with disabilities.
Communicate with girls with disabilities
and/or their caregivers to assess any needs and accommodations. Learn more
about the paddleability resources and information that the International Canoe Federation and
British Canoe Union provide to people with disabilities.
Layered clothing that’s easily changeable
depending on temperatures (waterproof jacket and pants recommended)
- Change of dry clothing (no cotton; store in
waterproof bag secured to kayak)
- Boat shoes, closed-toe hiking/sport sandals with
heel strap, water socks or shoes, or other nonslip footwear (no flip-flops)
- Waterproof sunscreen (SPF of at least 15)
- Flashlight (and extra batteries)
- Emergency repair kit: duct tape or electrical
tape, screwdriver, pliers
- Emergency survival packet: raincoat, waterproof
matches, food, lightweight/space blanket, hat, raincoat, pocket knife
- Compass and chart of the area (for each adult)
- Participants wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life
jacket (Type III recommended) that fits
according to weight and height specifications. Inspect life jackets to ensure that they are in good condition and
contain no tears.
- Wetsuit or drysuit recommended when water is
colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit (should be worn when the combined air and
water temperature is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or when the combination
of cool air, wind chill, and evaporative cooling may lead to hypothermia)
- Safety helmet (with flexible, strong, plastic
shell with a chin strap and openings for drainage) when kayaking in waters that
are Class II and higher
- Throw bag
- At least one graspable and throwable personal
flotation device (Type IV buoyant cushion or ring buoy or equivalent) is
immediately available for each group on the water
Paddles (select the appropriate size and style for the activity and person using
them); have extras on hand
- Bailer (a bucket used to remove water from a
boat) or sponge
- Each kayak is sized for the person using it and
has an adjustable bracing system for the feet and bow and stern grab loops.
Each kayak is outfitted with proper flotation. If used, air bags are checked
before trips to ensure that the seals are intact.
- Spray skirt (provides a water-resistant seal
around the waist) with release loop
- For river rescue, each instructor attaches a
locking-blade knife, two carabiners (rectangular metal
rings with spring-hinged openings), and two Prusik loops to life jacket or
secures them to the kayak in an easily accessible place. (A prusik loop is a
mountaineering knot with loops, used with a carbiner for quick tie-offs and
z-drag rescues, to recover a kayak pinned against a rock or other obstacle.)
- A 50-foot length of tow line (lightweight nylon,
polypropylene, or 50- to 100-pound monofilament fishing line) is carried for
every three to four kayaks.
- Each adult carries a spare paddle, a first-aid
kit, a repair kit, and standard safety equipment, including signaling equipment
and a paddle float—a solid block of foam or inflatable nylon attached to a
paddle that may be used as an outrigger for self-rescue.
Prepare for Kayaking
with council and parents. Inform your Girl Scout council and girls’
parents/guardians about the activity, including details about safety
precautions and any appropriate clothing or supplies that may be necessary. Follow
council procedures for activity approval, certificates of insurance, and
council guidelines about girls’ general health examinations. Make arrangements
in advance for all transportation and confirm plans before departure.
- Girls plan the activity. Keeping their
grade-level abilities in mind, encourage girls to take proactive leadership
roles in organizing details of the activity.
participants are able to swim. Participants’ swimming abilities are
classified and clearly identified (for instance, with colored headbands to
signify beginners, advanced swimmers, etc.) at council-approved sites, or participants
provide proof of swimming-test certification. In the absence of swimming-test
certification, a swim test is conducted on the day of the activity. Consult
with your Girl Scout council for additional guidance.
for transportation and adult supervision. The recommended adult-to-girl
ratios are two non-related adults (at least one of whom is female) to every:
- 12 Girl Scout Brownies
- 16 Girl Scout Juniors
- 20 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 24 Girl Scout Seniors
- 24 Girl Scout Ambassadors
- Plus one adult to each additional:
- 6 Girl Scout Brownies
- 8 Girl Scout Juniors
- 10 Girl Scout Cadettes
- 12 Girl Scout Seniors
- 12 Girl Scout Ambassadors
instructor knowledge and experience. Ensure that the skill level of the adults is
higher than the difficulty of the intended activity. For each of the following
types of kayaking, one adult must hold either: 1) American Red Cross Small
Craft Safety Instructor certification (Kayaking and Moving Water modules), or
2) the following certification appropriate for the activity, or equivalent
certification, or documented experience and skill in kayak rescue and in
teaching kayaking skills and/or supervision specific to the kayaking activity
- River and
whitewater kayaking: Moving Water Kayaking Instructor certification from
the American Canoe Association; the ratio of instructor to participant is 1 to
kayaking: Coastal Kayaking Instructor from the American Canoe Association;
the ratio of instructor to participant is 1 to 5. For sea kayaking, the adult
is familiar with water and weather conditions and in tidal areas is aware of
tidal fluctuations, currents, and wind patterns that may accompany tide
a safe kayak site. Trips are not taken to unknown
coastal areas, and locations of all boat channels are known and avoided. Also
make sure of the following:
- Busy channels are not crossed.
- Surf zones and areas with standing waves are
- On long crossings, kayaks are close enough
together so that a group decision can be made if wind and water conditions
- Transport kayaks safely. Kayaks are transported on car-top racks or trailers
designed to haul kayaks. Kayaks are secured with two lines across the top and a
line at the bow and the stern.
key contacts. Give an itinerary to a contact person at
home; call the contact person upon departure and return. Create a list of girls’
parents/guardian contact information, telephone numbers for emergency services
and police, and council contacts—keep on hand or post in an easily accessible
- Research water
conditions and select kayaks appropriate to skill level. Consider weather and water conditions, weight of
passengers, and equipment. Also make sure of the following:
- Craft weight and capacity are not exceeded (some
crafts clearly display maximum capacity).
- Kayaks 15 feet or shorter hold no more than two
- Each kayak is sized for the person using it.
- You are knowledgeable of
the difficulty of the water run and the International
Scale of River Difficulty.
- You are aware of
possible changes in river level and weather and their effects
on the run’s level of difficulty.
the environment. Make sure kayaking on whitewater or
semiprotected waters meets the Safety Code of
- File a float plan. If participating
in a long-distance kayak trip, file a float plan with local authorities that
includes names of people on board, destination, craft description, times of
departure and return, and additional details about routes and marine
communications. The Coast Guard provides an electronic, printable form.
- Prepare for emergencies. If a lifeguard is not on duty, an
adult with rescue and resuscitation experience and/or certification is present;
at least one adult has small-craft safety certification or equivalent
experience (both of these qualifications can be held by one person). Ensure the
presence of a waterproof first-aid kit and a first-aider with a current certificate in First Aid,
including Adult and Child CPR or CPR/AED, who is prepared to handle cases of
near-drowning, immersion hypothermia, and sunburn. If participating in
whitewater kayaking or an overnight trip, or if any part of the activity is
located 60 minutes or more from emergency medical services, ensure the presence
of a first-aider (level 2) with Wilderness and Remote First Aid. See Volunteer Essentials for information
about first-aid standards and training.
the Universal River Signals. The adult and/or kayak
instructor understands the American Whitewater codes. Also, a set of whistle
and visual signals is established that allows messages to pass between kayaks.
participants know cold-water survival techniques and treatment for hypothermia.
Each person practices appropriate self-rescue and
reentry techniques. (Basic information is available on the U.S. Search and
Rescue Task Force site.)
On the Day of Kayaking
a weather report. Never kayak on a stormy day. On the day of
the activity, visit weather.com, Intellicast, or other reliable sources to
assess weather conditions, water temperature, and river/wave conditions. If
weather conditions prevent the trip, be prepared with a backup plan or
- Review rescue tips. Know how to
tipped kayak and other river-rescue techniques.
the buddy system. Girls are divided into teams of two. Each
girl chooses a buddy and is responsible for staying with her buddy at all
times, warning her buddy of danger, giving her buddy immediate assistance if
safe to do so, and seeking help when the situation warrants it. If someone in
the group is injured, one person cares for the patient while two others seek
- Be prepared in the event of a storm with lightning. Exit water immediately and take shelter away from tall objects
(including trees, buildings, and electrical poles). Find the lowest point in an
open flat area. Squat low to the ground on the balls of the feet, and place
hands on knees with head between them. During storms, if shore cannot be
reached, secure all loose gear, keep a sharp lookout for other boats and
obstructions, and stay low.
- American Canoe Association: www.americancanoe.org
- American Whitewater: www.americanwhitewater.org
- International Canoe Federation: www.canoeicf.com
- National Organization for River Sports: www.nationalrivers.org
- U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division: www.uscgboating.org
- Whitewater Rescue Institute: www.whitewaterrescue.com
Kayaking Know-How for Girls
about kayaking variations. Polo, slalom, whitewater, surf,
touring/expedition, light touring, and general recreation are the six primary
- Aerated water: Moving water that collects oxygen as
it flows over a rock or drops quickly; aerated water is white and fluffy and is
found in holes and stoppers
kayak: The configuration of kayak in which the kayaker
sits with legs and hips inside the kayak hull with a “spray skirt” around the
waist; the other configuration is a “sit-on-top,”
in which the kayaker sits on top of the kayak