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Sea Kayak Trip Difficulty Guidelines

These sea kayak trip difficulty guidelines will give you an idea of the difficultly and duration of the trip. It will also indicate the speed of the trip as well as the paddling skills that are recommended for a sea kayaking trip of that level.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Location

protected waterway with easy access to shore.(Lakes, ponds, rivers with slow current, and small protected estuaries or harbors)

semi-protected waterway with access to shore. (Lakes, ponds, rivers with moderate current, and semi-protected estuaries or harbors)

exposure to open ocean with access to semi-protected waterway or shore. (Lakes, rivers with strong current, ocean, surf zone, and large estuaries or harbors)

open water, open ocean, and surf zone with limited access to semi-protected waterway or shore.

Distance

less than 2 miles

2 to 5 miles

5 to 15 miles

greater than 15 miles

Pace

less than 2 mph

2 to 3 mph

3 to 4 mph

greater than 4 mph

Wind

less than 5 knots
(less than 4 mph)

5 to 10 knots
(4 to 9 mph)

10 to 20 knots
(9 to 17 mph)

greater than 20 knots
(greater than 17 mph)

Wave Height

less than 1 foot

less than 1 foot

1 to 3 feet

greater than 3 feet

Recommended Paddle Skills

forward stroke

forward stroke
reverse stroke

draw and bracing strokes helpful

good balance, bracing, paddling, navigation skills
and Ability to ferry and cross eddy lines in strong currents

strong balance, bracing, paddling, and navigation skills

Recommended Rescue Skills

wet exit (with or without spray skirt)

wet exit assisted rescue

assisted rescue
self rescue tows

reliable roll
assisted rescue
self rescue
tows

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4


(1.) This guideline has been developed to establish expected sea kayak trip condition levels to help ease communication between leaders and trip participants.


(2.) Although trip levels should generally be decided by the condition of the highest rating, these guideline levels are not rigid. Additional trip requirements and information is detailed in the trip listings.


(3.) Please be aware: Conditions may vary at any point during a trip due to changes in weather, participant actions or other variables.


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