Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dear Kayak Yak - Signals

Dear Kayak Yak
As kayakers, we should paddle the ocean with the ability to communicate with others and so we carry radios, cell phones and even whistles. But we have a hearing-impaired paddler in our group and I was wondering if there are any recognized visual signals used in kayaking.
Toasted in Tofino

Dear Toasted,
There are many signals that can be used to communicate between paddlers to increase safety during your paddle. Here are some of the most common ones. (Remember that not everyone may use the same signals, so talk them over with your fellow paddlers ahead of time!)

This signal means "GO, proceed in the direction previously discussed." (It can also be done by raising one arm straight into the air).

Holding your horizontally paddle over head is indicating to your fellow paddlers that they should "STOP and hold their position." (This signal can also be done by holding your arms outstretched.)

Holding your horizontally paddle over head and alternately moving each end of the paddle up and down indicates to your fellow paddlers that they should "move BACKWARDS."

Pointing your paddle to one side or the other indicates the direction that you wish to travel. Here, our model is pointing his paddle to his right, indicating that he wishes to travel to the right.
If our model was holding his paddle in a similar fashion but waving it over his head, this would indicate "EMERGENCY." (Waving your arm over your head also means Emergency.)

This signal means that "my tandem paddle partner is very annoying and if he doesn't shut up soon I'm going to stab him through the chest with his own paddle."

This signal is seldom used on the water, but can sometimes be seen when expeditions have made camp for the night. It means that "this moron forgot to pack the food for our five-day trip."
Groups displaying this signal should be avoided whenever possible. They will be grouchy and annoyed and could possibly resort to cannibalism.

This signal means "you heard right, ladies: carbon shaft."

This signal is often used by Canadian paddlers and means "two minutes for hooking."


  1. What about a signal for "Take off you hoser" ?

  2. haha Great post

    What's the signal for "I've lost my paddle!"

  3. oh yeah...the carbon shaft...

  4. Aw, man... where were you guys with your great ideas when I was banging my head against a wall trying to think of some more? :)

  5. Hey? What? Sorry, I missed that.

    You forgot another signal: fingers wiggling, arms extended fully over head. Means: I'm floating up to my eyebrows in water, my PFD has come off over my head and my arms are trapped.

  6. i love immature comment so i'm going to make one :)