NORFOLK, Va. - The sun is out and the wind and waters are calm, which for Wayne Bradby are ideal conditions for his favorite sport – kayaking.
Bradby has kayaked through local waters for over 20 years and is with the Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association, an organization that promotes kayak education and safety through programs and events.
"We're so rushed with our lives, jobs and kids, and you leave it all behind when you get in a kayak,” Bradby said. "You get some exercise, and if you're lucky, you catch some fish, so there's a ton of different reasons to get out."
The sport involves a small boat-like vessel fit for one person, sometimes two, that is maneuvered by a paddle, pedals or a motor. Bradby’s kayak is motorized but also uses a paddle.
Kayaking may be a relaxing sport but there's more to it than just hopping into a kayak and going out into the water. The avid kayakers, like Bradby, will say that safety is important.
The first thing anyone should keep in mind, Bradby said, is to wear a personal flotation device, also known as a PFD or life vest.
"You really should be wearing your PFD, not storing it,” Bradby said.
In 2019, the United States Coast Guard reported 125 kayaking deaths. That figure also includes canoeing.
Bradby says most of those deaths could have been prevented if the victims wore a PFD. The numbers reported by the Coast Guard show a majority of victims did not wear a life jacket.
"One of the biggest mistakes people make is they don't want to wear their PFD,” Bradby said, listing reasons as to why people choose to not wear one. “'It's hot, it's uncomfortable,' well, what's really uncomfortable is being dead."
He also says to make sure your kayak and gear are stable and comfortable. Bradby added kayaks and gear are reasonably priced but can vary based on model and manufacturer.
Something to keep an eye out for are more kayakers on the water. Bradby said he has seen a lot more and that's because of the pandemic. Some stores have had a hard time keeping up with demand.
"They're just selling out everything that they can possibly make because it lends itself exactly to social distancing,” Bradby said.
He said those same stores also offer resources for anyone kayaking as well as organizations like the Tidewater Kayak Angler's Association.
"Quick and easy if you want to go for a paddle in the morning,” Bradby said. “Get up early, go out for a paddle, come back, and go to work."