Sea Kayaking Skills and Adventures, Ltd.

Skills + Knowledge = Adventure


SKSA Trip Planning Principles & Resources

Walking in unexpected shallows at low tide in Shinnecock Bay

Trip Planning Principles: a fun trip is a safe trip. Safe trips require good planning and appropriate preparation. Click this link for the ACA's list of Top 10 Safety Tips. Here are some basic guidelines of our own for planning and preparing a safe and rewarding paddling trip:

  • Verify your equipment: make sure you know all your equipment and it's limitations, check it regularly. Recreational sea kayaks and river kayaks usually need additional flotation to be safe - make sure it works. Sit-on-tops may be stable in flatwater, but will follow the angle of waves surprising novices. Know multiple ways to re-enter your craft in case of a capsize. Carry all recommended safety equipment, including spares for yourself and your group in case some is lost. Plan for shelter and spare clothing in case of an accident or stranding. Always have a proper First Aid kit and training to use it.

  • Always wear your Life Vest: USCG regulations require a floatation device for each boater. In fact, the likelihood you could put one on while floating in the water is small, if you can even maintain contact with it. American Canoe Association (ACA) and American Whitewater (AW) say each member of your paddling party should be wearing an appropriatly sized personal flotation device (PFD) that is properly secured for support and hauling during a rescue.

  • Never paddle alone: ACA and AW say "less than three should never be". But, if you have a problem and someone must stay with a hurt paddler, the one going for help would be alone. We say "four or more is best for sure". In practice, the size of your group should depend on the challenge level and technical difficulty of the trip you are planning along with consideration of the experience and training of your members.

  • Train and practice: learn from those more skilled than yourself. Hands-on training always trumps a video or book. The best trainer is usually a certified Instructor. ACA Instructors are held to uniform standards and periodically recertified. The best places to practice are where conditions are challenging, but the risk of failure is low.

  • Train to be a Leader: someone is always the leader, often the organizer. Leaders are expected to have strong skills as well as experience and capabilities for judgement and communication in an emergency. The ACA offers basic leadership training in Coastal and River paddling in both kayak and canoe.

  • Know your capabilities: know the skill level of yourself and your group. Be honest about your limitations, if you take on challenges beyond your competency, you can put others in jeopardy. It is notoriously difficult to self-assess. If you have questions about your ability, get an outside opinion from a competent expert. ACA offers formal skill assessments along with an offical card for both Coastal and River paddlers in kayak and canoe.

  • Have a reserve of competency: when you are on a fun paddle with a group, all members have a responsibility for mutual support. More than this the group has a responsibility not to get into trouble and require others to come to their rescue at their own risk. Even with the best planning, conditions can always turn out to be more difficult than forecasted or may even change during the trip. It is best to train yourself and your group to handle more challenging conditions than expected.

  • Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: All states and the Federal Government have enacted Boating Under the Influence laws similar to DUI laws to protect boaters and the public. Technically BUI pertains anyone who is in control of a vesssel, even a canoe or kayak while under the influence of drugs or alcohol - control simply means holding a paddle. Even Standup Paddleboards (SUPs) are considered vessels in most ways they are used. Furthermore, many public authorities have enacted specific laws to ban alcohol and drugs within parks or wilderness areas. More than this, paddling while under the influence of chemistry that affects self-control, judgement, reaction time, etc. increases your chances of an accident manyfold. Best to party after the trip is over!

  • Follow access rules: understand and obey rules for access. Where required, obtain permits that cover your put-in and take-out. Know and respect private property rights along your route. Follow the rules for "Leave-No-Trace" when stopping or camping - leave the area cleaner than you found it. Treat other users of the resource with respect (fishermen, swimmers, racers) so that all may enjoy it.

  • Know your trip area: plan your trip using the best information available. Acquire current NOAA Oceans charts for coastal trips, current USGS Topographic maps for river trips. Make sure you know details for the area you plan to paddle, including risk areas to be scouted, emergency take-out points, local EMS and Rescue contact information, distance to hospitals, etc. Make sure you study areas outside your planned route, in case river flow, ocean current or wind force you away from your destination.

  • Plan for fun: plan for an interesting and enjoyable trip. Encourage participants to make use of play areas. Prepare yourself with information on points of interest, history of the area, information on wildlife, etc. Make sure of adequate secure parking spaces and plan for sanitary facilities and prepare for low-impact use of natural areas. Provision your group for on-trip food and water in case paddlers get cold, tired or dehydrated.

Rain and fog can impare visibility and maneuverability on the water

Weather: be sure to check the weather forecast for your area before you launch and maintain weather awareness on the water. A waterproof marine radio is highly recommended for coastal paddling. Try to plan for safe put-ins along your course in case of unexpected weather.

The Weather Underground banners below gives current conditions for Islip, NY as well as local rise and set times for the sun and moon. Click on either one to get a local long range weather forecast.


Want a quick forecast for anywhere in the world? Use the form below for forecasts anywhere you please:


Find the Weather for any City, State or Zipcode, or Country


Tide Tables: not knowing your tides can be an embarassment (at least). Don't get caught unprepared, use the quick tool below to find tides for Long Island shores or use the pull-down menu to find tides anywhere in the United States


Search NOAA Tides Online by State


Tidal Currents: Depending on location (especially bottlenecks), tidal changes can result in rather dramatic currents. Maximum current develops between high and low tide times when the most water is moving. Tidal current predictions are derived from tide tables, but work has been invested in calculating currents primarily for locations affecting commercial shipping. Paddlers must usually find some current station that is reasonably near then observe the delay for areas of their own interest. In our region an area of key interest to paddlers is Long Island Sound and estuaries that are connected to it. Use the quick form tool below to find NY current stations and their predictions or use the pull down for data elsewhere in North America.


Search NOAA Currents Online by State

Whitewater, Upper Nissiquogue River, Long Island, NY

River Gauges: on Long Island? Those are for whitewater paddlers, and we don't have that on Long Island - right? Wrong, Long Island whitewater is hard to find, but can exist. More importantly, even Long Island estuary paddlers need to check river heights and flows before they go or risk experiencing either a difficult, boring or frustrating trip. The USGS monitors and supplies guage height data at a host of stations located on rivers across the country. height and flow data is typically updated every 1-4 hours depending on station equipment and protocol. Use the quick form tool below to find data on NY rivers or use the pull down for data across the country.

Gauge information must be combined with local knowledge developed through others or your own experience in order to understand how it relates to flow patterns on a given section of any river. American Whitewater is an organization of river paddlers which collects data submitted from local member trips which makes this correlation. Descriptions and advice for sections of many NY rivers are posted on their website for public use. If you paddle whitewater rivers we encourage you to join AW to support their work and recieve the benefits of membership.


Search USGS River Gages by State



Launch Sites: it is a fact of our society that land near the coast or along a river is usually extremely expensive. Access to good launch sites is often limited to state-owned properties although some countys and towns are friendly enough to open areas to paddlers who are not residents. Our sport, a big component of which is based on freedom to go where we will on the water, is forced to access our chosen medium through a limited number of doorways. We encourage you to support organizations like ACA who work to maintain and even increase our access to launching and landing sites. Meanwhile our actions and behavior on shore, and on the water can have a great impact on access for all paddlers. Good paddlers work to minimize their impact on the social and geographic environment through the principles of "Leave no Trace". Smart paddlers work to share the put-in with all users and leave the water and the shore in better shape than they found it.

Keep in mind that many sites require a local use sticker, fee sticker or proof of residency. Most launch sites have limited parking. Please park in tandem with those on your trip to take up less space. Take care to share the launch site with others. Load and unload efficiently and launch and land as quickly as possible to give equal opportunity to others. Avoid encounters with and be polite to anglers - they have a big lobby, as do power boaters who generally pay higher use fees than paddlers. View wildlife from a distance and avoid environmental impacts. Train to be safe and plan for the unexpected to limit occurence of negative incidents on the water. Train hard, be aware, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

The following links are a good start for locating public access put-ins on Long Island (and elsewhere):

Pre-launch talk, Timber Point Park, NY

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