We Do Not Rent Kayaks. Why?

Kayak San Juan Island

Discovery Sea Kayaks does NOT RENT kayaks. We are a kayak tour business providing guided kayaking tours only. We also recommend not renting kayaks if you do not have proper training and practiced rescue skills.


The kayaking industry is a pretty interesting work place. There are so many different forms of kayaking from whitewater, calm lakes, inner coastal waterways, coastal surf and open ocean water. This can be hard for inexperienced paddlers to calculate the dangers and risk involved in setting out without a guide or proper training.


Many people associate dangerous kayak with whitewater only. This can be a deadly mistake when you visit areas like the San Juan Islands. When people arrive on San Juan they pass through some of the inner island waters and see the calm seas of a summer day. But little do they know they water is moving swiftly with strong currents and plagued with cold water year round.


Many inexperienced kayakers to the area are not aware of the cold waters and the devastating effects it can have if you find yourself out of you kayak. It is not only inexperienced kayakers that are not aware, but many experienced and even commercial companies do not respect the cold moving waters around San Juan Island. We require all of our staff members to wear drysuits, be proficient in self rescues and train extensively in the cold water.


Most kayak related deaths in the region are from drowning that was brought on my hypothermia. The real killer is the cold water. It does not take long for your core body temperature to drop below a threshold to where all motor skills are lost. Without proper training in bracing, rolling and wet exit/reentry skills you are at risk the moment you set off the shoreline. Being saved or saving yourself is very time sensitive.


Before renting a kayak do a bit of research about the region you are going to visit. If one were to research the San Juan Island they would find plenty of pictures of calm seas. But dig a bit further and you would discover all the waterways experience strong currents that require detailed understanding of tides and currents of the area. Next you will learn of the cold waters that provide a great habitat for our marine ecosystem but far from great for a kayaker capsized without reentry skills. Further you will find we have conditions that can change quickly with wind building fast and changing the sea state far from calm. The combination of these factors can put an inexperienced kayaker a life threatening situation.


It is strongly recommended that visitors to the San Juan Island join a commercially guided kayak tour if they have minimal kayak experience. It is even recommended for experienced paddlers that are not used to the conditions they might face here on San Juan Island.


Year after year we read about kayakers in life and death situations in Washington State. Some of them get lucky and many do not. Why take a risk on vacation when you can easily avoid potential issues. Seek out a professional kayak company that follows common sense rules, such as providing life vest. I mentioned earlier not all commercial kayak companies follow the same ideas on safety. A major red flag is seeing kayaker on a companies website that show paddlers without life vest on or spray skirts on cockpits.


Discovery Sea Kayak has a reputation of providing the safest and best kayak tours on San Juan Island. Highly respected among reputable outfitters and kayak educators. We go beyond the rest by hiring outdoor professionals that guide as a career not as a temporary summer job.


Below are a few links that outline some incidents in our region.