Can You Be Struck By Lightning In A Kayak? [Caught In A Storm]

Kayaking is a fun and safe sport, but many people are unaware of the risks that come with it. It can be sunny one moment, and then before you know it, the dark clouds roll in, followed by thunder and lighting. So can you be struck by lightning in a kayak? What can you do to avoid being hit if you’re caught in the water?

Can You Be Struck By Lightning In A Kayak?

It’s possible, but a small vessel like a kayak has a smaller chance than a larger vessel of being hit. A smaller boat is a smaller conductive path for lighting. However, your metal paddles can be excellent lightning conductors. 

If you are in or near water during a storm. There’s a possibility that you could be struck by lighting. This article will discuss what to do if caught in a storm while kayaking. What to do if someone gets hit? And which states you’re most likely to get struck by lighting. 

How Lightning Strikes Objects 

Before we get into the safety tips and precautions, you first have to understand how lightning strikes work and what they are.  

“Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves. However, most lightning occurs within the clouds. “

National Geographic

So What Does It Mean?

Lightning strikes below the cumulonimbus cloud and usually travels horizontally, over 10 miles before striking. A lightning strike has enormous energy that can strike structures, wires, poles, trees, and even people.   

If you’re hit by lightning, it can cause severe injury, possibly even death. But, of course, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning if you’re touching ground. 

However, if lightning strikes the water first, it can cause injuries up to 0.62 miles or 100 meters. That’s how so many people were injured in Venice Beach in 2014. Lighting struck the water near the pier, and it electrified and zapped anyone close to it. 

According to the NOAA’s National Weather Service, 64% of lightning strikes occur to people who participate in leisure activities. 

What To Do If You’re Caught In A Storm

Even though a kayak doesn’t have metal like a boat, there’s still a possibility of being struck. The best thing to do so you don’t get struck by lightning is not to be out in any open water during a storm, especially after dark. 

However, Mother Nature doesn’t always abide by our rules. The weather can change quickly, and if you’re caught in a storm, here are some tips to help keep you safe. 

#1 Get Off The Water Immediately

When you see an approaching storm, paddle as quickly as you can and get off the water. If you can’t get to land, paddle quickly and try not to go through the storm. Stay away from tall objects near the water, including trees, fishing poles, and other people’s boats. 

If you don’t get out of the water before the storm gets close, stay as low and as far away from anything that can hurt you when lighting strikes.

#2 Keep Your Distance

Stay at least 100 feet away from others in your group and objects. This way, if someone gets hit, the others may not be affected. Then, after the storm passes, the ones that got spared can get help. 

#3 Seek Shelter

If you can’t make it to land before the storm hits, seek shelter in a cove, bay, or under a bridge. Being under some type of shelter is better than being in open water.  

Don’t seek shelter under a tree, cliff, or rocky overhang.  

#4 Crouch Down

If you’re in open water and no shelter is available, crouch down as low as possible (easier in a sit-in kayak than a sit-on). Keep your head tucked down and put your hands over your ears. 

Placing your hands over your ears will help minimize hearing damage from the thunder.  

#4 Avoid Conductive Objects

According to, water, like metal, doesn’t attract lightning. However, it will conduct electricity when electrified. Therefore, you want to ensure you’re not touching the water, carbon fiber paddles, fishing poles, etc.  

Place the paddle across your lap or under your buttocks if you’re on a sit-on-top kayak. As mentioned above, metal paddles conduct electricity, so you don’t want to touch them. 

#5 Monitor the Storm

Pay attention to the lightning and thunder. When you hear thunder, you know lighting is getting ready to strike. 

After seeing lightning strike, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Then, take the number of seconds counted and divide it by five to calculate the distance between you and the lightning.

For example, 5 seconds equals 1 mile, 20 seconds equals 4 miles, and 0 seconds means it’s incredibly close. 

#6 Wait 30 Minutes After The Storm

If you were lucky enough to find shelter, then wait 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder to get back in the open water. If lightning struck a tree, pier, or other nearby objects, the energy from the strike travels along the ground surface, causing a ground current. 

Ground currents are one of the forms of lightning strikes that cause the most casualties. This is because they affect larger areas from where the lightning reached the ground. 

What To Do If Struck By Lightning?

If someone in your group is struck by lightning, wait until the danger has passed. Use your cellphone, which you should always take with you, and keep it in a waterproof case. Call 911 immediately and give them directions to your location, information about the strike victim, and anything else that can make locating you easier. 

Most people think that cell phones are conductors of electricity, but they are not. Only corded phones are.

Some people say that you can’t touch a person who is struck by lightning because they can hold a charge. However, according to the CDC, it is safe to touch a person who was struck by lightning because people don’t hold a charge. 

That said, it’s best to assess the situation. If you believe you’re at risk, then don’t touch them. 

Make sure the victim is breathing and has a heartbeat. If they are not breathing, hopefully, someone in your group knows how to perform CPR.  

Apply as much aid and assistance as you can until help arrives. Lightning kills about 6,000 people worldwide, but there’s an 80% survival rate for lightning strike victims.

Which States Are You Most Likely To Get Struck By Lightning?

Lightning storms are not new; they are prevalent in the summertime. However, you’re more susceptible to being caught in a lightning storm if you live in the following states:

  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama

This is because of the high humidity that can cause a thunderstorm with minimal warning. Thunderstorms are prevalent from June through September, so be sure you keep this in mind if you live in any of the states mentioned above. 

That said, they can happen anywhere, regardless of where you live in the world. So be sure you check your weather app before heading out on your kayak and be prepared for sudden changes in the weather in case you need to get off the water in a hurry. 

Final Word

Kayakers are less likely to be struck by lightning than boats. However, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Hopefully, these tips have shown you the precautions you need to take if you’re caught in the open waters in a storm. 

If a storm just finished, wait 30 minutes after the last lightning strike or thunder was observed before getting on the water. 

For the most part, kayaking is a safe sport. Always go in a group, and know what to do if you get caught in a storm. You’ll know what to do in a dangerous situation, and it can help keep you safe!