Kayak Northwest
Northwest Kayak Information Center

Sea Kayak Trip Classification

Before you go be sure to check weather, tides and currents for the area you are paddling in!

Trip Rating: Geography: Hydraulics: Route: Acceptable Conditions: Skills & Experience Needed:
SKI Protected from waves by nearby land forms, in case of wind

(Fetch is defined as the unobstructed distance which the wind can blow over the water and build up waves)


Insignificant currents Day trips near shore Calm

Except with Leaders Permission:

1.  Ability to Swim
2.  Previous kayak trip experience required on trips more than 5 mi.; and
3.  Previous practice capsizing and wet exiting.

SKII Fetch less less than 10 mi. Unless it is possible to land and walk out.
Crossing less than 1/2 mi. Except for very protected trips.
Max predicted current up to 1 Kt Either has protection or intermittent places to get out. Generally try to avoid choppy water and/or winds above 10 kts. Participants must have practiced assisted rescue techniques
SKIII Crossings up to 2 mi. and/or fetches longer than 10 mi. Max predicted current up top 2 kts. May cross eddy lines, tide rips and upwelling's Generally will not begin in whitecaps, but be prepared for paddling into waves large enough to wash over the deck, and be comfortable in paddling in at least 10 kt winds. Conditions may require bracing skills. Previous group and self rescue practice.
(both as rescuer and rescued)
SKIV Crossings up to 5 mi. Predicted currents may be more than 2 kts but less than slowest paddlers' top speed. May cross strong eddy lines, tide rips and upwelling's May include steep waves & Swells. Be comfortable paddling in 15 kt winds. Conditions may require anticipatory leaning, reflexive bracing, using the paddle to stern rudder, and the ability to read moving water. Familiarity with charts and navigation.
SKV Crossings more than 5 mi but less than 3 hrs paddling time at the speed listed with the trip.
Exposed ocean coasts are included when precautions are taken.
Currents may be faster than the group can paddle against. May include launching and landing in surf. For groups prepared to knowingly set out in rough weather, white caps and fast currents. Trip members must have tested their skills in rough conditions, know their limits and be self reliant in event of separation from the group. The ability to Eskimo roll is highly recommended as conditions can make rescues difficult.
SKVI Trips combining a long fetch with stretches where a safe landing may be difficult or impossible for most of a day. Exposure to hazards at any other levels taken to extremes. Exposure to hazards at any other levels taken to extremes. May only be negotiable with favorable conditions. Rescues may not be possible. Extensive experience and skill including kayak surfing and rolling are required.

Plus (+) or minus (-) may be used to further differentiate the levels. Due to the extra risk, the following factors increase the trip level ratings 1/2 level:

  • Water temp less than 55F, unless wetsuit or dry suit is worn

  • Slightly faster current or longer crossing when all other conditions meet the criteria of a stated level.

  • Overnight or longer trips, unless an alternative egress is available.

  • Trips planned for times of the year when the weather is at its worst and/or least predictable.

  • Reduced visibility, i.e. night trips

  • Heavy boat traffic or crossing commercial shipping lanes or channels.


To Contact the Webmaster: Click Here
Copyright 2015 Chuck Hemphill. All Rights Reserved
Last Updated:  January 24, 2017