Can Kayaking Cause Vertigo?

Kayaking, Kayak Guides

Written by David Myers

January 15, 2021
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The quick answer is yes, and no. 

Kayaking in rough waters will rock your boat (literally) and may contribute to vertigo or seasickness. However, do not worry! Kayakers encountering vertigo is a rare occurrence, as kayaking is usually done in calmer waters, and when done correctly, is a very safe water sport.

Firstly, what is vertigo? Vertigo is the sensation that you, or the world around you, is moving or spinning. For open-water kayakers who rely on their balance and ability to remain upright, this could be a huge problem. When your head (in particular, your ears) are in a certain position, you are more prone to experience vertigo.

can kayaking cause seasickness

Experiencing vertigo whilst kayaking is definitely possible, especially if you are in rough waters. Most of us associate seasickness with the large waves of the deep-sea, where the current can cause the boat to rock wildly from side to side, but be aware that you can also experience this even when kayaking in calmer waters.

Generally, the chances of experiencing vertigo increases as you age, so it’s likely that most of you reading this are at low risk! Therefore, if you find you’re getting dizzy every time you enter calm waters, you might want to identify the reason why. There are many factors that can contribute to dizziness.

Possible alternative causes of seasickness include ear infection, head trauma, medications, or simply being too tired (I’m sure you can all relate to the last one)! You can even increase your chances of vertigo simply from being dehydrated, having a full stomach, or conversely, having a completely empty stomach.

It’s good practice to take some water, and a couple of snacks if you are on a kayaking adventure, for an energy boost, and to prevent high stomach acidity from causing you to feel unwell.

Sometimes, small pieces of calcium within the inner ear can become dislodged, and can interfere with the fluid that sits inside your ears, causing it to flow in a current. This can throw off your balance by triggering the sensation of movement, and cause the dreaded vertigo.

If you are particularly prone to vertigo, a top tip for its prevention is to avoid focusing on your immediate circle, and instead expand your focus onto the larger area of water around your kayak. Keep your eyes on the water beyond your boat, so the visual input into your brain matches that of the motion your body is feeling.

Natural remedies that can alleviate symptoms of seasickness, such as vertigo, are chewing gum, ginger, saltine crackers, taking prescription medications such as Daramamine, or skin patches.

So ultimately, yes, kayaking can cause vertigo in particular circumstances. However, ensuring you remain in calmer waters wherever possible, and practising good kayaking technique so that you stay as upright and stable as possible whilst in the boat, will lessen your chances of feeling sick.

Expect a little movement – remember you’re in a current of water, so the boat will not be completely steady. The more you think and worry about vertigo, the more likely you will experience it, so stay relaxed and try to ‘go with the flow’.

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