The sun is bright, the wind calm and the water looks so inviting ... fairly common conditions on the Outer Banks. But, be aware, there is another side to our local waters. In one word; changeability! Winds can pick up and change direction without notice. Summer thunderstorms with lightning are common. That inviting water can suddenly be a threat if you capsize and don't have the equipment or experience to re-enter your boat. Here are a few safety tips from our members to help keep you safe.

1. Know your abilities and those of your paddling partners and don't get in over your head. Paddling out to that island in the distance may seem like a good idea in calm weather, but it can turn dangerous if you suddenly face a strong headwind on the return journey. Be sure to have your spray skirt installed and your safety equipment handy. Keep the group together in case someone capsizes or needs help. Check out the attachment below on wind speed and water conditions.

2. Always wear your pdf! You can be overboard in an instant if conditions are just right. A pdf under the webbing of the boat does you no good as the boat drifts away faster than you can swim. Have a whistle attached to the pdf so you can get the attention of fellow paddlers if you get into trouble. Be prepared mentally and physically for the unexpected.

3. Wildlife is wonderful to view from a kayak, but be respectful. There really are alligators in the Alligator River Preserve -- bears too. Observe them from a distance. And, yes, there are plenty of snakes about even if you don't see them. Just be sensible in areas likely to have wildlife.

4. If threatening weather is approaching, get off the water as quickly as possible. Our storms commonly have many lightning strikes. If thunderstorms are predicted our club is very caution about setting out on a trip. If you seek shelter along a shore remember that lightning often hits trees. Try to find a safe place to wait out the storm before it hits.

Kayaking in the diverse settings of the OBX can be great fun for paddlers of all skill levels. Just be aware of the risks and plan your day accordingly. Additional safety tips are shown in the articles that follow.