Paddle Safely: Tips for the Canoe & Kayak Enthusiast


Paddle Safely: Tips for the Canoe & Kayak Enthusiast

by Amy Lignor


One of the best things when it comes to kayaking or canoeing is that they are user-friendly and remarkably safe activities for people to enjoy. Understanding the importance of safety, however, is extremely important because when you choose to get in that canoe or kayak, you are placing yourself in a location where when things do go wrong, they do so quite quickly. So here we offer up the three tips you need to know in order to be safety conscious when making decisions out on the water.

The first one is very quick and very easy to learn, memorize, and accomplish no matter what the situation: Do not drink alcohol before or during paddling. These two things simply do not, and will not, mix.


For tip number two, we focus on the weather. Mother Nature and what she decides to unleash will always have a bearing on your decision of where and when to go paddling. For larger bodies of water and on the ocean, of course, the biggest weather concerns are the wind and the waves. To avoid getting caught in nasty conditions that cause wind gusts and dangerous waves is pretty easy. If you’re going to be heading out into a big body of water, check the weather report beforehand and stay close to shore. The best choice will always be to avoid the open, large bodies of water if you can and stay in calm, protected areas. In addition, if you hear thunder, know that lightning is joining the party. When you’re out on the water in that kayak or canoe, you’re the highest point for quite a distance in any direction, making you the perfect lightning rod. Best choice: get out of the water and wait for the storm to pass on by.


Tip number three focuses on how you will dress for the conditions you are going to face. Cold water represents the biggest hazard because immersion in cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia. Therefore, if you’re planning on paddling in colder water, you need to be more conservative with your decisions on how to dress. That personal flotation device (AKA: a life jacket) is the most essential thing to wear – no matter if you’re on that large body of water or the local lake in your town. One of the main reasons why people take their life jacket off is because they find it uncomfortable to paddle with it on. When it comes to kayaking, it is worth investing in a kayak-specific life jacket because they are designed to be as unrestricting as possible. In addition, keeping a whistle attached to your life jacket is a good idea; it gives you the ability to keep communication with other paddlers on the water. As long as you have on that life jacket, a way to communicate and ask for help if necessary, and wear bright clothing that’s noticeable to other boaters, then you are good to go!


In the end, make sure to respect the water. You have to understand how fast and furious water can get in various situations. So make sure to always choose an appropriate paddling location that specifically meets your skill level. The ideal kayaking/canoeing environment offers: protection from the wind and waves, a good access point for launching/landing, many points where you can go ashore, and very little motorized boat traffic. Bays, lakes, river ways without a noticeable current – all of these are great choices. If a not-so-quiet lake is the place you have to choose, just remember you’ll be sharing it with power boats, jet skis, and more. In that case, stay close to the shore and if a wave is kicked up by, say, a power boat, keep in mind that the best way to deal with these waves is to point your canoe directly into them.


Appreciate the water and have a great time by following these three simple safety tips. As long as you know what you’re getting into before putting out on the water, you are guaranteed to have a picture-perfect day of paddling.


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