Real Life Paddling Safety Precautions

Recently I read an article on our local news website in my hometown. Two men were paddling in their inflatable canoe (from the picture it looked like a really good quality one) on the very large Okanagan Lake in my area. They were training for a race that was taking place the following day that included running, cycling and paddling.

Experience made no Difference

These men were very experienced with kayaking and had a fair amount of experience paddling on this particular lake. They chose to paddle out to the center of the lake to make their way from one point to another.

Unfortunately high winds came up quite quickly and they found themselves practically paddling on the spot for almost half an hour.

They were having real troubles making any headway and the winds were getting stronger.

Strong waves were beginning to form and one big one tipped them right over. The winds quickly carried their inflatable canoe away from them and they couldn’t reach it to hold on.

Luckily for these two men they were both wearing their lifejackets at the time. Even with the lifejackets on they found the winds were too strong to try and swim against the currents to try and make it back to shore.

One of the men knew that the proper thing to do if in trouble is to try and lie on your back and hold your paddle up in the air… hopefully for someone to see that you are in trouble.

Luckily for these two someone did notice from a nearby bridge and called for help. Even luckier was that another person noticed who had a speed boat docked and he rushed out to help them as well as retrieve their canoe.

In that short period of time they were already suffering from mild hypothermia as the water was freezing cold. Both of them were quoted as saying that if they had not been wearing their PFD’s they would have drowned for sure as they simply could not keep swimming with the strong winds. They both also stated that had they not been wearing their PFD’s they didn’t think they would have been able to put them on in the water (if they were able to hang on to them when they were tipped over).

Important Safety Tips

The point of this post is not to scare you but simply to show how very quickly calm situations can suddenly change. It is so important not to underestimate the power of the weather as well as the water. Here are a couple of very important cautions to be aware of:

  1. When paddling in the water, if you are not absolutely sure of the weather conditions then stick close to shore. It is common knowledge that if winds pick up you do not want to be in the middle of a body of water as you will have no protection.One of the first things that kayak rental outfitters will tell you is to stick close to the shoreline. If you are caught out in the middle of a lake and the weather changes, you can often have real trouble.
  2. Always wear your PFD. This is a perfect example of what can happen if you are not wearing it. Weather patterns can change unexpectedly and if you have to struggle against the wind, it is not always possible to put it on at that point.Sometimes in that kind of situation if you stop paddling the wind will push your kayak far backwards. Even taking the few seconds to stop and put on your lifejacket can cause you to lose major ground.
  3. Also do not think that because you have your PFD on your lap or close to you that you will be able to grab it and put it on in the water should you tip. In an emergency situation, things don’t always go as you might think they will. No matter what your experience make sure all people and pets in your kayak are wearing their PFD’s.

Sometimes we all need a bit of a reminder as to how powerful the elements can be. So please folks remember to be safe, wear your PFD, and keep half-way close to the shoreline if at all possible. I have actually always found that paddling along the shoreline makes for much better sight-seeing anyway.

Find more important paddling safety tips and advice.

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