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    Paddling Tips for Cold Water

    Paddling Tips for Cold Water

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    Experienced paddlers know that paddling is always great fun, even in cold water if you are prepared! Proper training, planning, and wearing the right gear have ensured that most of my paddling adventures have produced great memories. For example, when I was in college I saw my first eagle’s nest when paddling on Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and canoed white-water rapids through three-foot-high falls on the Brule River in Wisconsin without capsizing, even though our canoe did take on a considerable amount of water. Unfortunately, many unprepared paddlers are not as successful in creating such fond memories.

    National Water Safety Program Manager, Pam Doty said, "The numbers of paddlers have increased substantially in the past few years, and with the surge in popularity, accidents and fatalities have also increased." In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 149 deaths nationwide from canoes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards (SUPs), and not surprisingly most of those people drown. Falling overboard while paddling is easy to do and even experienced swimmers cannot always survive those incidents. There is much the novice or rookie paddler needs to know to keep from being one of those fatality statistics.

    When you’re paddling in cold water, it’s important to dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature. That means dressing in multiple layers of clothes that can handle moisture and dry quickly. Water shoes should be worn that keep your feet warm when they’re wet, and are comfortable enough to swim in, if you end up in the water. The most important piece of equipment is your life jacket. A paddling vest is very comfortable because it allows your arms to move freely. Inflatable life jackets, especially the manual belt type are comfortable too, but they are not as dependable when the water is cold. Whitewater paddling requires even more equipment (i.e. helmet) and training. Also, SUP paddlers need to wear a leash that connects you to your board. There are different styles of leashes and leash releases and you need to choose the right one for the type of water (flat or fast moving) where you’re paddling an SUP.

    It’s also critical when the water is cold to be more conservative with your decisions to avoid capsizing. Also, it’s best to stay close to the shore. The gear you bring on a paddling trip depends on your vessel and where you’re going, but there is some gear that should always be taken. Some of those items include sunscreen, spare paddle, first-aid kit, extra water, and food. For some trips, a dry bag with extra clothes and anything that could help you survive an unexpected overnight stay is vital. It’s also important to have a rescue bag/throw rope on board and know how to use it.

    There is training available from American Canoe Association (ACA) at and from the American Red Cross at than can help you become a better and safer paddler no matter what type of trip you’re taking. Information provided on the ACA website can help you learn a variety of paddling and re-boarding techniques. These are vital skills that need to be practiced before you take a paddling trip anywhere to enjoy the vessel of your choice.

    My scariest experience paddling was on a canoe trip in Indiana on Sugar Creek. The water was less than knee deep for most of our trip. Several other people on the river that day were drinking too much and not prepared for more than just floating the calmest parts of the river. Then suddenly a sharp bend in the river created much faster-moving, deeper water that pushed canoes paddled by rookies into a massive pile of trees and other debris. Rapidly four canoes were upside down on top of each other against the pile and you could barely see the bottom of the canoe on top. Quickly I instructed my group to form a human chain starting on the shallow side of the shore with all of us holding hands in a line while I approached the canoes and started pulling canoes out one at a time. As I was doing that, someone grabbed my leg from underneath the water and it was a woman who had been trapped in her canoe. Fortunately, I was wearing a life jacket and I was able to pull her to safety.

    You never know when an enjoyable paddling adventure can take on an unexpected, possibly deadly turn. Proper planning, training, preparation, and wearing the right gear, especially a life jacket, helps to make sure you only create happy memories on the water.



    Date Taken: 02.12.2019
    Date Posted: 02.13.2019 00:09
    Story ID: 310508
    Location: US

    Web Views: 85
    Downloads: 2