Paddling Safety Considerations

Safety Considerations: 

PFD (Personal Flotation Device):  PFD Use Saves Lives!  Find one that fits well and wear it 100% of the time zipped and pulled tight.

Iowa Law requires: All children under 13 are REQUIRED to wear a PFD. Children 13 and over need to have a PFD on-board, fit the weight and chest size of occupant, and needs to be in good serviceable condition.

Know the river or lake where you are paddling:

  • Find out: Is there a dam, strainers or sweepers, difficult and fast water? Do you possess the skills for the section you are paddling? If not, don’t go, increase your skills until you can. You are responsible for you!
  • Find out the river levels and cfs (cubic feet per second) of the section you are paddling and the upstream section.
  • Stay alert to the weather forecast in your paddle area and the upstream forecast.  Be prepared for changing weather.

Love the obstacle:

  • If you get caught on an obstacle, lean toward the obstacle, typically, that is facing downstream. It allows water under your vessel to help dislodge.

Learn rescue techniques:

  • learn self rescue and two person rescue techniques.
  • Take a class, attend a pool session.
  • Watching YouTube rescue technique videos can help increase skill level.
  • Learn to be a competent swimmer.

If you capsize:

  • Stay on the upstream side of your vessel if you capsize.
  • If you can, try to steer your boat to shore by keeping your feet and boat in front of you.
  • Only try to stand if the water is knee deep or below to avoid foot pinning.
  • Bilge or drain the water from your vessel.
  • Change clothes from your dry bag supplies.

Be prepared with adequate supplies: 

  • Wear a helmet if you paddle Class II  and above whitewater or surf waves.
  • Pack a throw bag, paddle float and bilge pump on each trip.
  • Carry an extra paddle.
  • Wear a whistle (blowing 3 times quickly is an SOS signal).
  • Pack an emergency kit :  Stow it in your hatch for emergencies.
    • Emergency kit supplies: first aid kit, head lamp/ flash light, matches to build a fire, snacks, water, cell phone, duct tape, and compass.

Be prepared for changing weather conditions:

Dress for the Weather: Be prepared; if air and/or water is cold by wearing layers (non-cotton), neoprene gloves, neoprene socks and suitable sturdy foot wear.  A wet or dry suit is recommended during spring and fall paddling.  During warm weather paddling, protect arms by wearing long sleeves or by wearing sunscreen.  A hat is vital for sun protection and from rain.   

Suggestion: Pack a dry bag of rain gear, rain hat, and extra clothes in case of unexpected immersion or weather change. Attach it to the vessel ( kayak, canoe, SUP)

Hypothermia: Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia (hi-poe-THUR-me-uh) occurs as your body temperature falls below 95 F (35 C). When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death. Hypothermia is often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in cold water.

Rule of 120:  A rule of thumb for the prevention of Hypothermia. The rule is simple, just add the air temperature and the water temperature to get the combined temperature. If the combined water plus air temperature is less than 120, wet or dry suits are recommended.

Alcohol Use: Do not drink and paddle. Alcohol should be avoided for safety on the water.

Paddling Alone: Paddling alone should be avoided. It is wise to file a float plan by telling someone where you are paddling and when to be expected back. It is a good idea to leave a note in your car with your potential whereabouts while on the water.