Getting Prepped for Paddling Season

Spring always gets me in the mood for paddling. Warmer temperatures, sunshine, budding leaves – I am ready to get out on the water and play. As relaxing and fun as recreational paddling is, it still pays to do your homework to keep you and your loved ones safe before you spend a day on the water. Here are a few tips to consider for exploring on the water this season.

A canoe sits on the bank of a lake.

Know Before You Go

What is the weather forecast? What are the water conditions? What are the most recent park updates? Spring (as well as summer) is prime conditions for changing weather and pop-up showers. Use this information to avoid situations you are not prepared for. Water conditions in our area vary more in the spring than any other season. Don’t expect your favorite lake or river to be at the lazy levels of summer. Frequent spring rains mean lakes and rivers are higher than normal, and coupled with cooler conditions increase a paddler’s risk. Assess your skills and abilities honestly, and, if in doubt, err on the side of caution.

A group of people canoe on a lake on a sunny summer day.

Dress Appropriately

The American Canoe Association recommends a combined air and water temperature of 120 degrees before paddling without a wetsuit. Even with warming daytime temps, chilly conditions at night can leave the water quite cool. Wear clothing that will keep you warm if you are fully immersed. If not a wetsuit, synthetic layers that will keep you warm when wet are what you want (avoid cotton). Choose protective outer layers that are water and windproof to preserve body heat. It’s always easier to remove layers if you get too warm than put on layers you didn’t bring! As the season warms up, appropriate clothing is still vital, as it offers much-needed protection from the sun. Appropriate clothing for the conditions can make or break your day out on the water. Pay attention and look after yourself!

A young boy and his father kayak along Winton Lake.

Wear Your Lifejacket

We call it a lifejacket for a reason. It will keep you alive. I have yet to meet a human who can breathe underwater. Even if you are Michael Phelps, your lifejacket is vital. According to American Whitewater’s semi-annual Accident Summary, recreational paddling is on the rise, and so are accidents and fatalities, especially with inexperienced paddlers. Your lifejacket should be tight, with all buckles and zips fastened. If it feels like an overbearing hug, you’ve got it right. Wear. Your. Lifejacket.

These are just a few tips to get you out on the water safely this season. Adventure Outpost is a great place to learn these skills (and many, many more!) in a kayak, canoe or on a stand-up paddleboard. Building your skills on the water will increase your confidence and self-reliance when you go out with your friends or family. Check our calendar of events for classes. We hope you’ll join us on the water this season, and have a safe and enjoyable paddling year!

Tom Buckley
Adventure Manager, Adventure Outpost