Back to articles

Paddling your way to adventure

Mind, Spirit, Body

Looking for some refreshing outdoor fun this summer? You might want to pick up a paddle and explore a lake, river or shoreline.

Canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding are popular activities—and is it any wonder why? They’re a great way to exercise and enjoy nature as you glide peacefully through the water. And compared to other types of boating, paddling costs less to get started.

But being on the water does have its own set of safety concerns, including the risk of injury or drowning. So the first thing you’ll want to do is to prepare for a fun, safe paddling trip.

Boating safety for canoes, kayaks and more

Whether you’re new to paddle sports or need a refresher, consider the following safety tips before your next trip:

  1. Take a lesson. Would you know what to do if you tipped? Or how different currents affect your boat? Before you go, learn how to safely use your paddle craft by taking a water safety course. To find classes near you, try asking at a sporting goods store or check out a local paddling club.
  2. Always wear a life jacket. You should wear a life jacket that properly fits you every time you get on the water. Also known as a personal flotation device, a life jacket could save your life if you capsize. The vast majority of people who have drowned in boating incidents weren’t wearing life jackets, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
  3. Paddle with a partner. Paddling with at least one other person is safer. Plus, it’s more fun! Whether you paddle solo or with a group, always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return.
  4. Don’t drink. Boating and alcohol are a deadly combo. In fact, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Alcohol can affect your judgment, vision, coordination and balance, turning a fun day on the water into a tragedy.
  5. Know your limits—and the water. Don’t try to paddle through waters you’re not prepared to handle. Learn about the water from guidebooks and maps. And always watch for hazards, such as fallen logs and other boats.
  6. Watch the weather. Checking the forecast before you head out could save you a lot of trouble. Paddle craft can be easily tipped by wind and waves, so you don’t want to be caught in a storm. Since fog affects visibility, it can be a safety factor too. If the weather looks bad—or changes—stay off the water.
  7. Learn about cold-water safety. Falling into water below 70 degrees can lead to fatal hypothermia. If you paddle in water that’s 60 degrees or colder, you may need a special suit for protection. Bring along an extra set of dry clothes in a waterproof bag. And learn what to do to help someone with hypothermia until help arrives.
  8. Be prepared for anything. Consider taking a CPR and first aid course from the American Red Cross to learn what to do in an emergency. And make sure you’re properly prepared with a first aid kit and other emergency supplies.

Find a class near you

To find a first aid, CPR or water safety class near you, visit the American Red Cross website.

safe paddling tips