Paddling is a wicked sport and activity but the environment and nature of the sport presents some significant risk elements that paddlers need to consider to ensure every paddling session is as safe as possible.
Making smart decisions when going paddling, having suitable equipment and clothing and knowing what to do if it does go wrong are all vital factors to make sure you get home safe. Here are a few tips to make sure you are PaddleSafe.
Paddle Safety 101
So many fun places to explore and adventures to be had out paddling, but before you hit the water:
Check the weather forecast, wind, tides/currents/flow rate, and understand the effect these in combination are going to have on your planned paddling area/route. Wind against tide or wind with tide can create very different paddling conditions, so make sure you know what to expect. If lightning is a possibility, you’d be better off finding something else to do. If in doubt, don't go out!
Make sure you wear the right clothing and have required safety equipment.
Know your limits. Only paddle in conditions and environments that you are comfortable in or have adequate safety support around you. Better to be safe than sorry. If you are not confident in your ability to get back into your craft if you fall out, ensure you stay within swimming distance of shore.
Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back.
Go with a paddling pal. Everything is better (and safer) with a friend.
Find and understand the rules and regulations that relate to water-based activities in your specific region. Regional bylaws exist to ensure the safety of all water users and apply whether you are on a lake, river or the sea,
Paddling Safety Equipment
Making sure you've got the right kit, in the right condition is paramount to keeping you safe. Your safety gear could save your life. Whether training for your next race or exploring our spectacular coastlines, rivers or lakes, you need to have the following essential items on all your paddles:
Personal Flotation Device (PFD)/Lifejacket - A correctly fitted PFD is the most important piece of paddling kit- it could save your life. It is also good for carrying your snacks! Make sure it fits snug to your body, and is not damaged or worn.
Leg leash - In the event that you fall out/off your craft, a leash keeps you attached. It is amazing how quickly your craft can get away from you in wind or waves. Make sure it is an easy release though, so you can free yourself if you need.
Phone in waterproof case - Carrying a form of communication so you can call for help if you get in trouble is vital. And of course, you’ll need it to take photos for the ‘gram, or to tell your long-suffering partner you’ll be late home.
Weather appropriate paddling attire. Be sure to wear clothing that will keep you warm and protect you from the harsh New Zealand sun.
Something high-vis. Traffic on the water can be busy. Don’t get run over - be safe, be seen!
Airbags - if your craft does not have buoyancy built in, airbags are crucial to ensure it stays afloat if you capsize or get swamped. Airbags are much cheaper than a new boat!
Helmet - if you are paddling on moving water/whitewater, a helmet is necessary to protect your head. Should be kayak specific, a bike helmet is not going to cut it.
Flare and/or Personal Locator beacon (PLB) - These are things you don’t want to use, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have them! If you get into trouble and need rescuing, a flare or PLB will hopefully help you get found and safely returned to shore.
Watch our Fitting a Personal Flotation Device video made with the help of paddling legend Teneale Hatton.
Remounting your craft
It is important for all paddlers to have a rock-solid remount and be able to remount in all conditions quickly and effectively.
You do not want to have to require 3, 4, 5... attempts to get back on your craft. This drains energy and makes it even harder.
There are a few different remount techniques, and the best one is the one that you can do. This is our recommended technique- remember “Thumbs in, Bums in”.
1. Place one hand on either side of your ski, with your thumbs inside the cockpit, holding your paddle with your far hand along the length of the ski so it is out of the way.
2. Lift/kick yourself up so your torso is lying across the ski. You can have a rest here if required.
3. Rotate your hips around to get your bum in the seat.
4. Flick your leg over the other side so you are straddling the ski. Having your feet out will provide balance, while you get your paddle back into position and regain your composure.
5. When you are ready, bring your legs back into the boat and off you go!
Paddling Rescue Techniques
Every paddler should have rescue techniques up their sleeve in case they come across someone who's lost their boat or can't get back in.
As well as knowing how to assist someone who's lost their craft, remember these pro tips:
Keep calm. Whether you're helping a fellow paddler in the water or needing a hand yourself, keeping a cool head will help things go smoothly.
Make the call to get help early. Don't be too proud to call in the calvary....fatigue can set in real quick. Call for help and use that flare or Personal Locator Beacon.
Watch our quick Assisted Remount, Back of Boat Rescue and Front of Boat (Koala) Retrieval videos so you know what to do when someone needs a hand out on the water.
Stay safe out there!